Wednesday, November 30, 2005

November 2005 Table of Contents

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The Anger and Shock of a City's Slave Past
New York Times

AIDS, and Homophobia, in Jamaica
New York Times
Homophobia in Jamaica hampers efforts to reach same-sex partners who are justifiably terrified of seeking medical help for AIDS.

LAUNCH: HBCU Library Alliance Website

The Power of the African-American Female Consumer
Source: Market Snapshot (November 2005)

Scenes From an Arranged Marriage -Labels Shop New Talent to Established Stars Hoping for Mentor-Mentee Relationships
New York Times
November 27, 2005

Dave Chappelle Is Alive and Well (and Playing Las Vegas)
New York Times
November 27, 2005

Hip-hop boybands dress up kiddie-pop in grown-up clothes, except when butt-naked in the classroom
by Mikael Wood
Village Voice
November 17th, 2005 6:53 PM

The Source Under Fire
Here's Your Guide to the Lawsuits, Criminal Charges, and Beefs
by Aina Hunter
Village Voice
November 22nd, 2005 11:28 AM

Who's in the Corner Office?
New York Times
In ways less obvious than race and gender, the corporate elite has become less elite and more diverse over the last decade or two, while its counterpart in Washington has become more homogeneous.
November 27, 2005

BET's Bob Johnson and Developers Agree on Hilton Deal in Norfolk
The Virginian-Pilot
November 23, 2005

"The World of the Superniche": MTV's New Chief Digital Officer
Jason Hirschhorn, MTV's new chief digital officer, talks about his new role and the future of personalized TV

NBC Dress Code Spawns Endorsement Deals
Top Brands Rush In to Outfit Players off the Court
November 22, 2005

Book News: Tyler Perry Set to Publish First Novel
By James Wray

The Fragile Black Middle Class: Race and Money in Chicago
Chicago Sun Times

Science Fiction Writer Octavia Butler on Race, Global Warming and Religion
Democracy Now

Uptown Magazine Expands Distribution to Washington, Atlanta and Chicago
Target Market News

Will African-American UConn Physicist Ronald Mallett Build the First Time Machine?
Fairfield Weekly

Russell Simmons Media Group Backs New Hip-Hop Channel

Howard University Students Rally Against Laura Bush Visit
Howard University: The Hilltop

License to Ill: Black journalism in the pages of the Village Voice
The Village Voice

Old Enough To Drive? The Government Has A File On You
Since 2002, the Defense Department has been collecting info to help recruiters.
MTV News

Atlanta Leads Nation in Child Poverty
Black Mecca: The Death of An Illusion

The Source Launching New Mag Focusing On Latin Culture
Baller Status

African American owned Bed & Breakfast Reopening in New Orleans
New York Times

Outkast Finally Ready To Drop Their New LP, Big Boi Says
Idlewild due in stores on December 6.

When you're half of the most successful rap duo of all time, you can get pretty much anything you want.

Publishing News: Women's Health mag, New Mothers Mag, Random House and Writers

Essence Mag. WOW II Study Results
TMS Online Entertainment Marketing News

Queen Latifah To Produce 'Kidnapped'

New Young Pastor at MLK's Ebenezer Baptist Church
His Father's Son

Raphael Warnock’s Journey to Ebenezer Baptist Church Began With Talks About the Bible at the Family Dinner Table
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Science Fiction Writer Octavia Butler on Race, Global Warming and Religion
Democracy Now

No Parole Sentences Hammer Black Teens

Heart & Soul Founder Reginald Ware Launches New Health Portal Targeted To African Americans
Press Release

Blacks on Vote If They're Paid, Says Ga. Legislature
Sponsor of disputed Georgia legislation told feds that blacks in her district only vote if they are paid to do so.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

What Use Are Black Mayors?
An Open Letter to the National Conference of Black Political Scientists
Target Market News

San Francisco Museum Launches “I’ve Known Rivers” an International Call for Stories about People of the African Diaspora
Press Release



PowerFlow Media - Where the Power of Public Relations Meets the Flow of Marketing

Recent and Upcoming Media Impressions for PowerFlow Media Clients: CNN, OverTime Magazine, 790TheZone, Good Day Atlanta, Focus Atlanta, Greatness By Design, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Southern Screen Report and CinemaATL.

