Celebrity Boxing II and David Blaine Vertigo are not a signal that the Huns are ready to invade from the north—they're examples of a fine tradition that goes back to the days of the carnival geeks, P.T. Barnum and, of course, the dawn of humankind itself.


Time to Hop in Your Phat Rides and Head
for tha Hizzills
Yo, playas. You know you’re outta there Friday by noon at the latest—that is, if you go into the office at all. You know the bosses won’t be around; in fact, they’re already pizzoolside, even as you’re coming up with your fizzoolproof alibi. So, for the next 92 or 93 hours, don’t worry, be happy. Get it while you can, kids. And go Slim Shady—we be needin’ y’all to help git us outta dis mess. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

1. Howzabout golf
? What a perfect weekend in Los Angeles to head south and take in the wonders of the links at Monarch Beach, which adjoins the new St. Regis and, of course, Pelican Hill, overlooking the ocean at Newport Beach. And in NYC, even if you don't have time for a trip to your favorite Long Island, Joizey or Connecticut club, there’s always a fun time to be had whacking a few from the Chelsea Pier, where the balls pop back up automatically, saving extra wear and tear on the back.

2. Jimmy McDonough, Shakey (Random House): Everything you always wanted to know about Neil Young, but were afraid to ask because he might sue you after giving you permission to write his biography. Ten years in the making, this completist tale mirrors ol’ Neil’s own warts-and-all approach, featuring interviews with everyone from Young’s mom to his Irish tour-bus driver.

3. Wilshire: Not the boulevard--it's not even pronounced the same way--but a married couple making sweet, sweet pop for the rest of us. Check 'em out at the Mint (6010 W. Pico, L.A.) on Friday night (5/24) at 9 p.m..

4. High-end yard sale: If you're staying in L.A. this weekend, and your abode is crying out for a cool piece of furniture or a hip piece of art, we've got a sale for you. Also up for grabs are vintage jewelry, dishes and linens, designer clothes, rugs, pottery, knick-knacks, etc. Just point the Benz to Sherman Oaks on Sunday and size up the goodies lined up in the beautifully landscaped backyard of a music-biz couple who are moving even further south of the Boulevard—though when you see their place, you'll wonder why they'd ever want to leave. Hours: 9-3. Address: 14020 Roblar Rd. (south of Ventura between Stansbury and Murietta, west of Woodman, just east of Hazeltine; enter through driveway gate). Tell the Scottish guy we sent you.

5. The Wiener Factory (Ventura at Kester, Sherman Oaks): This venerable hot dog stand across the street from the HITS cesspool is the only place we can afford to eat. The turkey dogs are simply superb.

6. Will Kobe dunk or blow chunks? Speaking of meat, could the NBA Western Conference Finals actually be determined by the state of Kobe Bryant’s distressed tummy, following what may have been a prolonged bout of food poisoning inflicted by a room-service cheeseburger Sunday night in Sacramento? We’ll find out Friday in the pivotal Game 3 at Staples Center (6 p.m. on NBC).

7. Spinning: Knees giving out? Has jogging become more than two Advils can handle. Try this ultra-svitzing 50-minute workout, and you’ll feel endorphinically fulfilled, guaranteed. But you might wanna bring some discs for the instructor to play, cuz music ain’t the strong point of the experience, for the most part.

8. Record stores: Now that Interscope has decided at the last minute to let retailers open those boxes of Eminem CDs after all, there’ll be action aplenty at the cash registers this long weekend. Ch-ching, bling-bling.

9. Bryan Ferry: Frantic (Virgin): Will the Sultan of Suave follow up last summer’s scintillating Roxy Music reunion tour with a latter-day classic? Judge for yourself—it’s out.

10. AOL Celebrity "You've Got Mail" voices: We never thought we'd say this to one of the biggest media congloms on the planet, but get a life, people.

