Category Archives: Popular Culture

Eloise Shop Opens at The Plaza Hotel in New York

ABC News

Click here for original publication.

Eloise comes alive inside a new shop at The Plaza Hotel in New York featuring all things about the legendary storybook character.

The idea was to put the little girl who’s always on the move in a spot so everyone could experience her world. The 2,100-square-foot Eloise shop, which opened today, is the first of its kind, with the look and feel of a child’s playhouse.

“We thought Eloise deserved a home,” said Kristin Franzese, executive vice president of retail, The Shops at The Plaza, who was part of a team that conceived the store.

In the books, the mischievous 6-year-old who lives at The Plaza is known for flitting from one part of the hotel to another. While her spirit is felt throughout the building, “you never did see Louise; she was always just at the Palm Court or over there,” Franzese said.

Plaza Offers $995 Eloise Suite

The character of Eloise has widespread appeal, and the store was designed to continue that trend, Franzese said.

“It’s a multigenerational store. A lot of moms remember Eloise and the books from when they were kids, and they pass it on to their children,” she said.

It’s now become a full-fledged experience, as the store’s creators wanted to allow children to share an interactive world with Eloise, according to Franzese.

The book’s creators, author Kay Thompson and illustrator Hilary Knight, worked on “Eloise: A book for precocious grownups” while staying at The Plaza in 1954.

In the story, 6-year-old Eloise took up residence at the hotel in 1955 with Weenie, her pet pug, Skipperdee, her turtle, and her nanny. Thompson then wrote a succession of books featuring the indominable little girl, including “Eloise in Paris” in 1956, “Eloise at Christmastime” in 1958 and “Eloise in Moscow” in 1959. Thompson died in 1998.

Hotel guests are very familiar with Eloise’s storied history, said Raphael Pallais, concierge at The Plaza.

“Little girls ask for Eloise,” Pallais said. “Often their parents will ask them to ask us.”

He’s long been getting questions about the fictional character, and is thrilled about the newest addition to the hotel.

“We have high hopes for Eloise. She’s such a character and a personality, a lot like The Plaza,” he said. “Of all the fictional characters, she’s the only one who lives in a real building.”

Carving Out a Place for Eloise

Franzese said her team was able to move quickly because there was a clear vision of what the store should be like.

“We wanted it to be experiential. The décor was easy: pink,” she said.

Pink serves as a backdrop for everything in the store. The pink on the walls are matched to the same shade as the pink in the book, while the drapes, bean bags, furniture and carpet are various shades. Light fixtures covered in pink cloth shine overhead throughout the store.

“We didn’t want it to be one dimensional with all one color pink,” Franzese said.

Eloise’s eponymous shop continues the hotel’s effort to carve out a definitive spot for Eloise. The hotel began offering a “live like Eloise” package June 1.

When The Plaza’s redesigned Web site debuts later this month, Eloise will have her own section. An Eloise fan club and recommendations from Eloise on places to visit in the hotel, the park and the city are forthcoming on the new Web site.

Then, in 2010, The Plaza plans to unveil an Eloise-themed suite designed by Betsey Johnson.

The shop’s rooms were inspired by the “Eloise” books. In the main room, the plush pink carpet features words in black taken from the Eloise book, which reads: “There is a lobby which is enormously large with marble pillars and ladies in it….” Soon storytime will be held in this room on Saturday afternoons.

“We wanted an environment where people could come and be very comfortable,” Franzese said.

The portrait of Eloise painted on directly on the wall is just like the one that appears in The Plaza’s lobby, drawn by Knight, who illustrated the “Eloise” books. Only this one is painted by a local artist.

“We wanted a replica to tie it all together,” Franzese said.

There’s a Fashion Room because, in the books, Eloise plays dress-up with her mother’s clothes. The store sells a myriad of Eloise-themed merchandise, including tiaras, tutus, sheets, pink hats with the Eloise logo, pink hooded sweatshirts, and girls’ bathrobes also embroidered with the word Eloise.

Visitors can try on clothes sold in the store on a podium with a three-way-mirror. Pink curtains adorning the podium can close, emulating a dressing room.

Exploring Eloise’s Rooms

A beauty salon room will have the services of a hair stylist in the spring.

