Category Archives: Celebrities

Vote Obama

This blog entry may cause people to stop following this blog. It may also mean I get some rather angry comments but I need to write it. This is not an unbaised post.

Barack Obama has been one of the biggest inspirations to me, ever. I admire him and feel that he has been given the rough end of what may appear to some as a very good deal: President of the United States of America.

How many people think that is an amazing job? I’m sure it is but it’s accompanied by many, many pitfalls. Not to mention the amount of strength, courage, time and effort it takes to get there.

Barack Hussein Obama (yes, that is his middle name) was born in Hawaii (yes, he truly is American). He has had a varied life, living in Indonesia for some of his childhood. Barack is a lawyer, a community organiser and an author – among many other things.

He is an idealist and I admire that. On 20th January, 2009, he was inaugurated as 44th President of the USA. On that day, 55 years, one month and 19 days since Rosa Parks had refused to give up her seat for a white person on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, a black man became President. With Obama’s inauguration, people felt hope, optimism, self-worth and inspired. His election, to me, sounded a silent tribute not only to Rosa Parks but also Dr Martin Luther King, James Meredith, JFK, Robert Kennedy and so many more who campaigned for African-American Civil Rights in the 1960s. For people who gave their live to this cause, this was their dream come true.

And mine.

For anyone who told you “You can’t do xxx”, “You’ll never be xxx” or “You don’t fit in”, this was a big fat “Yes we can!”. Barack Obama might have been told he wasn’t the “right colour” to become President. He may have been told his background wasn’t conventional enough. Barack Obama may have been regarded as “too left” or inexperienced but he didn’t let peoples’ small-mindedness stop him. Neither should you.

After becoming President, Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”. I don’t see Mitt Romney being rewarded this prize anytime soon.

Obama wants to legalise same-sex marriage – the first incumbent President to publicly support this. He is pro-choice, supports the repealing of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in the US Military, he ended US military involvement in Iraq and introduced a health care reform to ensure everyone in the US had affordable health care. Obama signed an arms control treaty with Russia.

Mitt Romney would like to increase fracking across the US and has pledged to repeal ‘Obamacare’. If it were up to Mitt Romney, US military personnel would still be in Iraq, with no end in sight. He is also against same-sex marriages and is pro-life. He would also like to limit the growth of entitlement programmes. So, if you’re not wealthy and self-sufficient: Mitt Romney isn’t interested in you. Although he does, allegedly, wear some interesting underwear.

Barack Obama has had a very large mountain to climb following his inauguration mainly due to the inadequacies of the previous Republican administration. George W. Bush started wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that Obama has had to deal with. Bush was unable to find Osama Bin Laden. He presided over one of the worst financial crises in decades, it has been left to Obama to try to help those left without jobs, healthcare and homes. He has had to battle against a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, and battle he has.

Vote for Barack Obama and give America a chance to move forwards.

Vic x

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Review: Jay-Z and Kanye West at Birmingham LG Arena, 13/06/12.

Two of the biggest artists in music at the moment, on one stage? Hell, yeah!

I’ve seen both perform separately and so went to this gig with a very definite idea of who would produce the best show. When I saw Kanye West in Newcastle, 2008, he was unresponsive, disinterested and very, very late. Later that evening, he assaulted a photographer outside a nightclub and that was the start of his rather public downfall. Less than a year later, he stormed the stage during Taylor Swift’s award acceptance at the MTV VMAs and the industry – along with the media and the public – turned their back on Mr West.

His public rehabilitation came in the form of a duet album with his mentor (and boss), Jay-Z. Their ‘Watch the Throne’ album is an absolute hiphop classic. And last night’s ‘Watch the Throne’ gig raised the bar even higher.

With hydraulic stages and laser light shows, the show promised to be a corker. However, the show was quite stripped back, letting the rappers do what they do best. There were no dancers, no special guests and no gimmicks – just two of the best artists in the world and a sea of adoring fans chanting along.

