Monthly Archives: June 2006
Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman
Tonight at 8PM.
Here’s the story behind the phenomenon of Superman, the most merchandised and imitated superhero of them all. Through interviews with the key creative talents responsible for seven decades of thrilling Superman adventures, we’ll follow the Man of Steel’s path from Depression-era comic book hero to George Reeves’s TV portrayal in the 50s, Christopher Reeve’s movies in the 70s and 80s, and the TV shows Lois and Clark and Smallville. There’ll even be a sneak preview of the new film, Superman Returns, to be released this summer.
This is a great op -ed piece about "entourage" in The Los Angeles Times. The impact it has in the industry and how Doug Ellin got it made.
THEY’RE NO ANGELS
That’s why the industry sees `Entourage,’ with its neuroses and power plays, as a documentary.
By Lynn Smith, Times Staff Writer
A few hours after dawn, a group of extras suited up to play members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and assembled on a tennis court at a Beverly Hills mansion — the location for Episode 8 of HBO’s industry insider "Entourage." "Just remember," instructed the second second assistant director, "They want everyone to know what Hollywood is like … on TV." The cast chuckled knowingly.
While other shows about Hollywood ("The Comeback," "Unscripted") have come and gone, "Entourage" starts its third season tonight with the first of 20 episodes, up from 14 last year, which was up from just eight the first season. The stock reason for its success, widely cited by the show’s creators and actors, is that "Entourage" isn’t really about Hollywood. The series, they say, is about something almost everyone can relate to: the friendship of four young men trying to make it in a world without rules.
Still. What has agents, actors, producers and publicists hooked on the series, despite moderate viewership, is that it also is really about Hollywood — the real traffic snarls on PCH, real restaurants on Melrose, real Laker games and real relationships among agents, managers, publicists and actors. "Everyone in Hollywood watches that show," said Brent Bolthouse, the town’s premier party promoter. "Everyone in Hollywood can relate. It’s all in there."
More than the Urth Caffé, Playboy Mansion or the nightclub Prey, the locals can’t wait to see the sly, often mortifying details of their own lives on the screen — the high-stakes deals hanging on a lunch or a rumor, the short attention spans, the neuroses, the petty humiliations and faux reconciliations. Over the past two seasons, "Let’s hug it out, bitch," the peace offering of the tightly coiled yet almost likable agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), has worked its way into the local culture. "A lot of people use it, as a joke," said producer Ben Silverman ("The Office"), admitting he says it himself with colleagues.
"Entourage" adroitly blends fact and fiction in this brutish, sunny industry town, Silverman said. "Battles for supremacy go on all day long across Hollywood every day," he said. Who the actual gatekeeper is for a hot young actor like "Entourage’s" Vincent Chase "is a real-life struggle playing out every day over lunch," he said.
The archetypes are so strong, some have even had trouble separating art from life. Director James Cameron, who played a megalomaniacal director named James Cameron working on a fictional movie called "Aquaman," said he was surprised that acquaintances believed the project was real. When he jokingly remarked that he was making "Aquaman," they replied, "Yeah, I heard that. How’s it going?"
"The funniest thing for me," Cameron said, "is I could have made ‘Aquaman’ with just two phone calls. It shows you how warped our perspective is. It spawned real momentum."
The only false note in the show, Cameron believes, comes from the characters that are not underhanded or manipulative enough. Chase (Adrian Grenier), the show’s central figure who employs his brother and two childhood friends from New York, is "just such a nice guy," Cameron said. "He has his friends’ back."
Saddling up a posse
IN the beginning, there was an idea — a show about an actor’s posse based on Mark Wahlberg and his friends: Vincent’s brother Johnny Drama (played by Kevin Dillon) has the same nickname as a cousin and member of Wahlberg’s entourage; and Chase’s film, "Queens Boulevard," is a reference to Wahlberg’s "Boogie Nights."
But "Entourage" head writer Doug Ellin didn’t like it. "I said, ‘I don’t get it.’ It was about hangers-on. I don’t want to watch a show about people who live off somebody else."
Eventually, Ellin said, "I had to figure out how to make the guys relatable to me." A New Yorker and former stand-up comedian who moved to Hollywood in 1990, Ellin had lived the life himself, worked in a production company mail room, made the club scene, got some films made ("Kissing a Fool"), hung out at Sundance.