Across the floor, the Tea Party room was inspired by Eloise’s tea parties at The Plaza. The 6-year-old also been known to crash parties and weddings at the hotel. In the spring, this room will be open for private tea parties, etiquette classes and other special events. Inside the room are tea sets and plates specially designed with “Eloise” illustrations.

“When the tea room opens, it’s going to give American Girls a run for its money,” said Pallais, The Plaza’s concierge.

In the reading room, children are free to sit on bean bags, browse through the Eloise books or watch DVDs of “Eloise” movies on a huge flat screen TV. Computers will be installed in the next couple of weeks with kid-friendly access, Franzese said.

Customer Aura Lev was at the store on opening day, with her granddaughters in tow, who made themselves at home on the bean bags while the TV was playing an “Eloise” DVD. Lev, a Manhattan native resident, thought the store was lovely, and while there, she bought them the original “Eloise” book.

Gina Shaw, who lives outside the city, was wandering through the store with her 3-year-old daughter, Annika. Shaw, who grew up in Nebraska, said she loved anything to do with New York.

“I read ‘Eloise and the Mixed up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,'” Shaw said.

That book features a girl who runs away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She introduced her daughter to the “Eloise” books when she was 18 months old, Shaw said.

Customers check out at the concierge, a favorite aspect of the “Eloise” books. There, customers can leave their names and contact information in the store’s guest book. A pink mailbox sits in the corner.

“Little girls leave notes for Eloise, and she responds with pink notes,” Franzese said.

The store didn’t start out so elaborate. Franzese said she and the team talked of a pop-up shop, but the concept quickly evolved into something more.

“We thought it was a big miss to have a transitory store and not give Eloise her due,” said Franzese.

In the Spotlight: McGraw on Family and the Love of His Life

ABC News

by Ari Pinkus and Janice Johnston

Click here for original publication.

Tim McGraw may be a country music megastar, but he says he is still adjusting to all the fanfare and he remembers the days when his life was simpler.

“Personally, I feel like I’m just starting to learn how to do this, you know,” McGraw said. “You reach a point where you feel like … you’re young enough to still go out and sort of rock the world … but you’re old enough to know how to do it right.”

And he’s proven that he’s got the right stuff, as he showed when he and his band, the Dancehall Doctors, rocked the stage at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field for the NFL’s Kickoff concert Sept. 10.

McGraw showed his star power playing for an overflow crowd of 50,000 NFL fans at the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers’ home field and millions of television viewers.

While McGraw seems to be at home on any stage, he said Bear Creek, his sprawling Tennessee estate, is where he’s most at peace.

McGraw invited Robin Roberts and ABC News’ cameras on a tour of his family’s 900-acre private retreat, where he, his wife, platinum-selling country music sensation Faith Hill, and their three daughters find a refuge for family moments and heartfelt memories.

“My favorite bird dog [was] named Fleetwood. His name [was] Fleetwood Mac we called him,” McGraw said as he showed Roberts the dog’s grave.

On McGraw’s farm, Roberts had her first lesson in skeet shooting, a version of competitive shotgun shooting at targets. Then, the two saddled horses for the full cowboy experience.

But for McGraw, really it’s all about the song.

McGraw’s name has been synonymous with hits. In his multiplatinum career, he has charted 30 No. 1 singles, and sold more than 40 million albums. His latest, “Southern Voice” hit the charts at No. 1. He’s won three Grammys, 10 American Music Awards, 11 Country Music Awards and the list goes on.

At his 200-year-old log cabin, McGraw talked about another award few people know about. This one was for his fragrance, “McGraw.”

The scent is described as modern spicy with a hint of aged whiskey.

“That’s me in a nutshell, right there,” McGraw said.

The country star’s name has reached even further, appearing on a children’s book he wrote and a signature brand of Fritos. In recent years, he’s also gone from lead singer to leading man at the box office.

Tim McGraw on Meeting His Mate, Faith Hill

With several films under his belt, he’s taking on a starring role opposite Sandra Bullock in the upcoming movie, “The Blind Side.”

But he said he’s not contemplating a full-time movie career.

“I’ll never give up my day job because it pays a lot more than movies,” McGraw said. “And … I’ve got three daughters. And that … that can get expensive.”

