Category Archives: Spotlight On…

Spotlight On… Kevin Lee

Sitting squarely in the middle of a Venn diagram of audiences who watch “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and “Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule” is me.

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Recently, these two shows came together in a thrilling crossover not seen since NBC’s “Hurricane Saturday.” Won’t you join me in my diagram to enjoy my favorite shows together?

“The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” comes from Andy Cohen’s alternate-reality sausage factory that strings together dramatic scenes of rich ladies having dinner parties, arguing, and wearing high heels. It’s a diversion that penetrates human man’s need for escapism and it particularly sets my spirit free when I’m enjoying it with the emotional ambrosia of Garden Herb Triscuits and rosé.

I first laid eyes on Kevin Lee on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, planning Pandora Vanderpump’s wedding. With waxen skin and hair of jet, Kevin is an over-the-top kind of guy.

According to the “On Screen” credits on his website, Kevin was the inspiration for Martin Short’s wedding planner in the 1991 remake of “Father of the Bride.” Considering it takes years to develop a solid reputation in the party planning business, as well as to gain notoriety worthy of parody, this makes Kevin approximately 71 years young.

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On the other side of the couch, you have “Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule,” a brilliantly bizarre comedy styled after a poorly-produced cable access show. Dr. Brule, played by John C. Reilly, started out as a blundering but likeable doofus on “Tim and Eric,” and has devolved into a deeply unhinged ogre in the recent third season. Characteristics like banjo eyes peering through greasy eyeglasses and pronouncing an extra “R” for every other word are the fine fondant topping layers of awkwardness. Sometimes the sound of my laughter is really just masking the haunting echoes of humanity’s darkest corners, and this also sets my spirit free.

One of Dr. Brule’s special guests this season was Kevin Lee portraying a different version himself, an interior designer named Jeffrey Brown. Part of the magic of “Check it Out” is that sometimes it’s difficult to say whether or not the guests are in on the joke.  Kevin is in on it this time,  and it’s 2 minutes and 30 seconds of my favorite television of all time.

Ugh the video won’t embed and it’s taken me a month to write this post so enjoy this external link to the video and some screen shots.

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It’s difficult for me to articulate, but I’m forever intrigued by aesthetic intentions versus what an audience subjectively experiences. I think it has something to do with the nuances of popular culture as bad art, and the ability to deconstruct a subject into deeper meaning and context. I live for the gray area that combines a complete lack of self-awareness and a very specific persona. I believe this nexus of narcissism and celebrity includes statistical anomalies like Keanu Reeves and Dave Navarro, as well as Kevin Lee.


I just realized John C. Reilly also stars in the film “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” I think I saw it on an airplane.

Video Bonus: Kevin enjoying a holiday buffet.

Spotlight On…The Sweaters of Detective Sarah Linden

I’m mostly through season 2 of AMC’s The Killing (check local listings or your local Netflix) and it’s a fine television program. A better name for the series might be “It’s Always Raining in Seattle.” I hope the crew has some good watertight equipment and sturdy weatherproof shoes, or they’ll end up taking a bath – literally! Although they could very well have financial troubles for all we know.

Speaking of weather and clothes, it’s a notoriously cold day in New York City history today, with a projected high of 15 degrees. One thing that’s heating things up though is social media – everybody is talking about this weather.

Well, it’s cold out there all right, and I’ve got The Killing on my mind, so I figure there’s never been a better time for a Spotlight On… The Sweaters of Detective Sarah Linden.

Get me into any one of these sweaters on a cold winter’s day!

Toward the end of the first season I finally noticed that she only wears cozy, bulky sweaters underneath her detective-style anoraks. Because my finger is on the pulse I thought, “I bet some internet a-hole made a Tumblr for all of her sweaters. And if someone didn’t, then maybe I should be that a-hole!” Well folks, there’s two kinds of people in this world: people who make Tumblrs and people who write about making Tumblrs. Maybe there’s even three or four kinds of people, but I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew.

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Detective Sarah Linden is a real pill. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t even know what Tumblr is. She’s humorless, she chews nicotine gum all the live long day, she doesn’t eat right, and she’s always losing track of her son. I don’t want to say she’s a bad parent because if she was a man no one would care, but she’s a pretty bad parent. I think she’s what the Hollywood insiders call flawed.

But her sweaters sure are warm and cozy. The original Danish series “Forbrydelsen” reveals a similar if not superior sweater game.

Sofie Gråbøl, Camilla, Hertuginden af Cornwall og kronprinsesse Mary

For more on the sweaters of Detective Sarah Linden, Vanity Fair has a probing think-piece on Mireille Enos with a poignant sweater anecdote.