He moved the characters’ hometown from Boston to New York. And he made sure each member of the entourage had a purpose: Drama cooks for the household while seeking acting jobs; Eric (Kevin Connolly) was asked to help Vince run his career. "There’s only one hanger-on," Ellin said. "Turtle. And he gets paid. He’s a gofer."
Now, he said, "The majority of stuff comes out of my head. It’s all loosely based on a bunch of people." Ari Gold’s wife (Perrey Reeves), the real boss at home, is based on Ellin’s wife; Ellin’s own agent, Ari Emanuel informs, among others, the contentious Gold. Instead of a Wahlberg-like rough-and-tumble Vince, which was difficult to cast, Ellin based Chase on the more artistic Leonardo DiCaprio. "What would Leo do?" tends to be the watchwords on set.
Even as HBO is seeing audiences for "The Sopranos" dip and its highly touted "Big Love" attract only middling numbers, the network is encouraged by "Entourage." By the end of the first season, Nielsen Media Research had counted 1.9 million viewers and word about how close to the bone the show was hitting had spread around town. Piven, especially, had struck a nerve, and captured two Golden Globe nominations and an Emmy nomination, as Gold.
Though numbers dipped in Season 2, as the new season proceeds HBO’s President of Entertainment Carolyn Strauss said, "There’s a lot of creative momentum for the show….The show is really in its full creative flower."
Of the 20 episodes now in production, 12 will air this summer with the rest scheduled to follow the final eight episodes of "The Sopranos" in 2007, she said.
Even so, Ellin said, there’s no particular plan for the season other than developing the characters and their relationships as Vince edges closer to stardom. Obviously, Ellin said, "We know with Leo, he became the biggest movie star in the world. He can’t go that way, it would be boring. There have to be some complications."
Each character is taking on more personality as the series progresses, said Patty Jenkins, who has directed several episodes. "They’re all heading in their own directions, finding themselves in Los Angeles and in the success."
And Vince too is being more fully explored. The character, Grenier said, is a mix of confidence and insecurity. "He’s on the up and up. It’s a long, difficult, vulnerable road. The larger the projects that come his way, the larger the risks. There’s the potential for loss." Adding to the hall-of-mirrors effect of making a show about Hollywood in Hollywood: The cast members, now friends, are often seen together around town. "We’re tight," Connolly said. "It’s crazy when we go out as a group. People can’t believe we would actually be friends."
In fact, sightings can be almost surreal. "I’ve seen a dinner with Jeremy Piven, Ari Emanuel and Mark Wahlberg," Silverman said. "Ari’s the agent for both and Jeremy Piven plays Ari. It’s so postmodern."
Ari over the top
NOT everyone in Hollywood relates to "Entourage" in a positive way. "It’s like bathing in mud," said John Burnham, executive vice president at the West Coast offices of International Creative Management. He finds the show funny but said Ari Gold’s behavior is exaggerated, "insanely self-preserving" and "shameless." Citing a scene in which Gold made changes to his daughter’s bat mitzvah in an effort to gain a business advantage, Burnham said, "You feel like you need to take a shower after you’ve watched it."
"Agents know this guy exists to a greater and lesser extent," Piven said in defense of the character. "He exists with an attention deficit disorder that’s more advanced than I’m showing and with a heart bigger than what I’m showing at times as well. I hope to become more ruthless and more emotionally accessible. I want the highs to be higher and the lows to be lower. Bring it! I’ve trained my entire life for this moment."
Still, even Piven sometimes had trouble with the dialogue. "There are times when it’s a little unsettling that I have to say these things regarding certain people or studios. But it’s part of the character, so I just have to constantly sit on that grenade."
It’s that true-to-life tension that plays best to some insiders. Publicist Stan Rosenfield, whose clients include George Clooney, said he’s become an ardent fan. Rosenfield and an all-male network of friends discuss the shows the day after they air. "It’s guy TV," he said.
Some of his favorite scenes: Ari Gold firing the mail-room guy, mistaking him for an agent; Vince getting his dream role, only to find out he’s being paired with an ex-flame. "Anybody can relate to that," Rosenfield said. "Do you take the job if your ex-girlfriend is there?"
Unlike Hollywood shows that depict the wealthy and powerful, the fun of "Entourage" is that it dwells on the climb upward, he said. "A lot of times people live in big mansions — what’s interesting is the process of how they get there," he said. "I look at ‘Entourage’ as the journey, not the destination."
Naturally, the actors would like it if the show led them somewhere.