McGraw attributes his personal achievements to his music career as well.

“Anything I’ve gotten good in my life, music has brought me… my family, my wife,” he said. “I wouldn’t have met my wife if it hadn’t been for music.”

Hill met McGraw 13 years ago, when she was the opening act on his tour. He said he doesn’t know how it came to be that she would open for him.

“I’m sure I had it planned somewhere … along the lines. … I’m starting to get nervous now,” he said.

But he’s always been sure of how he feels about Hill.

“I thought that … ‘she’s way out of my league,'” McGraw said. I still think she’s way out of my league. Somebody that’s … that was sort of untouchable for me. To me, she’s the most beautiful girl in the world. She’s just … she’s a great lady.”

The two married in 1996. Afterward, they went on to make chart-topping duets and break records with the highest-grossing country music tour of all time. But McGraw said their greatest hits are their three daughters Gracie, Maggie and Audrey.

Together, McGraw and Hill have stood against the pressures and tabloid scrutiny of a dual-celebrity marriage living in the spotlight.

“She’s definitely put up with a lot from me,” McGraw said. “There was a point in my career here … where … I was letting too much of me be the focus. And she sort of … put up with me through sort of that mess a little bit.”

It wasn’t the first time McGraw has had a hard time of it. As a small-town boy in Start, La., he remembers seeing his mother struggle.

“I saw a lot of abuse that my mother took from two different marriages,” McGraw said. “So, I think, growing up, and as I got older and all through my life, I’ve always looked at examples of what not to do and what not to be. [Abuse] never crossed my mind.”

McGraw Learns His Mother’s Secret

McGraw is famous for defending women. In fact, he’s become a YouTube sensation for tossing concert-goers out of his show when he believes that they’re mistreating women.

It’s an opportunity to set a good example for his own family, he said.

“I just don’t want my girls to think that that’s appropriate. I don’t want them to think that that’s ever the right thing to do,” he said. “And they should never accept that … from anybody.”

Perhaps McGraw’s biggest emotional challenge was a secret his mother hid from him throughout his childhood. His mother, Betty, had a brief romance with one of major league’s most famous pitchers, Tug McGraw.

Even though the pitcher was really McGraw’s father, he grew up believing that his mother’s husband, Horace Smith, was his biological father.

At 11, he finally learned the truth. But his early relationship with Tug McGraw was rocky, and there were times when his major league pitcher father didn’t want anything to do with him.

He said he internalized his feelings of frustration.

“I probably did more damage to myself over those kind of feelings than I did with anybody else,” McGraw said. “But probably the main reason it turned out better than it could have, it’s because of the strength of my mother and the strength of my grandmother, and the love that I felt from them.”

Despite the tense relationship between father and son, he said the pitcher’s life was a source of inspiration.

“It changed who I thought I could be, and what I thought I could do with my life. I owe a lot to him because of that,” McGraw said. “No matter what kind of father he was or wasn’t for me. I got something that I … couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.”

As he grew into a young man, the resemblance to his father was uncanny. Finally, Tug McGraw no longer denied his son. The two grew closer, becoming a part of each other’s lives. And Tim eventually took the last name “McGraw.”

“I never looked at it as forgiveness or not forgiveness, he said. “I looked at it as, it’s your life. These are the hands, the cards that you’re dealt.”

A Song and a Prayer: ‘Live Like You Were Dying’

Later, Tug McGraw battled brain cancer and died in 2004. He chose to live his final days at a cottage on Tim McGraw’s Bear Creek farm.

McGraw channeled his experience with his father into his iconic hit, “Live Like You Were Dying,” an anthem of forgiveness, inspiration and joy.

He closes almost every show with the song, which has become his personal prayer.

“I only have one life and I want to be happy with how I’ve lived it. Every day I try to make a step in the right direction,” McGraw said.

Candid Conversations With Country Music’s Hottest Stars and Up-and-Comers

ABC News

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“Good Morning America’s” Robin Roberts dons her cowboy boots in Nashville, Tenn., for a peek inside the homes and private lives of country music’s hottest stars.