Fourth Quarter 2005: Events Featuring PowerFlow Media Clients Descending Dove Productions (The Last Adam), author and journalist Farai Chideya (NPR's News & Notes with Ed Gordon,, ArtsTalk, Heart & Soul Editorial Director Yanick Rice Lamb (Rise and Fly: Tall Tales and Mostly True Rules of Bid Whist), Lori Robinson (I Will Survive: The African-American Guide to Healing from Sexual Assault and Abuse), and Evelyn Coleman (Born In Sin).

The Anger and Shock of a City's Slave Past

New York Times

November 26, 2005

Visitors to the "Slavery in New York" exhibition are recording their reactions and creating snapshot reflections on race and history in the nation's largest city.

They have the awkwardness of amateur home videos: background noise, long silences, people looking away from the camera. But inside a booth at the New-York Historical Society, visitors to the exhibition "Slavery in New York" are recording their reactions, creating snapshot reflections on race and history in the nation's largest city.

"It allows our young people to understand, really, how this city was born and who carried the brunt of the prosperity that we see in New York, not only then but now," a black man from "Harlem, New York," said of the show, the largest in the museum's 201-year history. The man, who appeared to be in his 30's, said he wanted to know what businesses in the city today derived profits in the past from selling human beings.

A white lawyer went into the booth twice to sort out his feelings. "This has just been devastating," he said. As he looked at the exhibition's array of documents, he said, he realized that the some of the laws used to isolate and dehumanize enslaved black New Yorkers became custom after the laws vanished and "contributed to the way whites look at blacks," even today.

"It's striking for any of us who are New Yorkers to realize that the ground we touch, every institution, is affected by slavery," he said.

Two young African-American brothers crammed into the booth together. "Slavery in New York was bad, and it's how New York became the richest city in the world," one of them declared.

The exhibition, which illustrates the centrality of 200 years of slavery to the growth of New York City, opened on Oct. 7 and runs through March 5. The very idea of slaves walking the streets of what is now SoHo or of slave auction blocks in Lower Manhattan - in a city known for tolerance and diversity - has attracted people of varied races and ages. There are no specific attendance figures yet, but museum officials said the exhibition galleries had been packed and attendance was up 83 percent over the same period last year, when the museum presented an exhibition on Alexander Hamilton.

The $5 million slavery exhibition features more than 400 artifacts, documents, paintings and maps spanning 9,000 square feet in 10 galleries. Visitors can see advertisements for runaway slaves and "negroes, to be sold"; caricatured drawings of blacks; items like chairs and cribs made by slave hands; and a 1644 document granting slaves "half freedom" and land around what is now Washington Square.

The visitor response booth is at the end of the exhibition. There, visitors touch a blue-screened computer asking questions about what they have seen: their overall impression, how it added to or altered their knowledge on the subject, what they found noteworthy. They then look at the camera and speak their answers.

"This is a much more qualitative way of knowing who's coming to the museum," said Richard Rabinowitz, the show's curator. "We really wanted to let people talk and think through things. We wanted people to frame a meaning for this as they leave." Museum officials plan to use those responses to figure out what and how people learn from such exhibitions.

So far, about 400 responses have been videotaped. Some will become part of the "visitor reaction" monitors now in three galleries, which showcase selected people who previewed the show.

In one, for example, a middle-aged white woman says the exhibition can make a difference. "A difference when you look at a black person on a subway train," she says, "or you're working next to a black person, that you have a little more empathy and understanding and also praising for how far so many people came."

In the raw videotape, the names given are not clear, one has to guess at ages and there is no consensus on what people found most noteworthy about the show. Some said they were shocked to learn that some slaves fought with the British during the Revolutionary War (in a bid for freedom); others said they had discovered that George Washington owned slaves; and some mused that New York City slavery was no more benign than the Southern variety.