"I was hoping playing Vince would launch my actual career," Grenier said, adding he wasn’t sure if it had. After 14 years in L.A., Connolly said playing Eric has changed everything for his career. "This is the best gig you can have as an actor, being on a hit HBO series."
Even those who play cameos have been surprised by the response of the exposure. Burnham, whose firm represents Malcolm McDowell ("A Clockwork Orange"), said the actor found himself more recognized in town from a few episodes playing an agent on "Entourage" than he had in a 30-year career in American and British cinema.
Cameron said he got a similar reaction for the few days work on the show as he did for the two years he spent making "Titanic." "Who knew it was going to be a career high?" he said.
The cameos are still difficult to cast, Ellin said, because of scheduling conflicts. But some publicists say that in the wake of appearances by Scarlett Johansson, Brooke Shields, Larry David and Jessica Alba, among others, actors are now lining up for the guest spots.
As Wahlberg jokingly warns in an interview on the Season 2 DVD, "They know if you’re not involved, you’re going to be a victim on the show."
Aiming to mix comedy, drama
"ENTOURAGE," despite the freedoms of cable, doesn’t push as far as it could to show the dark side of the sex and drugs that pervade the Hollywood scene. But, Ellin pointed out, the show aims to be a mixture of comedy and drama. "I don’t want to watch Vince OD," he said.
"What I love about the show is the tight little bond the guys have with one another. You don’t see that a lot with heterosexual males. You’re seeing the real group dynamics of conflict, jealousies and success without getting into the real darkness of drugs."
Two of Ellin’s favorite scenes: Ari getting fired, thinking his life is over, and managing to persuade his gay Asian assistant Lloyd (Rex Lee) to come with him only after promising to apologize after insulting him. ("Even though I’m not an agent, I’ve been fired from everywhere I’ve ever been" — including the New Line Cinema mail room for talking back," he said.) And the Season 1 finale in which Vince and the guys almost leave Eric on the tarmac, until Vince decides to make Eric his manager.
The show, Ellin said, has consumed his life. He’s worked seven days a week since August. "I’m in the office at 7 a.m. every single day. I get home no earlier than 8, usually later. I have two young kids. I have to figure out a way to slow that down." He better find it soon because he says there’s enough minutiae in Hollywood for 10 more years of material — if he can last that long.
"The dynamic on the show is the dynamic behind the show," he said. "I just hope it keeps going."
"THANKS FOR THE HEADS UP "
BOB SASSONE OF tvsquad
From the very beginning of the third season of Entourage, it’s clear that our fame-hungry Hollywood foursome hasn’t changed — at least not emotionally. And thank you, HBO, for that. They still seem to spend most of their time and energy ogling flesh-baring starlets (and scheming about how to bed them), cracking ego-popping one-liners, coining new phrases (”top tall” is Johnny Drama’s latest quotable term), and drinking iced tea at West Hollywood eateries. Is there really anything else to do in L.A. anyway?
But as we quickly learn, there has been some plot development since we last checked in with our Fab Four. Primarily, Aquaman is in the can and ”dates” must be arranged for the approaching premiere. And secondarily, hyperbolic superagent Ari Gold has taken his ”gaysian” assistant Lloyd and started his own agency, which is putting a strain on his wallet, his ego, and, most important, his marriage. (More on the deepening portrayal of Mr. and Mrs. Ari’s partnership later.)
There’s one additional change. And it’s for the worse. I’m referring here to Vince’s hair. Not an expert on follicular matters, I’ll turn this over to my wife, who thinks that Vince’s shaggier ‘do is not becoming of a (supposed) silver-screen stud. ”It’s not cute anymore,” she says. ”It looks like a mop! Looks like it would feel greasy. It’s not hot.” There it is, the wife has spoken. It’s a rare example of Entourage’s verisimilitude falling short. My advice: Vinnie Boy, plop your $300 jeans in a salon chair soon or risk losing your Casanova-like powers.
And if the bad hair day wasn’t enough, Vincent’s failings seemed to be a theme of this episode. Despite his renowned powers of seduction — he’s slept with every ”skank” west of Sepulveda, in Ari’s estimation — Vince can’t get his travel-phobic mother to walk the red carpet with him. Naturally, it falls to manager Eric to fix the situation: He wisely peer-pressures Rita Chase to fly out to L.A. by inviting all of the fellas’ moms to come out on a private jet from New York. The ensuing reunion on the tarmac was a rare adorable moment in this dude-centric frat-com.