Rising country singer/songwriters also play a prominent role in the hour-long special, “In The Spotlight with Robin Roberts: Bright Lights. Big Stars. All Access Nashville,” airing Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

“In The Spotlight” greets Carrie Underwood, award-winning singer and former “American Idol” winner, in her hometown of Checotah, Okla.

On a private tour with Roberts, Underwood opens up about the cost of achieving fame at a young age and her current romance with Ottawa Senators hockey player Mike Fisher. And newly released home video shows Underwood singing in grade school performances and participating in beauty pageants.

Music and film star Tim McGraw takes his turn in the spotlight, showing Roberts around his family farm near Nashville, where skeet-shooting and horseback riding are everyday activities.

McGraw talks about how he reconciled with his biological father, professional baseball player, Tug McGraw. In the interview, he shares intimate feelings of being a father of three and husband to Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Faith Hill.

Martina McBride, one of the first ladies of country music, also opens up her home and takes Roberts to Blackbird Recording Studios, where she recorded many hit records.

McBride, 43, describes entering the music business, balancing work and mothering three children and competing with 20-something female stars. She also dishes on her decision to wear a bikini on the July 2009 cover of Shape magazine, which raised a few eyebrows.

Sometimes a famous last name in country music can bring both assets and liabilities. In Hurricane Mills, Tenn., Roberts interviews the original coal miner’s daughter, Loretta Lynn and country star Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash.

Meanwhile, the next generation of country music royalty isn’t waiting in the wings. Young singers including Tayla Lynn, granddaughter of Loretta Lynn, and Jenny Gill, daughter of Vince Gill, mix their talent with their famous last names to succeed in Nashville.

Exclusive Web-Only Features

In addition to the TV special, additional exclusive interview footage, videos, photos and music will be available at a new, special section at www.abcnews.com/country.

“In The Spotlight” asks Americans to answer the question: What do you think is the greatest country song of all time?

Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and even America’s “Country Music Fan in Chief,” President Barack Obama weigh in with their choices.

Click here to visit our special section for full coverage.

TV Icon Bob Barker Gives $3 Million to Military Brain Injuries Hospital

ABC News

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Bob Barker, famed TV icon and former host of “The Price Is Right,” has given $3 million to finish funding the construction of a new hospital in Bethesda, Md., to care for the brain injuries of military personnel.

Barker, a naval aviator who served during World War II, contacted the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fundlast week after learning that it was struggling to come up with the last $3 million for the new treatment center.

VIDEO: Bob Barker donated millions to military brain injuries hospital.

Bill White, president of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, got on the phone with Barker. The two spoke for 40 minutes about Barker’s service experiences and the difficulty of raising money in a recession, White said.

For more information on the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund click here.

Barker, 84, said he was motivated to make the donation because of his naval service and his desire to help people in his retirement. Barker ended his TV career after hosting “The Price is Right” for 35 years as well as “Truth or Consequences,” The Rose Parade, and The Miss USA and Miss Universe Pageants. He made his film debut in “Happy Gilmore.”

Barker has long used his status in the industry to raise awareness about animal rights, and was recently in Canada to draw attention to the plight of elephants.

In this case, he learned about the reputation of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, and that every penny the fund raises goes directly to projects. The trustees absorb the administrative costs with interest from invested funds.

Signature War Injury

Having now received $60 million in donations, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund will be able to complete the National Intrepid Center for Excellence, a facility for the research, diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury.

Located next to the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the 72,000-square-foot facility will be the Defense Department’s top spot for studying TBI. In June 2008, the fund broke ground on the building, which is now set to open next year.

More than 300,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts suffer from traumatic brain injuries, according to some estimates.

People generally don’t understand TBI, White said, but it is the signature wound of the conflicts, according to the RAND Institute, a nonprofit think tank headquartered in Santa Monica, Calif.

Gayle King’s Five Small Things That Mean a Lot

ABC News

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Gayle King, editor at large of Oprah magazine, doesn’t sweat the small stuff. She suggests five little things you can do so that you won’t either.

She boils these down to: listening to happy songs, making apologies sincerely, saying positive things, being active, and quieting tempers.

Wake Up to Cheery Tunes

Listening to peppy music early in the morning can put an extra spring in your step all day long. King says she loves the song “Gonna Have a Good Day,” and the Days Inn commercial, “Here Comes the Sunshine.”