After all, slaves in New York worked sunup to sundown. Slaves helped build the wall on Wall Street (and were sold there) and built the first City Hall and Trinity Church. Slavery was the lifeline for hundreds of city businesses. During British rule, about 40 percent of the city's households owned slaves. Institutional exhibitions about America's slave-holding past are relatively new and help foster a national conversation about race, said James Oliver Horton, the chief historian for "Slavery." This show's size and location facilitate that dialogue, he said.

"Back in the 90's, when Bill Clinton asked for a national conversation about race, most people didn't have the context in which to have the conversation," said Dr. Horton, a professor of American studies and history at George Washington University. "This exhibition will help Americans have such a historical context. It will help people start with a common experience."

One commonality that emerges from viewing five hours of the visitor videotapes is how much people do not know. Many were unaware of the existence or extent of slavery in New York, which lasted until 1827, longer than in any other Northern state except New Jersey.

"It's terrible to know that the city that I love was part of the slave trade," said a middle-aged white woman from New Jersey. "I'm shocked to hear about it."

An African-American man in the booth with his young daughter said: "It's just a constant reminder that here in New York, like in other places in the United States, we were nothing more than cattle in the eyes of the owners and were treated that way. It's just amazing that people were able to survive and thrive after that."

An elderly white woman who said she had two college degrees said, "I never knew until I walked in here about slavery in New York." Now, she said, "It just breaks my heart."

An African-American woman who identified herself as a graduate of Cornell University said, "I've actually had people tell me that black people in New York had no history."

"I can now feel that I have information I can share," she said.

A middle-aged white woman who said she lived down the street from the museum noted that her daughter's advanced placement courses in history included only one hour about slavery. "It made me realize how history doesn't go away," the mother said of the exhibition. "These burdens are carried through generations."

Clearly, schools are failing to educate students about slavery, said Louise Mirrer, the society's president. Dr. Mirrer said she would be gratified to see the public schools use the educational materials developed by the society for "Slavery."

While most visitors are admirers, the exhibition comes in for some criticism, too. Some said it was saturated with facts but failed to convey slavery's brutality. One woman wondered why she did not see a single shackle. Dr. Rabinowitz said it was an informed decision to let the facts speak, without graphic depictions of beatings or family separations.

But in the reaction booth, a young black man from Harlem argued that the show should be enraging. "Why are there ghettos in New York City? Because of slavery," he said. He learned many facts from the show, he added, but wanted explicit connections between race and class. "The ramifications of slavery still affect the world," he said. "It's not something to be put in the past, like dinosaurs or fossils."

An African-American woman from Washington complained, "The soul of it was completely gone." She added, "It was spoken about as if it was any economic phenomenon instead of human."

But some people caught on camera said the show had certainly made them think harder about skin color and the echoes of the past.

A woman from Chicago, who described herself as an artist and a second-generation Slovakian, said the exhibition helped her in that way. She watched two African-American children playing in the museum, and it dawned on her that in another time they would have been slaves. "They had no choice," she said. "They had no power."

And after learning that at one time 20 percent of New Yorkers were enslaved, the artist said, she went to the lobby of the grand Historical Society building and began imagining the past. "I'd look around and look around," she said, "and one in five people would be a slave."

AIDS, and Homophobia, in Jamaica

New York Times

November 30, 2005

Jamaica took a tentative step in the right direction recently when two government officials suggested that the country actually debate longstanding laws that criminalize gay sex among consenting adults. The suggestion, by Health Minister John Junor and Deputy Education Minister Donald Rhodd, may seem no big deal to those who live in Europe or North America. But it was revolutionary for Jamaica, where homophobic behavior is pervasive in just about every aspect of public life.

This distressing picture was documented just a year ago in a report from Human Rights Watch called "Hated to Death." The report recounted hair-raising stories of anti-gay bigotry in Jamaican popular culture as well as in the law enforcement and medical systems. Most distressingly, it recounted the experiences of gay Jamaicans who had been forced to flee their homes under threats of death.