Whether it’s the successful businessman in Jay-Z or just genuine enthusiasm, he knows how to keep the crowd happy. He’s obviously been taking lessons from his mate Chris Martin – Jay frequently expressed his gratitude to the adoring crowd. Kanye certainly is getting better at interacting with the crowd but he remains slightly detached at times. He was definitely a million times more interesting to watch than 4 years ago.

The show was over two hours long and featured plenty of solo time for both artists but when they got together, it was explosive. I was at the back of the arena but I was as excited as the people in the mosh pit – the atmosphere was just electric.

These two men will be remembered by my generation as being the most influential men in music. Their lyrics are insightful and sometimes funny. Their patriotism is really moving and their honesty is often brutal. I adore them.

This was the best gig I’ve ever seen. It will take a lot to top it.

Vic x

Bon Jovi: Why They Mean the World to Me.

Some of you will scoff at the title of this post. But on this day, two days after Jon Bon Jovi, turned 50, I felt it important to write this piece. VH1 have had a field day this weekend by playing Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hits to commemorate the milestone. Seeing as I’m on a diet, I watched this programme as it’s the only source of indulgence I can get at the moment.

I’ve loved Bon Jovi since I was a young girl. I remember my dad teaching me to headbang to the ‘Slippery When Wet’ album when I was a toddler. My dad is a rock fan, and like many, got bored with the band after the first couple of albums. For me though, Bon Jovi have defined my life.

When I was a child, I was a city swimmer. I competed in galas several times a year and, every time I stood waiting to dive in I’d sing ‘Blaze of Glory’ in my head. It was my anthem, and it never failed me. When under pressure now, I still play that song to gee myself up.

When I was ten years old, Bon Jovi released ‘Always’ to coincide with the release of ‘Crossroads’, their Greatest Hits album. My best friend and I adored ‘Always’ and we had massive crushes on JBJ. Around that time, Bon Jovi announced a worldwide stadium tour for the summer of 1995. My best friend’s parents offered to take me to the gig but my parents were concerned at me, aged 11, being in the mosh pit. So, instead, I agreed to go to a vantage point with my grown-up cousin.

Unfortunately, though, 2 days before the gig, I had my ankle put in plaster. I sat moping about at home until my dad said “Come on then” and drove me to sit in the car and listen to the gig. I may not have seen them but it was such a kind thing of him to do. Sitting in a car, my foot in plaster, while my dad danced in his seat and the sun set in the distance is one of my favourite Bon Jovi memories.

From then on, I became more and more in love with Bon Jovi. Their album ‘These Days’ reminds me of driving up to the Northumberland coast in my parents’ little D reg Nissan Micra on a beautifully sunny day.

After 1995, Bon Jovi disappeared off the scene for a few years: Jon acted and released a solo album, Richie also released an album and the others, well, who knows what they did. I, however, busied myself with listening to Bon Jovi’s back catelogue, discovering classics like ‘Dry County’ and ‘Blood on Blood’. During these years, I remember being in secondary school and, after finishing my homework, playing Super Mario Bros. on my SNES while listening to Bon Jovi albums.

Cometh 2000, cometh ‘Crush’. A few months after my 16th birthday, the Jovi made our dreams come true by not only announcing another stadium tour but releasing ‘Crush’, an album that changed my life forever. Revising for our GCSEs in my best friend’s garden on possibly the hottest day of 2000, ‘It’s My Life’ came on the radio. My friend and I danced around the garden, getting excited for the day we’d get to see the band live. That day, two days before GCSE results day, was one of the most exciting things we’d ever experienced.

In 2001, we threatened to travel to Glasgow as the band weren’t touring in the North-East (and never have done since) but, at seventeen, our parents put the spokes in that! The band did release ‘One Wild Night: 1985-2001’, a live album – and that kept us dancing through that summer, annoying both sets of neighbours with our incessant singing along.