“Makes me want to run to a Days Inn,” she said. Happy music “is a very good start.”

VIDEO: Oprah?s Gayle King talks about some worthwhile investments.

Do Moderate Activity

Many people hate working out, but it’s easy to garden, golf or walk for 20 minutes. And that’s all it takes to significantly reduce the risk of psychological distress, according to British researchers who reviewed the lifestyles of 20,000 Britons.

“It sounds like a cliche, but it really is true,” King said. “Something simple that gets you moving will make a big difference in how you feel.”

If You Apologize, Be Sincere

Apologies keep coming these days from Bernie MadoffKanye West and others. But people can sense if you’ve been pressured into it, King says.

VIDEO: Oprah?s Gayle King shares some summer savings secrets.

On the flip side, when you’re truly contrite, it’s very effective, as King learned recently. After being cut off on the highway, she started chasing the person down the road, honking and rolling down her window, she said. But when the lady simply said, “I’m sorry,” and looked her in the eye, King said she believed her and felt foolish for overreacting.

“Something as small as an apology can make a difference,” King said. “An apology works when you feel it is sincere.”

Avoid Negative Words

Positive communication goes a long way. When you want to tell someone something good and something not so good at the same time, it’s always better not to say, “this is great, but….”

“‘But’ tends to negate everything that you just said,” King explained.

Instead, use the word “and” to temper your criticism. Inflammatory words like “stupid” should be kept out of conversation altogether. The focus should be on how the action has affected you.

Finally, use the word “we” in place of “they.” This shifts others’ viewpoints and your own, says King, because “if we’re not part of the solution, then we’re part of the problem.”

“It’s a very small thing,” King said. “It implies we’re all in it together.”

 Defuse Tensions

It’s possible to prevent a spat from escalating into a full blown argument by following the advice of a University of Utah professor who has studied how couples argue. The three keys: Don’t raise your voice, do empathize with your partner, and don’t drag out the fight.

For more tips on small things that can make a big difference, check out the October issue of O magazine and visit Oprah.com.

The Highs and Lows of Being an ‘American Idol’

ABC News

Click here for original publication.

In the music business, the road to success is typically long and grueling. Not so for Kris Allen, David Cook and Adam Lambert, who have been catapulted to instant fame by their performances in the hit TV show “American Idol.”

It is a coveted stepping stone, and this diverse group of “Idols” is making the most of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As they all grapple with the scrutiny, the rapport that the three have established with their various fan bases who have dialed and texted them into stardom continues to fuel their success.

Watch David Cook, Adam Lambert and Kris Allen perform live this Friday, from New York City’s Central Park on “Good Morning America’s,” Summer Concert Series.

Allen, 24, and Lambert, 27, along with the eight other finalists of the last season are part of the 50-city “American Idol Summer 2009 Tour,” which ends in mid-September. Cook, who was crowned “American Idol” in 2008, will join the two this Friday for a performance in New York’s Central Park as part of “Good Morning America’s” Summer Concert Series.

Cook, 26, took to the road earlier this year to promote the self-titled album he released in 2008, and co-wrote nine of the album’s songs. In May, Allen, who hails from Conway, Ark., was the fans’ No. 1 choice, edging out Adam Lambert, who had previously performed in “Wicked” and “The Ten Commandments: The Musical.”

The latest “Idol” winner taught himself to play guitar at 13 and had encouragement from his father, who was a musician. It only took writing one song for the nascent talent to know he was hooked on music, he said. “It wasn’t that good but I felt like it was the one thing that I could do forever.”

Now, making music full-time is a thrill. But he’s not stopping there, as he uses the “American Idol” tour to propel himself further as a musician. Allen recently dropped from the tour his signature track, “No Boundaries,” which won him the “Idol” title in favor of a cover of a song by the Killers, “All These Things That I’ve Done.”

“The tour director came up to me and asked if would be willing to change it, so we put in a song that has a little more energy and I really feel like the crowd has responded well,” Allen explained. He is slated to release his first album this fall.

His former rival, Lambert, is also very much in his element on stage. “I like getting an emotional reaction out of people. There is an energy exchange that takes place between artist and audience that gives me a huge rush,” Lambert exclaimed.