The recent call for a national debate on the country's attitude toward gay people represents a belated realization by some in government that homophobia promotes the spread of AIDS by discouraging infected people from seeking counseling or treatment. But the angry reaction suggests that the political leadership will have a difficult time weaning the country away from the anti-gay attitudes that are pervasive throughout the society.

The Jamaican public health system has made progress in the year since Human Rights Watch issued its report. But the government will have to redouble its efforts to stem the tide of an epidemic that is clearly getting worse. For starters, this will mean expanding efforts to reach same-sex partners who are justifiably terrified of seeking medical help.

LAUNCH: HBCU Library Alliance Website

We are extremely pleased to announce the launch of our redesigned website! It has been one of the priorities of the HBCU Library Alliance to create a web presence that encompasses all of the libraries of the HBCU community and connects HBCU and other librarians with the orientation, goals and programs of the HBCU Library Alliance. This newly redesigned site comes with many new features including:

Links to the websites of all HBCU libraries
Information about our programs
Members Only section
HBCU Library Alliance Blog and much more!

Paid members of the HBCU Library Alliance will receive a separate email with the login information to access the Members Only section of the website. We welcome your feedback.

Please visit our site and share the news with your colleagues!

The Power of the African-American Female Consumer

African-American women are a desirable and distinctive market
segment. The Selig Center for Economic Growth recently (September
2005) reported that African-American women control $403 billion in
buying power. In fact, Black women are the means for reaching the
$761 billion African-American consumer market and, whether single
or married, are more likely than White females to control the purse
strings in their households. Additionally, Black women reject general
market beauty standards and embrace their own style and body image.
This behavior has motivated the fashion and marketing industries to
take heed, learn, and incorporate these ideas into their product lines
and marketing plans.

Demographically speaking, African-American Women:
+ Were 19.1 million strong in 2000, representing 52.5% of all Blacks,
and will grow 9.6% by 2010.

+ 70% were head of household in 2004, compared to 50% of general
market women.

+ Their median age in 2000 was 31.0 years, compared to 38.6 years
for white females.

+ Are educated -- with the number of degrees conferred increasing
between 1980 and 2000 by 102.4% for Bachelor's, 143.3% for
Master's, 136.8% for Doctor's and 185.2% for first-professional,
compared to 31.0%, 54.8%, 57.2% and 52.9% respectively for white

+ Had the highest labor force participation rate among women in 2004
at 61.5% versus 58.9% for whites.

+ Are professionally advancing, assuming powerful positions in
business, law, medicine and other fields.

+ Are more likely than women of other races to be business owners;
over 414,472 businesses are owned by black females, employing more
than 250,000 people, as of 2004, and generating nearly $20 billion in
sales, according to the National Women's Business Council.

+ Working full time, full year, earn $26,992 in median annual
earnings, according to 2004 Census data.

+ With a bachelor's degree, earned $38,160 in 2004.

+ Have an aggregate income equal to 49% of the black population's
total income, according to Packaged Facts; White & Hispanic women
account for only about 33% of the total income for their races.

+ Possessed $403 billion in spending power in 2004, according to the
Selig Center of Economic Growth.

Source: Market Snapshot (November 2005)

Scenes From an Arranged Marriage -Labels Shop New Talent to Established Stars Hoping for Mentor-Mentee Relationships

New York Times
November 27, 2005
For an increasingly desperate industry, these days label executives routinely shop their new prospects around from one star to another, trying to convince them to act as a mentor. Then the newcomer is marketed as a devotee, or a card-carrying member of the star's "camp." That was the Atlantic Records plan for an R&B singer called Governor, who they first tried to pair with producer Dr. Dre, then with 50 Cent. Both plans fell through. In search of quick jolt of street credibility, the label brokered a deal for the singer to join the Atlanta camp of rapper and platinum-seller T.I.

IMAGINE, for a moment, that you're a promising new rhythm and blues singer who can deliver like a grittier Donny Hathaway. You have a work ethic that drives you to compose and record three songs in a single day. But you have no following. In fact, outside of a handful of industry insiders and fanatics who dig deep into liner notes, no one has ever even heard of you. Meanwhile the music industry is cranking out thousands of new CD's each year and only the luckiest new artists will manage to score a spot on a radio playlist.