How odd that, as both a Net goober and a longtime devotee of the man’s music, I never checked out the Elvis Costello site. Was I discouraged by the generally low standards applied to band sites? Was I too busy surfing for .jpgs of Taylor Hayes? No matter. Island Def Jam’s elaborate new online destination for the bespectacled one affords an embarrassment of riches. For one thing, the lovingly assembled discography, with nice little blurbs for historical context, is accompanied by audio clips of E.C. discussing each tune from new disc When I Was Cruel and Burt Bacharach collaboration Painted From Memory. There’s also a two-part video interview, not to mention the requisite tour dates, sound samples and downloadable wallpaper. But the greatest pleasure is afforded by Elvis’ breezy, playful and sardonic prose, which can be sampled at length in his copious tour diary and in his extremely generous replies to visitors’ questions. Simon Glickman

Jay Bennett & Edward Burch, The Palace at 4am (Part 1) (Undertow):
During his six years in Wilco, multi-instrumentalist/studio geek Bennett built a rep for pushing the aural envelope, culminating in his ambitious swan song with the band, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. But in his initial post-Wilco effort, teamed with fellow Champaign, IL, native Burch, Bennett delivers a thick slab of pure pop in the manner of the sacred texts of the 1960s and ’70s, with an emphasis on The Beatles and the Gene Clark side of the original Byrds. As one who’s been paying particular attention to this sort of music since it was invented, I can say unequivocally that The Palace at 4am is the most gratifying expression of neoclassic pop since the Pernice Brothers’ 2001 rockcrit fave, The World Won’t End.
          The first half of the LP is an explosion of ear candy, starting with the impossibly dense “Puzzle Heart,” in which Bennett’s smoky baritone meshes with Burch’s sweet tenor as Tijuana brass fights with Harrisonian slide guitars for center stage. It’s followed in rapid succession by the ultra-hooky “Talk to Me,” which sounds like some lost hit from 1966; the perfectly calibrated jangle-pop of “Whispers or Screams”; the Tex-Mex groove and airy Beatlesque backing vox of “Shakin’ Sugar”; the xylophone-accented, irresistibly punchy “C.T.M.”; the flat-out anthem “Drinking on Your Dime”; and a lovely reading of “My Darlin’, the original version of which appeared on Wilco’s Summerteeth. Unlike most pop revivalists, Bennett understands the importance of layering the hooky elements atop propulsive grooves, and this visceral aspect is what causes the heady arrangements to come alive.
          The album’s not perfect—at 69:25 it’s too long by 20 minutes, its second half dominated by reflective, acoustic-based songs that might’ve had greater presence on a separate album, one not dominated by wall-of-sound splendor. Apparently, Bennett had a lot to get off his chest. But more power to him—catharsis never sounded any more appealing than it does on this gloriously excessive record. Bud Scoppa

Awww, snap. If you don’t have enough freestyle bling-blingin’ game-spittin’ flizzava up in yo grill in the 2G2, don’t fret. The Icy Hot Stuntaz are here to restore your faith in the ideal that you can be who you want to be, regardless of who you really are. Three white kids from suburban Georgia have taken on gangsta-style identities and are ostensibly an up-and-coming rap group. The music, available on MP3.com, speaks for itself (the one complete track does, anyway), while the group’s Web site is a hoot and a half. Hell yeeeeeah, fool. But here’s the really good part: The original site—which has left many a Web surfer scratching his or her head as to whether the Stuntaz are for real or just a joke—has spawned countless other sites openly mocking these would-be ballers and their “phatrides,” which include an Mitsubishi Eclipse, a Ford Ranger and a Pontiac Firebird. Start with this basic clowning of the Icy Hot concept. Then move on to this more whacked-out (and angrier) lashing out at the boys’ very existence. You’ll notice that the questioning of sexual preference seems to be a touchstone of Icy Hot mockery. Some are more creative than others: This Icy Hot auteur imagines the Stuntaz on the road, while this site (by a Princeton student?) pretty much defies explanation. There’s even an Icy Hot Stunta Name Generator (what’s yours?), and a would-be SNL sketch. This appears to be taking off like the “All Your Base Are Belong To Us” phenomenon in the video game world. Don’t sleep, sucka. —Jon O’Hara

Memento director Christopher Nolan’s follow-up looks like a taut thriller, featuring what many are calling one of Al Pacino’s best performances as a beleagured LAPD detective on the hunt for the killer of a young girl (Robin Williams) in Alaska during the season of the midnight sun. Hilary Swank plays the local police officer who helps him in this Fargo-esque remake of Erik Skjoldbjaerg’s creepy 1997 Norwegian metaphysical thriller about a policeman who starts investigating a horrible crime and ends up examining his own guilty soul.The David Julyan score is available on Varese Sarabande, while the website at www.insomniamovie.com, is as foreboding and unsettling as the movie itself sounds.