Sadly, that friendship – the most important of my life – ended in 2002 due to our differing attitudes. The thought of it still cuts me up. We never fell out, just grew apart which, considering the closeness we’d experienced since the age of two, made it all the worse. By the time we left sixth form, we were strangers.

In late 2002, ‘Bounce’ was released and in 2003 I got to see the Jovi again. But not with my best friend. Track 4 on ‘Bounce’ was ‘Joey’ which just so happened to be my friend’s name. It reduced me to tears every time I heard it. Whenever I hear ‘Blood on Blood’, about lifelong friends, I think of Joanna.

We bumped into each other throughout the years and thankfully, two years ago we reconnected on Facebook and together we travelled to Edinburgh last summer to see them on their Greatest Hits tour. It was one of the happiest days I’ve ever had. We meet a couple of times a year now and I only wish I could wind the clock back.

After ‘Bounce’, a lot of fans left Bon Jovi. ‘This Left Feels Right’ was certainly a departure from the norm – where the band rearranged previous songs, I wasn’t impressed with much of it. ‘Have A Nice Day’ followed in 2005 featuring songs like ‘Who Says You Can’t Go Home’.

Following a duet with Sugarland on ‘Have A Nice Day’, ‘Lost Highway’ was inspired by country music and recorded in Nashville but that didn’t stop me from loving it. ‘Whole Lotta Leaving’ was inspired by the death of Richie Sambora’s father and it is absolutely beautiful. In 2009, ‘The Circle’ marked a definite return to Bon Jovi’s roots.

What I adore about Bon Jovi, along with the fact that I can chart my life through their songs, is that their lyrics are so full of meaning. They write about love, they write about loss. They write about the strength you didn’t realise you had. The sing about war and they sing about friendship. Barack Obama’s chief adviser David Axelrod had the lyrics to ‘Work For The Working Man’ framed and hung in his office.

Bon Jovi understand the Tommy and Ginas, they sing about being so low you think you’ll never rise up again – but they know you will. In my darkest moments, and believe me there’ve been some hair-raisers, I’ve listened to ‘Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night’ and believed it. Without Bon Jovi, I honestly don’t know how I would have coped with some situations.

Some may think they’re formulaic and boring but if you listen to the lyrics, their songs are full of compassion – and that can never be a bad thing.

So, happy birthday Jon Bon – here’s to 5o more years!

Vic x

Review: Britney Spears, Femme Fatale – Metro Radio Arena 03/11/11

As many of you who read this blog regularly will know, I am a massive Britney Spears fan. I first saw her in concert in 2004 and then again for her comeback in 2009. On those occasions I had to travel to Manchester and London respectively to see her show.

Thankfully, Ms. Spears has decided to take the Femme Fatale tour UK-wide. Some have speculated that this is due to a drop in popularity but, no matter what the reason, she remains as popular with her core-audience as ever.

This was Britney’s first gig in Newcastle in her thirteen-year career and, although the Arena wasn’t full, everyone at the gig seemed to really enjoy it.

Brit’s been criticised in the past for mainly miming at her gigs and her 2009 Circus tour was slated due to her glassy-eyed lip-syncing. My friend and I loved the Circus but we noted that a lot of the show was down to circus performers and dancers who entertained the crowd while Britney went through several costume changes. Britney was trusted with a live mic only to say “What’s up London?” once during the whole show. A lot of the dance sequences involved Britney being pushed around on stage while flicking her hair around.

Last night, though, was a 100% improvement. It was lovely to see Britney smiling. She looked as though she actually knew what was going on around her this time. She interacted with the crowd throughout the show, which included lasers and dramatic VT interludes during costume changes.

In her 90 minute show, Britney squeezed plenty of her hits into the set as well as squeezing her boobs into a series of revealing costumes. She also did a raunchy cover of Rihanna’s ‘S&M’.

The reaction of the crowd when Britney came to their side of stage or spoke was testament to how much affection people have for her. Her problems have been well-documented but it’s obvious, everyone’s glad to see her back on top.