Lambert keeps focused on the positive aspects of entertainment fame, hoping that it will provide him with financial security, he said.

But the dark side does rear its ugly head sometimes. “A drawback is that the negative opinions people have toward the famous, successful, and alternative is now aimed at me,” he said.

Photos of Lambert making out with another man came to light during the “American Idol” season. Lambert, who never denied being gay, came out officially on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine shortly after the show wrapped up. Foremost, he wanted to quell the speculation surrounding his sexuality, he said. “Rolling Stone is one of my favorite music publications and I felt like it was a more credible way of sharing more about my personal life.”

Even after his attempt to tamp down the gossip, he said, “I have to deal with more ignorance than I did before.”

When it comes to vocals, Lambert has been compared with Cook. Although Lambert said he is flattered, he maintains his sense of individuality. “I feel like we’re very different artists, but I still take it as a compliment,” he said.

The Tracks To ‘American Idol’

Their paths to the “American Idol” try outs were nothing alike.

Adam Lambert was living in Los Angeles, yearning to stretch his talents beyond theater. “I was looking for an opportunity to promote myself as a solo artist,” said Lambert. “Although I’m not in any way turning my back on my experience in the theater world, I am looking forward to performing as an extension of myself as opposed to an already written and directed character.”

Cook of Blue Springs, Mo., never intended to audition at all. “I went to Omaha [Nebraska] with my Mom and little brother, Andrew, and was planning on being moral support for Andrew, who had wanted to audition for years. While standing in line for registration, I got talked into it,” he said.

Cook, who has had a year to find his footing in the spotlight, said he hasn’t become caught up in trappings of fame. “In one sense, everything has changed. But in truth, it’s all the peripherals. You get recognized more, for sure, but I don’t really feel any different.”

Just ask Lambert, who said, “David is very talented, intelligent and down to earth.”

Beyond embarking on another record and continuing to perform live, Cook takes a live and let live attitude toward his next steps. “The five year plan I’ve implemented involves being happy, making good records and playing good shows,” he said. I figure whatever is supposed to happen will inevitably happen, regardless of what I do.”

Today, Cook’s satisfaction stems from being able to identify himself as a musician. “Any time some sort of application for something comes in front of me, and it asks what my occupation is, I can write in ‘musician,’ and not ‘bartender’ or ‘painter’ or ‘mascot for a restaurant. ‘” The worst part of his new line of work? “The mascot job paid pretty well,” he said jokingly.

But he is serious about his music and believes it’s never too late to improve his sound. He would welcome the chance to perform with “Sir Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen … any of the greats. There are always things to learn,” he said.

Allen, Lambert and Cook are blessed with hard core fans of their own that not only want to hear them sing but also keep up with their lives. When Cook lost his 37-year-old brother, Adam, to brain cancer in May, he received an outpouring of support from fans.

What It Takes to Succeed

Allen said he’s been adjusting to the lack of privacy he has now, but the worst thing is being away from family and friends, especially his wife, Katy, he said.

In his time away, Allen has become very friendly with Lambert. Earlier this year, they roomed together on “American Idol.” While on tour, they’ve become more familiar with each other’s hidden talents. While Allen said he has maintained the “weird talent of blowing bubbles out of my mouth,” he’s also discovered his former rival’s quintessential quirk. “It takes [Lambert] longer to do his tour makeup than the show,” Allen joked.

Doing his own makeup, Lambert said, gets him in the mood to perform. “We’re bringin’ glam back, baby,” he said excitedly.

For his part, Lambert said all the time together only solidified his initial impression of Allen. “He’s further proved my opinion that he is one of the nicest, most laid-back and gracious guys I have ever met,” he said. “He has a great sense of humor and nothing fazes him. It’s refreshing to be friends with someone so comfortable in his own skin.”

In one way, it shows what Lambert has realized about having a career as an entertainer.

“In order to make a living in show biz, you have to be good with people and be a team player.”

He is upbeat about working alongside Allen and has become one of his ex-rival’s biggest fans. “I am so excited for his future success,” he said.