Enough (Columbia): It’s time to see if Jennifer Lopez can actually open a movie after her last one, Angel Eyes, did a disappointing $25 million total. The diva plays an abused wife named (get this) Slim (with Once and Again nice guy Billy Campbell as the bad husband) who literally takes matters into her own hands or, as the movie’s tag line puts it, “self-defense isn’t murder.” The director’s classy Englishman Michael Apted, whose spy movie Enigma came out just last month, so maybe he’s managed to give what sounds like an awfully recycled plot (Sleeping With the Enemy, anyway) into something a little more upscale. Of course, the movie’s being promoted as featuring the new single, “Alive,” from J.Lo’s latest remix album, though the Varese Sarabande soundtrack features the score by David Arnold (Ocean’s Eleven). Apparently, the studio didn’t think enough of the movie to give it a dedicated website, but you can find a rudimentary one at sonypictures.com.

Spirit (Stallion of the Cimarron) (DreamWorks): This latest animated effort from Jeffrey Katzenburg goes against the current trend of 3-D digital imagery by harking back to the old-fashioned Disney formula, though this time the animals don’t speak (except in voiceover). The story concerns wild horses trotting across the unsettled West circa 1880, in what is essentially a metaphor for either the Holocaust or emancipating the slaves. Matt Damon’s the voice of the title horse, born in freedom but subjected to captivity, while Bryan Adams penned the songs for the A&M soundtrack. Coming attractions sure don’t look like Shrek, but the www.dreamworks.com/spirit website gives you the requisite flavor, with a complete list of all participating promotional sponsors.

CQ (United Artists): Writer/director Roman Coppola’s feature debut (produced by dad Francis Ford) features the likes of Gerard Depardieu and Giancarlo Giannini and production design by the great Dean Tavoularis (Apocalypse Now). It’s reportedly a tribute to the '60s, a nouvelle vague-styled tale of an American director (Jeremy Davies) in 1969 Paris working on a pair of very different projects: a black-and-white autobiographical pic and a Barbarella-esque sci-fi pic about youth rebellion.  The movie was apparently re-edited after a disastrous debut at last year’s Cannes, and advance word is promising.  Also on hand are the likes of John Phillip Law (from the original Barbarella), cousin Jason Schwartzman (Aunt Talia Shire’s kid), Dean Stockwell and Billy Zane. The pretty elaborate website at www.experiencecq.com, even allows you to edit your own video utilizing scenes from the film. Pretty clever.
Roy Trakin

Shoot fire, son! It don’t git much easier than this hyar. The danged ole Winston Cup race this week is the Coca Cola 600, comin’ atcha from the 1.5-mile quad-oval of Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, Norf Caralahnee. Now, them Coke folks is based in Atlantee, Joe-juh, but what the hell—ah say it’s close enough. But ta git to the meat & taters o’ this partickaler racin’ sitcheeashun, Coke has whatchu call a “racin’ famlee” in danged ole Winston Cup. Thassright: They sponsor some 14 drahvers, eacha who-all sho nuff gonna have them a Coke anna goddam smile if’n they should make it to Victry Lane. So, you gotcher John Andretti, Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch, Junior, Bill Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Dale Jarret, Bobby Labonte, Steve Park, Kyle Petty, Ricky Rudd, Elliot Sadler, Tony Stewart and Michael Waltrip all with they racin’ outfitted selves each gracin’ some filthy ole broken-down Coke machine somewheres. Think one o’ them jes’ maht take the checkered come Sundy? Mama didn’t raise no fool, son!
—Guy W.T. Goggles