Maybe through Vince’s failure with mom, Entourage’s writers are hinting that Vince has lost his mojo. In fact, a central question of the episode related to this exactly: Will Aquaman be the next Spider-Man or the next Poseidon? Is our golden boy a box-office draw or just another Leo wannabe with puppy-dog eyes? Next week’s show will surely answer the question, but for now, Entourage leaves us mulling over opposing Hollywood strategies: Should Vince have booked the next gig before or after Aquaman opened? Armchair showbiz analysts, please discuss.
In the end, however, this episode (like so many of them) belonged to Jeremy Piven, whose white-hot portrayal of blustery, frenetic agent Ari Gold has already made it into my personal TV Hall of Fame. (At this point, however, ”Let’s hug it out, bitch!” is the equivalent of ”Wassssup?” — a tired phrase that needs to be retired. If one more bro’ at a bar says it to me, I’m gonna pour a beer on his visor-clad head.) Piven’s over-the-top shtick could have quickly become a caricature, but in this episode we’re rewarded with a more multi-faceted, richer performance.
First we see Ari at work. Finally out of the evil Terrance’s clutches, Ari has set up his own agency. But in a town where appearance is everything, his new office space doesn’t radiate top-dollar confidence — James Woods, in a feisty cameo, calls it a ”shithole” — and Ari is clearly a nervous, Lloyd-abusing wreck. He’s so tense I started biting my nails in sympathy.
Then there’s Ari at home, where the husband-wife dynamic is fleshed out into something more than a Honeymooners-type cliché. Previously reduced to a shrill harpy, the wife known only as Mrs. Ari (an excellent Perrey Reeves) gets her time to shine. It’s clear from last season that she’s a ballbuster, but in a brief bedroom back-and-forth we get a whole lot more: Not only can she call bulls— on Ari, but the Mrs. is a loving, supportive woman who emptied her bank account for his new venture. (Ari argues that he’s doing his part by ordering the ”Gigi Salad” at the Palm — only $13; we looked it up — instead of the lobster.) The episode ends with the two embracing and professing that they actually (gasp!) love and trust each other. It was a disarmingly sentimental moment that left me psyched for a season of Entourage that’s going to be more than just another round of name-dropping, skin-baring, and fist-bumping.
What do you think? Will Aquaman sink or swim? Will Ari make it on his own? And did you like seeing the softer side of Ari, Vince, and the boys?
Other things I enjoyed:
Turtle and his "Welcome to New York Johnny" Yankees tee-shirt. Stupid Damon…
Amanda Righetti?!? Man, she dropped fast. From a significant recurring role on The OC, to starring in Reunion, to a five second blip as a jewelry store clerk in Entourage. Ouch.
James Cameron. I love that he was willing to make multiple cameos in this show.
Ari basically telling Drama that he could care less about him by saying that Drama deserves an agent who’s invested in him.
Top-Tall: A Johnny Drama original to describe disproportionately shaped girls who have torsos longer than their legs.
Transformers Teaser Site Launched!
Source: DreamWorks Pictures
DreamWorks Pictures has launched the official website for director Michael Bay’s big screen Transformers adaptation. The site, which features a Flash intro and the teaser poster artwork, is counting down to when the teaser trailer is revealed.
Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Jon Voight, Bernie Mac, Tyrese Gibson, Rachael Taylor, Amaury Nolasco, Kevin Dunn and Ronnie Sperling star in the sci-fi action-adventure written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. It hits theaters on July 4th, 2007.
Introduced in 1984, the "Transformers" brand took the world by storm with its compelling saga of the Autobots versus the Decepticons. The innovative "Robots in Disguise" resulted in a tremendously successful toy line from Hasbro and Takara, comic book series, television program and an animated feature film.
Introduced in 1984, the Transformers brand took the world by storm with its compelling saga of the Autobots versus the Decepticons. The innovative "Robots in Disguise" resulted in a tremendously successful toy line from Hasbro and Takara, comic book series, television program and an animated feature film. More than 20 years later, a new generation has discovered the excitement of the Transformers brand and its legendary characters, including the two leaders of the opposing sides: Optimus Prime and Megatron. Today, the franchise features a popular toy line, an animated series on the Cartoon Network and a chart-topping comic book series from IDW Publishing.
SEASON 3 STARTS ON
LET’S HUG IT OUT!!!