Lambert’s also looking forward to his own success, as he works on releasing his solo album in November, which is expected to have some sexy songs. But he has more far-reaching plans as well. “In five years, I see myself making more records and music videos and hopefully crossing over into other forms of entertainment media,” he said.

Acting is one possibility. “I would love to try film and TV. Movie musicals are back,” he said excitedly. He holds out hope for one part in particular. “Dream role would be Judas in an edgy version of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ ” he said.

Before any of that happens, two pieces of advice Cook received about life in the music business could only help the three young stars as they navigate the road ahead. “One: Never stop working until you want to stop working. Two: Hold on. It’s about to get crazy. Both are extremely appropriate,” Cook said.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Kelly Clarkson

ABC News

Click here for original publication.

Since then, Clarkson, 27, has been in the limelight, collecting a cachet of Grammys, American Music Awards, and MTV Video Music Awards. She’s also been nominated for a Country Music Award. Now, she’s promoting her fourth album, “All I Ever Wanted,” released this year.

That’s the public side, but what about the private side? Here are 10 things you might not know about the first American Idol:

1. Kelly’s new hobby is golf.

2. Before appearing on “American Idol,” Kelly’s Los Angeles apartment was destroyed by a fire.

3. Kelly owns a variety of pets, including some rescued dogs from Hurricane Katrina.

4. An avid reader, Kelly says her favorite book is “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte.

5. Kelly loves board games.

6. Kelly does not Twitter.

7. Kelly covers the Rod Stewart song “Some Guys Have All the Luck,” but she’s changed it to “Some Girls Have All the Luck” on her current tour.

8. At 16, Kelly wrote “Because of You.”

9. Kelly is a big fan of Meryl Streep, and her favorite Streep movie is “Sophie’s Choice.”

10. Kelly sometimes records in her bathroom closet.

Sean Paul Puts Modern Jamaican Reggae on the Map

ABC News

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With the vocal stylings of Sean Paul, modern Jamaican reggae has secured its own space on the international musical stage.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Paul says his heritage has been a boon to his musical career. “It makes me unique, stand out more and carve a space in popular music that no one else really occupies,” he says.

And carve out he has. When Paul’s fourth album, “Imperial Blaze,” is released next month, fans can expect “the future sound of dancehall; a lot of club bangers and songs dedicated to women,” he says.

Watch Sean Paul perform live in New York’s Central Park Friday for “Good Morning America’s” Summer Concert Series!

Paul’s first album, “Stage One,” debuted in 2000 and, since then, he has had a string of successes. His song “Gimme the Light” was a huge hit, and the multiplatinum album, “Dutty Rock” (2002), was a Grammy winner. He followed that up with “The Trinity” in 2005, which also went platinum. As Paul’s popularity grew, he won the American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist in 2006.

Paul, 36, has always been about pushing himself forward as an artist. His first album began with songs comprised from the dancehall and each successive album has had more exclusive music. The mix of energetic and reflective tracks on “Imperial Blaze” has been “recorded especially for this album,” Paul writes on his Web site.

All the while, his heritage has infused different facets of his music. For instance, his new album’s lead single, “So Fine,” combines fast lyrics, harmony and digital percussion.

In the creative process, he’s revealing the talent of young Jamaican producers: Craig “Leftside” Parks, son of Jamaican bandleader Lloyd Parkes; Jeremy Harding, Paul’s manager, and Jazon “Jigzagula” Henriques, Paul’s brother.

Through his career, Paul has found that his Jamaican reggae and dancehall music don’t penetrate some places. “Sometimes, people can’t understand my lyrics and that makes it hard to reach certain audiences sometimes,” he says.

Paul’s Effort to Connect With Artists and New Audiences

Paul has been able to help expand the reach of his music by being mindful of the possible language barriers.

“I try to make sure at least my ‘hooks’ are in more straight English and less patois,” he says. “Also I’ve done versions of ‘punkie’ [“Dutty Rock”] and ‘hold my hand’ [“Imperial Blaze”] in Spanish to help reach that audience.”

In addition to pursuing new audiences, Paul has also sought to connect with other artists. He has worked with hip-hop stars 50 Cent, Clipse and Busta Rhymes, and recorded a fair share of duets, including “Break It Off” with Rihanna and “Baby Boy” with Beyonce.