What you might need is someone to open doors. A trusted ally who could put his arm around you and introduce you to his friends. Say, a million or so of them.

Acting on that theory, record labels in recent years have made a point of introducing new, little-known acts as protégés of established stars. In some cases the two musicians might have grown up on the same block. Or perhaps they had shared the struggle of performing in the same unknown group. Either way, it's a rich backstory that can be woven into any future marketing effort.

But what if the new singer doesn't have any long-lost pals who've gone platinum?

For an increasingly desperate industry, that is but a minor obstacle. These days, label executives routinely shop their new prospects around from one star to another, trying to convince them to act as a mentor. Then the newcomer is marketed as a devotee, or a card-carrying member of the star's "camp."

That was the Atlantic Records plan for Governor (the professional name of Governor Washington Jr.), an R&B singer who joined the label's roster almost four years ago. Atlantic first tried to pair him with the producer Dr. Dre, and then with the rapper (and now actor) 50 Cent. Both plans fell through. In search of quick jolt of street credibility, the label brokered a deal for the singer to join the camp of T.I., a rapper and platinum-seller from the Bankhead neighborhood of Atlanta, who is sometimes nicknamed Rubberband Man.

So, in a darkened Atlanta studio recently, over a recycled OutKast beat, Governor pledged fidelity to his latest ally: "I took my show down south to ATL/ Rubberband Man, Bankhead, gave me a place to dwell."

The songs from that session are destined for a mixtape by DJ Drama. In addition to creating the "Gangsta Grillz" mixtapes, a series popular in clubs and among bootleggers, Drama is a member of T.I.'s camp, too.

If all goes according to plan, Governor and T.I. will end up seeming like close collaborators with a shared network of friends. So what if they've only just met?

Governor Washington Jr. started out singing at the Virginia church where his father was a minister. Later he joined the Navy fresh out of high school and served in the Persian Gulf war. Roughly four years ago, he fell in with a production team called the Trackmasters who helped him record an album's worth of material. He also lent his vocal talents to the demo tape of a then-unknown rapper by the name of 50 Cent.

He, in turn, introduced Governor to his friend Jacques Agnant, a manager with a tough reputation and a desire for new business. Mr. Agnant, also known as Haitian Jack, met with Craig Kallman, now the chairman of Atlantic Records, and there in the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills he played Governor's demo CD.

It worked: Soon after, Governor had a recording contract. Mr. Agnant had a percentage of the prospective sales. And Atlantic had a talented new solo artist - who would have to stand out in a hip-hop world where "camp" affiliation is the coin of the realm.

That such relationships can be sorted out in corporate suites and conference calls is a far cry from hip-hop's earliest days some 30 years ago, when dancers and rap artists from the same neighborhood formed informal "crews" to show off in underground clubs and parties.

Many music executives say a turning point came with the 1993 arrival of the rap group Wu-Tang Clan, a Staten Island-based collective made up of nine rappers, some of whom are cousins and all of whom had grown up together. They took an unusually entrepreneurial approach to their name, creating Wu-Wear clothing and releasing a single to promote it. The line between a gaggle of buddies from the block and a business entity has been blurring ever since.

These days, said Jeff Chang, author of the hip-hop history "Can't Stop Won't Stop," crews are viewed "almost as if they were professional basketball teams. 'We're picking up this person for our team,' 'This person has left this camp and they're going to this camp.' "

And as in the N.B.A., relations among teammates are sometimes quite tense. Through a deal brokered in part by Interscope Records, a new rap artist who calls himself the Game was officially placed last year in 50 Cent's camp, G-Unit. The Game had been working on his album with Dr. Dre (who also has an Interscope-distributed label, Aftermath), for roughly two years. "They came up with the idea that I should roll with G-Unit because they already have a crazy buzz and they selling albums," Game told MTV.