Spotlight on… The Peanuts aka The Mothra Twins

It’s no secret, I’m a lady of today. If a flight of fancy dances its way into my thoughts, I’ll google it, because in this world, I’m on a strictly need-to-know basis. As I sat down at my desk to start the business day, The Mothra Twins crossed my mind, moseyed down my fingers, and materialized into my search bar. “What’s up with them?” I mused for no reason other than my mind is totally worthless.

Well, it turns out these twins were a singing sensation in the 60s. Identical twin Sisters Emi and Yumi Ito were The Peanuts.

Music keeps the world rotating on an axis of love and harmonies.

Doesn’t it make you wish you had a twin? And if you are a twin – why are you reading this – you should be breaking into showbiz with your other half.

According to Wikipedia (which is basically everything on this site), “The pair retired from performance in 1975.” Won’t you come back, The Peanuts? And somebody get me a The Peanuts album!

Spotlight On… Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Dance to the beat of a Rhythm Nation and Singing Sensation: Ladysmith Black Mambazo! Now that the gods have heard our prayers (the gods must be crazy, fyi) and Wikipedia is back and more revealing than ever, I can give you the full scoop on today’s “Spotlight On.”

One of the things I love about looking up Ladysmith Black Mambazo (not the group itself – this is regarding looking up the group) is that the first phrase used to describe them is “all-male.” I always thought (always = a few times over the course of 25 years) Ladysmith was an honorable title, and “Black Mambazo” was an intimidating nickname. To my shock, Ladysmith is the town from which founder (and possible Family Ties theme inspiration?) Joseph Shabalala hails. So check your preconceived notions at the door – these guys aren’t “lady” smiths – song smiths is more like it!

Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s singing style combines “Isicathamiya,” a South African Zulu style also known as a cappella, and “Mbube” another form of South African vocal music that is “all-male” and is also similar to a cappella. Mbube means “lion” in Zulu, and hails from the year 1933 and a boy named Soloman Linda. Stateside folks recognize this little ditty as The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

I now preset the music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. This is a group that went from a dream to a reality to a global phenomenon. I’m going to South Africa soon for the first time, I wonder where they hang out? And if they’d let me lend some of my own song-smithing? Nah!

More facts:

  • They have been BANNED from Isicathamiya competitions because they have the genre on lockdown
  • They deliver a message of peace, love, and harmony
  • They’re touring the U.S. now through March. I hope I’ll have as good a time in their motherland as they’ll have in mine!

Spotlight On…

The series “Spotlight On…” takes a look at fascinating personalities. Today it’s actor DJ Qualls.

Last summer, in the midst of a months-long heat wave, I did not have air conditioning. To stay cool, I took it to AMC theaters, where the “First Look” previews take you behind the scenes of the hottest television shows. Last year, they were really pushing the “First Look” at TNT’s Memphis Beat. I got this “First” Look no fewer than 15 times.

Then I took a trip to Puerto Rico. It was cooler there than in NYC, and since I felt like I really got the full picture on what Memphis Beat was all about, I got AC and quit the movies.

(Later that autumn, I would go on to work on a show that features Robert Randolph, who is featured prominently in this First Look, and have no idea he was the same person until months later.)

Perhaps we all need a Second Look.

A star of Memphis Beat is none other than DJ Qualls. And having spent the better part of the summer beaten Memphis-style by this promotional trailer, I actually watched the first few episodes when it premiered. I don’t remember much but it was kind of a sweaty Murder She Wrote crime solver. DJ Qualls played a more smoldering version of Deputy Barney Fife. I looked up what homes cost in the cool section of Memphis and swore to myself I would one day escape this god forsaken town and start a life anew in Memphis and perhaps enjoy some lemonade with Alfre Woodard or DJ Qualls in their off-hours.

Anyway, back to today’s Spotlight On… DJ Qualls. Perhaps you first saw him in “Road Trip…”

or tickling the ebonies and ivories of a Casio in “Hustle and Flow.”

Perhaps you also made the common mistake that he’s a DJ, whose sense of self-promotion is so keen that he’s registered with SAG under the same name with which he performs as a disc jockey. Alas, no. I can’t find any evidence that Donald Joseph – DJ to the rest of the world – is a DJ. But here’s hoping he continues to explore his track-laying-down bravado that won the hearts of millions.

And this concludes today’s Spotlight On… DJ Qualls. He’s a cancer survivor and advocate for awareness, and he was a male model. Presently DJ Qualls has 4 projects in various stages of production. I think we’ll continue to see this guy on screens big and small of varying aspect ratios.

And perhaps hear him in the clubs?