Her dancing was energetic and she kept up with her dancers perfectly. Although Britney didn’t sing live for the whole concert, she did the majority of the singing and mimed only when her vocals were synthesised.

The stage sets were elaborate and varied, including a Japanese set and an Egyptian theme.

The sexual element of previous shows has been toned down, not eradicated completely but ‘Femme Fatale’ was nowhere near as explicit as previous tours.

Her costumes revealed an amazing figure, particularly when you consider this woman has had two kids! Britney looked both comfortable and confident in the clothes she was wearing and the dance moves she was performing.

There was nothing about this show to dislike! OK, so if you’re not a Britney fan, this may have not have been for you but for me, and all the other people in the audience last night, Britney was amazing!

Vic x

Review: ‘May I Have Your Attention, Please?’ by James Corden

Yes, James, you’ve got our attention. You’ve released your autobiography and, as a huge ‘Gavin and Stacey’ fan, I was so excited to read it. Not only is he the man responsible for one of the – if not the – biggest British comedies in the last decade, he’s also well-known for his roles in ITV’s ‘Fat Friends’ and both the stage and movie productions of Alan Bennett’s ‘The History Boys’.

Basically, this book is a three-hundred and-odd page apology to everyone James Corden has ever pissed off. And, let’s face it, that’s a lot of people. Teachers, family, agents, crew, friends, journos and the public. From being the fat loveable kid in ‘Fat Friends’, his ego got the better of him and he became tabloid fodder, believing his own hype. Fair enough, the guy has been big enough to apologise for being a dick once his career took off but I wanted so much more from this book. I wanted to hear loads more about ‘The History Boys’ and ‘G&S’. I wanted to hear about his relationship with Sheridan Smith. Yes, I am nosy. Can anyone who reads celebrity biographies / autobiographies really claim to be anything else?

OK, he does mention Sheridan but doesn’t go into detail – perhaps I should give him a bit more credit for being respectful. Perhaps it’s just Corden’s dramatic background but every woman he’s ever had a relationship has been incredibly dramatic and important to him. I fear that his use of superlatives only leaves the reader with no sense of who or what actually was truly important to him.

In between the apologies, you do get a few tidbits to sustain you. A few anecdotes about his time at school and college – yes, he was that irritating kid at school who had no interest and therefore messed about. Early in the book, Corden describes a typical day where he played truant from school then proceeded to ring into ‘This Morning’ and pretend to have a problem just to speak to agony aunt Denise Robertson. This story was funny. It made me want to continue reading the book, expecting every other page to be littered with silly, naughty stories – like Peter Kay’s books. I was well and truly disappointed.

He does tell the reader about taking ‘The History Boys’ on a worldwide stage tour and some things that happened during it but none of them were that great, to be honest. Corden and Dominic Cooper end up sounding like arrogant pricks – so the book did nothing to dispel earlier rumours.

He tells you where the inspiration for ‘Gavin and Stacey’ came from and how he and Ruth Jones had to make near-impossible trips across land and sea to get scripts written but the magic I had expected just never appeared. I wanted more Alison Steadman, more Larry Lamb et al. I wanted stories from the shooting of the shows.

Although Corden talks you through his career, the things he did and who he worked with, it all sounds so fake and sycophantic. It is as if everyone he has ever worked with has been “the best”, “an inspiration” or “a dream come true”. The fact that he uses it for legends like Ken Loach and Alan Bennett but then uses similar pronouncements for runners just removes any meaning from what’s written.

I was a fan of Corden before reading this but now I fear the release of the book is part of his rehabilitation into popular circles now he has realised his arrogance lost him a lot of respect both from the industry and the public. I honestly could not take what he was saying seriously.

Vic x

Review: Stephen Merchant at Newcastle City Hall 11/10/11

As you will know, if you’re a frequent reader of this blog, I have a bit of a crush on Stephen Merchant, the tall geeky side-kick of Ricky Gervais.