Here’s the cast:
Adrian Grenier received critical acclaim for his dynamic performance in the independent film THE ADVENTURES OF SEBASTIAN COLE. Most recently, he was seen in Woody Allen’s ANYTHING ELSE and LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONEY, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Adrian also appeared in Gregory Hoblit’s HART’S WAR and CECIL B. DEMENTED, written and directed by John Waters. Other credits include roles in CELEBRITY, DRIVE ME CRAZY and HARVARD MAN.
A filmmaker in his own right, Adrian has written and directed several short films and a documentary, SHOT IN THE DARK. Also a gifted self-taught musician, he attended Manhattan’s prestigious LaGuardia High School for Music & Art and the Performing Arts.
A young actor who has already displayed a sure hand at both comic and dramatic roles, Kevin Connolly is rapidly establishing himself as a talent on the rise.
Connolly currently stars in the HBO hit series "Entourage," gaining notice as "Eric," the best friend and manager to a young actor whose film career is in its heady first stages. The show was recently nominated for a Golden Globe® for "Best Television Series – Comedy."
Connolly was most recently seen on screen in "The Notebook" with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. Directed by Nick Cassavetes, the big-screen adaptation of Nicholas Spark’s bestselling novel featured an old fashioned romantic story of the struggles of a young couple trying to reconnect after being separated by circumstance. The film became a hit as it was quickly embraced by audiences and critics alike.
Additional feature film credits include "Alan & Naomi," "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Angus," "John Q" opposite Denzel Washington, "Antwone Fisher" directed by Denzel Washinton, and "Rocky V," with Sylvester Stallone.
Connolly became a familiar presence as ‘Ryan,’ part of the always struggling and challenged Malloy family in the comedy series, "Unhappily Ever After." In addition, he has also appeared in numerous episodic television shows and TV movies, among them recurring roles on "First Years" and "Great Scott!", guest-starring appearances on "Wings," and roles in the movies-of-the-week; "Kids Killing Kids" and "Up, Up and Away."
Connolly made his directorial debut with the 2003 short "Whatever We Do," starring Robert Downey Jr, Amanda Peet and Zooey Deschanel. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Kevin Dillon(Johnny Drama)
Kevin Dillon is best known for his performances in Academy Award winning director Oliver Stone’s PLATOON and THE DOORS. Dillon appeared as "Paulie," the son of Ellen Burstyn and Paul Sorvino in the critically acclaimed televison series THAT’S LIFE. He has also starred in such films as HEAVEN HELP US, THE BLOB, IMMEDIATE FAMILY and NO ESCAPE.
Born and raised in New York, Dillon is one of six children. He currently resides in Los Angeles.
Jerry Ferrara recently wrapped production on the feature film BROOKLYN RULES, starring with Freddie Prinze Jr., Scott Caan, Alec Baldwin and Mena Suvari.
He began studying theater in college, where he was inspired by a teacher to pursue a career in acting.
An agent he met at a talent showcase encouraged him to move to Los Angeles, where he quickly landed his first role on KING OF QUEENS. Other television parts soon followed.
Jerry was then cast in the independent feature CROSS BRONX which premiered at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival.
Piven received a 2005 Golden Globe® nomination for his portrayal of ‘Ari Gold’, a slick, hard talking agent who is the leader of an up-and-coming actor’s entourage. The show is dark and controversial and takes a peek into a side of Hollywood never explored by television, let alone the general public. HBO is known for going where other networks do not dare venture and that is exactly what "Entourage" achieves. Jeremy recently starred as ‘Tom’ in the off-Broadway hit, FAT PIG by Neil LaBute opposite Keri Russell and Andrew McCarthy. For this role he received a 2005 Distinguished Performance Honor/Nomination from the Drama League.
Piven also stars in Scott Marshall’s directorial debut, Lucky 13, a comedy about the competitive world of lavish Bar Mitzvahs opposite Garry Marshall and Jami Gertz . Lucky 13 received the Audience Award at the 2005 Comedy Arts Festival. Piven will next be seen opposite Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey in Universal’s For the Money.
Piven has graced the big screen in over 40 films including Chasing Liberty, Scary Movie 3, Runaway Jury, Old School, Serendipity, Black Hawk Down, Very Bad Things, Rush Hour 2 and The Family Man.