The match meant that 50 Cent helped to write four songs on the Game's album, "The Documentary," and was listed as a co-executive producer in return for a cut of sales. But tensions ran high behind the scenes, and in February, as 50 Cent made an appearance on the WQHT (Hot 97) radio station in New York, members of the two men's entourages broke into gunfire outside. By then, though, the contrived pairing had already had its intended effect: the CD had sold about 1.4 million copies.

Clearly such pairings can be a powerful device. Still, some executives caution about overreliance on these "arranged marriages." "The marketplace is definitely smart," Mr. Kallman said. "I think they can see through the ones that are manufactured. I don't think you can fake it. But when it's natural and it's a fit and it feels genuine and sincere, it's still an incredibly powerful way of introducing and breaking an artist."

SOON after Governor signed his contract with Atlantic Records, Dr. Dre, the Grammy-winning producer, heard some early tracks and expressed an interest in overseeing his new album. Atlantic, thrilled by the potential involvement of the industry's most respected hit maker, dispatched Governor to Los Angeles for the first in a series of studio sessions.

They were long and intense. "I remember waking him up off the couch telling him to come listen to the next song," Governor said.

The two handled the songwriting process with cold diligence; sometimes Dr. Dre didn't even show up, just left material for Governor to work on. "He's a distant dude," Governor said, describing himself the same way.

But Dr. Dre seemed to believe the singer had promise: he separately agreed to pay about $750,000 for Governor's music-publishing rights, according to people with knowledge of the deal.

When talk turned to the release of Governor's recordings, however, negotiations between Interscope, which distributes Dr. Dre's work, Aftermath and Atlantic foundered over financial terms. The 16 songs the two had recorded together were shelved.

Governor was crushed, as were Atlantic executives, who turned to 50 Cent. As a former collaborator of Governor and now a major star in his own right, he seemed the obvious choice. But those talks, too, collapsed on financial terms. "It's like staring at your dreams through a looking glass," Governor later said of the repeated setbacks. "It's right there but you can't touch it. It has hurt. There's been a lot of pain involved from all the moving."

The idea arose that maybe Governor should go it alone. But Mr. Kallman said, "We always thought that if we could find any additional entry point with him, to really grab the streets, and help get a fan base built, and really connect him to the hip-hop community, it would be smart."

Atlantic found its chance when Jason Geter, the manager and business partner of T.I., visited the label's offices in Manhattan.

On the face of it, T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris, seems an unlikely candidate for such a match. He didn't start out singing religious songs for church congregants, but rather rapping to entertain his older relatives in his depressed section of Atlanta. And he didn't sign up for the Gulf war; he sold crack, winding up with a felony drug conviction. After a long and at times uncertain ascent, he had finally developed a national fan base - only to be arrested in 2004 for violating probation. (He avoided prison through a work-release program.)

A further complication: Governor is a soft-spoken R&B singer; T.I. is a flamboyant rapper.

But Mr. Geter was impressed by Governor's style, and saw the appeal of expanding T.I.'s reach. Several weeks later, while the rapper was still on tour, Mr. Geter called Governor and invited him to Atlanta to discuss the prospect of working with T.I.'s Grand Hustle outfit. The business details got hammered out a little while later, and in the spring, T.I. met the newest member of his camp at a recording studio.

Governor was quiet, Mr. Geter recalled, and seemed wary of embarking on another round of recording with yet another partner. It was also clear that the preacher's son was not cut from the same cloth as the flashy rapper, who once shot a music video at Atlanta's Fulton County jail while on work release. Still, Governor said, "When we first met, I didn't feel like I'm talking to a mogul." He added that T.I. wore his typical jewelry: "He came in blinging, but he still had a very natural vibe about himself."

T.I. seemed to want to put his new protégé at ease. So he and his crew treated the singer to a rapper's night out, at a strip club. "I understood what he was trying to do," Governor said, though he added, "I wasn't looking to find acceptance in anything social. I don't care about that."