Thirty-six year old Steve is touring the UK with his show “Hello Ladies”. He says being a stand-up worked to attract women to Russell Brand so he thought he’d try it out in order to find a wife – not a groupie, though, a wife. I’ve always had a thing for tall geeks and Merchant is no exception. If I was a single girl, I’ve thought I’d be interested in becoming Mrs Merchant.

Not often getting a word in edgeways when he’s with Gervais, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Merchant as a stand-up. Looking around the audience, it was obvious that he appealed to a certain demographic – young, educated couples mainly.

Steve combines an intelligent string of stories with a physicality that I hadn’t expected. He moves a lot during the routine and it added a lot to the show. Stephen admits that being 6’7″ gives him an air of arrogance tempered with neurosis. As a tall person, I sympathised with Merchant’s stories of how difficult life is for a man of his stature.

I guess being Gervais’s “other half” may have made Merchant a famous name but the show demonstrated that he is not only an intelligent writer but a gifted and talented performer. Merchant shows with his show that he is more than capable of stepping out of Ricky’s shadow.

His reinterpretations of the Last Supper and how Venn diagrams were invented were inspired. Merchant obviously isn’t afraid of stepping out of his comfort zone and taking the mick out of himself. At one point in the show, he uses a tiny camera on a microphone stand to give the audience a close-up of his face as if he were bearing down on you – to demonstrate why there aren’t many repeat visitors “Chez Steve”.

I have to admit that many of the stories that Merchant tells didn’t endear me to him as a potential spouse. He’s a pedant, which isn’t a problem to me, as I am too. He says he’s not tight, just careful with money and many of the stories he tells are obviously embellished for comedic effect but I get the feeling that my frivolity with cash wouldn’t go down with Stephen – the thirty-seven year old who still sleeps in a single bed because “there’s no point in wasting the money” as he’s still single. He tells a story about a dull family and their annoying toddler at a wedding, perhaps not what I’d look for in a husband – someone who doesn’t like kids.

His encore, where he invited two members of the audience on stage to re-enact a play he’d written at school, is just cracking. It’s so well executed right down to the noisy chair movements in between scenes.

I would definitely go to see Merchant again, but perhaps I’ll stand back and let the other girls fight over him.

Vic x

To read a blog post by me, inspired by Stephen, click here: http://www.craigrobertdouglas.com/general/tall-people-have-feelings-too-you-know/

Review: ‘Bossypants’ by Tina Fey

As Tina Fey is one of my heroes, I have been so excited to read this book and it did not disappoint. However, it did reinforce my belief that Tina and I are the same people. Throw into the mix that she is frequently confused with Sarah Palin and this worries me somewhat.

‘Bossypants’ chronicles Tina’s life from her conception – ‘a pleasant surprise’ – to her life as working mother. Although, being such a big fan, I wish there had been more to the book. I’d like to know more about her relationship with her parents and brother, as well as more about her hubby and baby. As much as she tells the reader about her stints in SNL and 30 Rock, I still want to know more.

There are great anecdotes about Fey’s time in 2008 when she, for a few weeks in the run-up to the presidential election, uncannily imitated Sarah Palin on SNL and then met Palin herself. Fey is a lovely person and, although she is a Democrat, she is very honest and kind-hearted about Palin and John McCain.

It is a real shame that Tina doesn’t mention ‘Mean Girls’ (which she wrote and starred in) other than in passing. I would love to hear about that.

When reading Fey’s writing, it is like listening to her talk, complete with some of her catchphrases, and therefore the book is really easy to read. I enjoy Fey’s candidness and her own self-deprecating humour. She talks about subjects no other celebrity woman would ever acknowledge; airbrushing and cankles among other things.

In the final chapter, Tina explains the conundrum keeps her awake at night: whether or not to have another baby at the age of 40. I admire Tina Fey for being so honest about such a difficult subject. Since the publication of the book, Tina Fey has fallen pregnant with her second child.

She is, and will continue to be, my hero.

Vic x