On the small screen Piven has been a series regular on "Cupid" and "Ellen" and has appeared on "The Larry Sanders Show" and in the telepic "Don King: Only in America".
a New York native, made her feature film debut in Martin Scorsese’s GOODFELLAS as Ray Liotta’s junkie mistress. From that auspicious beginning, she went to work with such noted directors as Jodi Foster in her directorial debut LITTLE MAN TATE, Barry Levinson’s TOYS, Woody Allen’s BULLETS OVER BROADWAY and Joel Schumacher’s BATMAN FOREVER. Mazar has also made her mark in the independent film world co-starring in such off-beat films as Nick Cassavetes’ SHE’S SO LOVELY and in Steve Buscemi’s directorial debut TREES LOUNGE. She was seen with Al Pacino in THE INSIDER directed by Michael Mann and co-starred opposite Jackie Chan in THE TUXEDO. Her recent film credits include a supporting role in COLLATERAL, again for director Michael Mann and the GET SHORTY sequel BE COOL.
She made her television debut on CIVIL WARS as Denise Iannello, a character who was then transplanted to another primetime show, LA LAW. Mazar developed and starred in her own sitcom TEMPORARILY YOURS for CBS. She was a regular on the series THAT’S LIFE with Ellen Burstyn. Most recently she has had a recurring role on THE PRACTICE
This is a great article on the new season of Entourage
New season of ‘Entourage’ keeps HBO’s reputation afloat
Mekeisha Madden Toby / Detroit News Television Critic
T his is a risky prediction, but "Entourage" just might be the series that saves HBO.
With "The Sopranos" and "Deadwood" on their way out, the cable giant needs a winner, and the buddy comedy about an East Coast guy turned movie star and his pals taking over Hollywood is just the hit to do the trick. It’s the male "Sex and the City" with accents from "The Sopranos."
HBO must think highly of the show, too. It’s using "Entourage" to anchor a testosterone-heavy Sunday night lineup that features the new sitcom "Lucky Louie" and the oddball stand-up reality show "Dane Cook’s Tourgasm."
With so much riding on it, the third season of "Entourage," which kicks off Sunday, will be the perfect time for the series to truly show viewers what it has got — and that’s a lot.
For starters, there’s actor Jeremy Piven. After years of standing in the shadow of his chum and one-time roommate John Cusack, Piven is proving that he has the chops to be compelling, believable and very likeable.
As the inscrutable Ari Gold, Piven steals every scene, rambling off pop-culture perfect slogans such as "hug it out." It wouldn’t be surprising in the least if Neil Patrick Harris modeled his character Barney on CBS’s "How I Met Your Mother" after Piven’s Ari.
Unlike Harris, Piven is ever careful not to be a caricature, making Ari just as vulnerable as he is bombastic. This time around, Ari will be shown in more than a few emotional lights as he attempts to build his own talent-agent empire.
Last season, fans learned that Ari and his boss, Terrance (played wonderfully and wickedly by Malcolm McDowell), were more enemies than friends. When Terrance tried to steal his star client, Vince (Adrian Grenier), away from him, Ari gained the confidence to be his own boss, taking Vince with him.
All at once, Ari finds himself staking the entire fate of his career and company on Vince’s fame. Vince is playing the lead in the movie "Aquaman," and if it proves to be the mega box office hit that everyone expects it to be — the first episode is all about the movie’s red-carpet premiere — then Ari is set. But if it flops, Ari might lose his wife, family and everything he holds dear.
Meanwhile, Vince has to decide who will walk with him down the red carpet. When he picks his mom (the incomparable Mercedes Ruehl), his handler and manager Eric (Kevin Connolly) approves and later has to step in to make sure Vince’s airplane-phobic momma makes the trip.
As usual, Vince’s older and once-famous brother, Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), and bud Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) add loads of laughs, even going toe-to-toe with actor James Woods, who plays an über psychotic version of himself.
Welcome back, boys. Your network has been waiting for you.
"fifth Beatle," dead at 59
Keyboardist Billy Preston, a flamboyant sideman who added soul to recordings by the Beatles and Rolling Stones and enjoyed solo success in his own right, died in Arizona on Tuesday after a long illness. He was 59.
The so-called "fifth Beatle" had been in a coma at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea in Scottsdale, Arizona, since November after suffering kidney failure and related illnesses, the legacy of a long battle with drugs that landed him in prison in the late 1990s.
His sister, Lettie Preston, told Reuters his condition worsened over the weekend. An autopsy will be performed, and his funeral will take place in Los Angeles, she said.