“It’s great sharing ideas and collaborating with artists with different styles and perspectives,” he says. “It’s also amazing when someone I have so much respect for like Busta Rhymes calls and says he wants to work with you.”

For Paul, another major influence is his family and, in “Imperial Blaze,” he takes the opportunity to describe how much they matter. “I … show a deeper side with songs that talk about relationships and a song [‘Straight from My Heart’] dedicated to my moms.”

Amid the stardom, Paul gives his family credit for keeping him grounded, he says.

They’ve been instrumental in his key pursuit outside of music as a competitive water athlete. Paul spent much time as a teenager in the pool playing for the Jamaica national water polo team, as his father and grandfather had before him. His mother, meanwhile, was a backstroke swimmer.

Some of Paul’s fans might also be surprised to learn that he worked as a bank teller and went to hotel management school for two years, he says.

No matter what he has been involved in, he has maintained his passion for music. “I was doing music even while I was swimming. … Unless you’re Mike Phelps, there isn’t that much future in swimming,” he says.

But Paul’s future in music looks bright, and it could be because he doesn’t take his fans for granted. “I just know that fans aren’t easy to come by,” he says, “and you have to work to keep that respect and love.”

Third Eye Blind Opens Up About Its Tight Connection With Fans

ABC News

Click here for original publication.

As Third Eye Blind prepares to launch its new album next month, singer Stephan Jenkins believes the title “Ursa Major,” which is the constellation of the bear, perfectly describes the songs: “big as the sky, out of hibernation, shining in the night sky, hungry to feed and thrive!”

It also could describe the novel approach the group has taken to making its fourth album. The album’s release is set for Aug. 18, and Mega Collider Records is the producer, with some help from fans.

“We pretty much worked it out in front of the audience while touring, and they definitely had some thoughts. We are close to our fans, and sometimes I feel like they are another member of the band,” Jenkins says. Watch Third Eye Blind perform live in New York’s Central Park Friday for“Good Morning America’s” Summer Concert Series!

Third Eye Blind’s fan base has exploded thanks to easy access from the downloading and swapping of music online as well as the waning but still powerful influence of the major recording industry labels.

But the band is hardly new to the music scene. The post-grunge alternative rock group got its start in the early 1990s in San Francisco, where Jenkins, one of the original members, came up with the name Third Eye Blind. “We’re still trying to figure out what it means,” he admits. In the meantime, the group with the enigmatic name released three albums Third Eye Blind (1997), Blue (1999) and Out of the Vein (2003).

During the group’s lifetime, some of Third Eye Blind’s members have come and gone. The band now consists of Jenkins and Tony Fredianelli, both on vocals and guitar, and drummer Brad Hargreaves. In 2006, bassist Arion Salazar left with an open invitation to return, though it is unclear when or if he will. Abe Millet, of Inviolet Row, has filled in for Salazar in concerts. “We miss Arion, and we love him dearly,” Jenkins says.

Today, Jenkins says, the artist he would most want to share the stage with is the late Savva Mamontov. “Because I screwed up his name,” he says, “that’s the least I can do. The song would be “Monotov’s Private Opera,” of course.”

Third Eye Blind on Young Fans

Mamontov could have learned a lot from the way Third Eye Blind has taken advantage of the music industry’s evolution in the digital age.

The group’s new Web site www.thirdeyeblind.com is a good example. “We blog, they blog, they ask us questions, we answer, we meet — it’s incredible. We’re trying to eliminate the disconnect between making music and getting music,” Jenkins says.

While socializing on the Internet, the group also helps people find lasting relationships. Jenkins explains that at a recent show in San Diego, the band met a couple who first connected with each other via thirdeyeblind.com. “Love, that’s what we’re all about.”

Third Eye Blind has a particular following among the 15- to 22-year-old set, and Jenkins muses over the reason. “They’re bold … and they’re not afraid of change. Third Eye Blind has always been more racy and challenging, and kids connect to it.”

For Jenkins, writing these songs is his way of gaining understanding of himself and the larger world. And he’s experienced plenty of it. He raves about Kyoto, Japan, for its physical beauty, “beautiful people” and “great tofu,” he says.