Successful men (and women) often have an opportunity to attend sports “fantasy camps,” paying thousands to play basketball with Michael Jordan, golf with Tiger Woods, or attend spring training with their favorite baseball team. Before Kevyn Aucoin’s untimely death on May 7, my fantasy camp (in my mind) always focused around Kevyn doing my makeup, followed by a complete re-styling by someone like famed stylist Jessica Paster. Kevyn’s website, www.kevynaucoin.com, will remain online, including many of his makeup tricks, personal favorites, photo galleries and items from his makeup line available for purchase. A complete set of Kevyn Aucoin makeup brushes is expensive—$350 for 12 brushes, but these are handmade, nestled in a makeup roll (for traveling), further encased in a gorgeous lacquered box. This would be an incredible gift (hint, hint) for a loved one. Those who want to experience a bit of Kevyn’s magic, at a fraction of the cost, can also purchase “The Mascara,” in either “Volume” or “Curling,” for $25. It’s worth every penny…. Favorite new websites: www.shotgun.tv and www.giantrobot.com.
Ivana B. Adored

Celebrity Boxing II
(Fox)/David Blaine's Vertigo (ABC):
Don't expect me to tell you these two shows signal the final decline of Western Civilization. No folks, people have been pummeling one another for no good reason for eons, and I seem to remember a lot of flagpole sitters entertaining the masses back in the Depression days. So these two primetime TV shows are not a signal that the Huns are ready to invade from the north—they're examples of a fine tradition that goes back to the days of the carnival geeks, P.T. Barnum and, of course, the dawn of humankind itself.
          Celebrity Boxing II is the best example yet of lowest-common-denominator programming with gusto and imagination. The four matches, paying each of the participants $30k, included Olympic gymnast Olga Korbut vs. Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire's Darva Conger, TV geeks Screech of Saved by the Bell vs. Horshack of Welcome Back, Kotter; Manute Bol vs. William "Refrigerator" Perry and Joey Buttafuoco taking on Joanie Laurer (WWF's Chyna)… Of course, they're less celebrities than tabloid column items, and less notorious than they are answers to questions for a game of Trivial Pursuit 2010, but that doesn't make it any less fun.
          Korbut musta been a little dizzy from all those back flips, because the diminutive gym rat turned homeless Ukrainian shoplifter, looking even older than her 50 years, took a pummeling from Conger, who seemed like she could have taken just about anybody else on the card. Sorry to say, poor Horshack, 23 years older and 54 pounds lighter than that bully Screech (and whoever thought you'd read those two words in the same sentence?), wasn't saved by the bell, taken out by the evening's only TKO in round two, his eyes puffy, his glare hollow, his humiliation total. Neat post-fight interview with Barry Williams, unh, Greg Brady, though. The Bol-Perry tussle was particularly pathetic, the praying-mantis-like 7 foot 7 inch so-called Sudanese Freedom Fighter flicking insect-like jabs, leading to a unanimous decision, as the Fridge huffed and puffed and stood in place and barely made it back to his corner between rounds. At one point, the referee cautioned the reluctant pugilists to come to the center of the ring and fight "or you won't get paid."
          The main event was one more chance for statutory rapist Joey Buttafuoco to live up to his name, as he pummeled the woman formerly known as Chyna, a name owned in perpetuity by one Mr. Vince McMahon. It was a mismatch, with Joey tossing the WWF superstar to the ground at one point, beating on his chest like an ape. That’s entertainment. And who produced this tribute to the good old spirit of huckstering? None other than America's oldest living teenager, Dick Clark. This is surreal TV.
          As for the mysterious, undeniably charismatic Mr. Blaine, his biggest magic trick is getting a major network to spring for a second primetime special for his self-proclaimed "performance art" pieces, which are truly cosmic in a Houdini-meets-Christof-meets-Warhol kinda way. I actually find Blaine's street magic shtick pretty impressive, and no, I don't know how he does it. You don't stand on a platform 100 feet in the air for 34-plus hours with smoke and mirrors, I don't think. At one point, Christopher Reeve was, you should pardon the expression, wheeled out to suggest “his friend” David proves the triumph of mind over matter, not to mention jumping through cardboard cartons piled 12 feet high to top it off. And, if the end is rather anti-climactic, it's no different than life itself. God bless the U.S. of A. You can do anything you want, be anything you want to be…as long as you can make an honest (and sometimes not-so-honest) buck doing it. Hey, it's the American way.

Former Island chief gets his own label. (6/16a)
How'd they do that? (6/15a)
We're reading the tea leaves. (6/15a)
"Variant" is a scary word right now. (6/15a)
Is there a lawyer in the house? (6/15a)
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?

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