A young keyboards prodigy, the Houston, Texas, native spent most of his life in the entertainment business. While still a teenager, he played with Mahalia Jackson, Little Richard and Ray Charles. Easily recognized by his large Afro hairstyle, gap-toothed smile and funky clothing sense, he was a popular addition to any lineup.
"Billy was a fantastic and gifted musician … a superb singer in both recording sessions and onstage," Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger said in a statement. "He was great fun to be with … and I will miss him a lot."
Fellow Rolling Stone Keith Richards described Preston as "a genius with all the baggage."
Added Elton John, "He was one of my true inspirations, one of the greatest keyboard players of all time and not too shabby a vocalist either."
Preston began the transformation from sideman to a star in his own right when he joined forces with the Beatles in 1969, temporarily helping to soothe tensions as the band was on the verge of breaking up.
He performed on both sides of the "Get Back"/"Don’t Let Me Down" single, which was credited to "The Beatles with Billy Preston" — the first time the band had shared the spotlight with a sideman. He accompanied them during their last concert that year, the famous rooftop gig in London.
In the early 1970s, he topped the charts as a solo act with the Grammy-winning instrumental "Outa Space," "Will It Go Round in Circles" and "Nothing From Nothing." He also wrote Joe Cocker’s 1974 hit "You Are So Beautiful."
At the same time, he was becoming a fixture with the Rolling Stones, recording on such tracks as "Can’t You Hear Me Knocking" and "Heartbreaker," and playing on several tours.
"He’s just such a great player, singer and songwriter and has spiced up so many recordings with his keyboard prowess," said current Rolling Stones tour keyboardist Chuck Leavell. "He’s one of my true heroes."
Preston’s private life was darker. In 1992, he pleaded no contest to cocaine and assault charges stemming from an incident the year before with a 16-year-old boy, who claimed that he had been sexually attacked and shown obscene pictures. He was sentenced to nine months at a drug rehabilitation center and three months of house arrest.
In 1997, a California judge sentenced him to three years in prison for violating the terms of his probation for a cocaine possession conviction. In 2001, he pleaded guilty to insurance fraud after setting fire to his own house, and was sentenced to a year in prison to run consecutively with the time he was already serving.
Born William Everett Preston on September 9, 1946, he moved with his family to Los Angeles when he was 2. He appeared in the 1958 film "St. Louis Blues," which starred Nat King Cole as bluesman W.C. Handy. Preston played Handy as a child. Gospel legend Mahalia Jackson was also in the film, and he would go on to play organ on some of her best-known recordings, including "In the Upper Room."
In 1962, Little Richard hired Preston to join his backing band for a European tour. He met the Beatles during their residency at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany, and also Sam Cooke, who signed him to his SAR label. Cooke was killed two years later, and Preston signed with Vee Jay records, one-time American home of the Beatles, through which he released an instrumental gospel record.
After a stint playing in the house band for the TV show "Shindig," he joined Ray Charles’ band. Beatles guitarist George Harrison renewed their friendship and brought him into the tense Apple Studios in January 1969 where the Fab Four were barely speaking to each other while working on the "Let It Be" film and recording projects.
Preston’s organ handiwork can also be heard on such Beatle songs as "Let It Be," "I Want You (She’s So Heavy)" and "Something."
"What set him apart from other virtuosos was, quite simply, soul," said Ernie Rideout, editor in chief at Keyboard Magazine. "He could play the simplest blues lick on a Wurlitzer electric piano, and it would have as much emotion as a Paul McCartney vocal … Everything he played was the perfect thing, at the perfect time. That was his art."
Harrison signed him to Apple Records and co-produced Preston’s two albums, "That’s the Way God Planned It" and "Encouraging Words."
Preston also contributed to many Beatle solo albums, including Harrison’s "All Things Must Pass," John Lennon’s "Sometime in New York City" and Ringo Starr’s "Sentimental Journey." He won a Grammy as a performer on the Harrison-orchestrated 1973 album of the year "The Concert for Bangladesh."
Preston’s credits with the Rolling Stones included the albums "Sticky Fingers" and "Black and Blue." He and Jagger danced seductively together in the video clip for "Hey Negrita." He not only toured with the Stones, he also opened for them.
In his later years, he toured with Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood, as well as Motown session musicians the Funk Brothers. He was featured on Ray Charles’ last album "Genius Loves Company," as well as the latest albums by Neil Diamond and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.