In the months since Governor and T.I. first met, Governor has spent a lot of time in the studio; under Mr. Geter's oversight, he has recorded half a dozen new songs. Governor said that the new music he recorded reflects more of a "Southern feel," a trait he said he has in common with T.I. Without the relationship, he said, "I wouldn't be the same mindset, the music wouldn't have been the same."

T.I. has been around only sporadically; for much of the time he was on tour. But when the two have been in Atlanta together, T.I. has taken Governor to his old neighborhood to meet friends. During Governor's recent two-day session to record material for his "Gangsta Grillz" mixtape, T.I. stopped by with two friends after attending an Atlanta Falcons football game. As he walked through the door, the assorted members of the Grand Hustle team drifted over from different corners of the studio to greet their boss.

But he only stayed for a few minutes to record a promotional "drop," and then headed out again. Governor returned to the studio console, listening to the latest song he had recorded for the forthcoming mixtape, over and over.

It wasn't much of an advertisement for the closeness that arranged pairings can bring. But the most productive partnerships aren't always the coziest. And the people who brokered it still have high hopes for the synergy it may bring.

Even the participants, it seems, favored the pairing. "If there wasn't a genuine connection between us," T.I. said, "this situation wouldn't work. We've got a feel for him, loved his music, loved his work ethic. It's a good marriage."

Dave Chappelle Is Alive and Well (and Playing Las Vegas)

New York Times
November 27, 2005


IN a cavernous corner of Caesars Palace, flanked by six giant television screens broadcasting three horse races, two basketball games and a hockey match, a massive electronic board provides precise odds on the most doubtful propositions. A one-dollar bet, for example, would earn you $75 if the beleaguered New York Knicks should win the N.B.A. championship, and $200 if the lowly Green Bay Packers could somehow win the Super Bowl. And if you knew whom to ask, and promised to use the information for entertainment purposes only, you could obtain odds on an even more uncertain outcome: that Dave Chappelle would actually show up to his Nov. 19 gig as a headliner of the city's three-day Comedy Festival.

He clearly had the support of the locals. "I'd say it's a thousand to one in favor that he'll make it," said the casino's chief line-maker, Chuck Esposito, two days beforehand. "Dave is an overwhelming favorite. It's a lock."

Bob Crestani, the festival's chief executive officer, seemed just as certain. "He's our anchor position," Mr. Crestani said. "He gets the punch line to end all punch lines."

Just six months ago, Mr. Chappelle seemed dangerously close to becoming a different kind of punch line - starring in the kind of spectacular career flameout normally reserved for philandering clergymen and disgraced politicians.

In August 2004, with his Comedy Central series, "Chappelle's Show," surging in the ratings and a first-season DVD compilation of the program on its way to becoming the best-selling television-to-DVD release of all time, he signed a new development deal with Comedy Central that could have yielded him as much as $50 million.

But at the end of 2004, with several episodes' worth of material for "Chappelle's Show" already completed, Comedy Central was forced to push the series' premiere back three months, amid rumors that its star was suffering from either writer's block, the flu or walking pneumonia.

Production resumed again in the spring, but on April 28, Mr. Chappelle disappeared from the set. He resurfaced a few weeks later in Durban, South Africa, where, he said, he was on a spiritual retreat. As the rescheduled premiere date of his show came and went, and Comedy Central began replacing promotions for the program with advertisements for other coming series, it became clear that "Chappelle's Show" was no more.

Then, as abruptly as he had departed, Mr. Chappelle returned. On June 1, he performed a pair of unannounced sets at two stand-up clubs in Los Angeles, the Improv and the Comedy Store, where he riffed on his recent troubles and thoroughly startled the clubs' promoters, who had had less than a day's notice. "Boy, I'd love to take credit for it, but all I did was answer the phone," said the Improv's director of talent, Erin Von Schonfeldt. "What happens is, when Dave wants to do something, I just say, 'O.K.' " In the weeks that followed, Mr. Chappelle took on a full calendar of stand-up dates, performing across the country in everything from 325-person nightclubs to 14,000-seat college auditoriums.

Yet the reasons for Mr. Chappelle's dramatic reappearance remain even murkier than the reasons for his departure; he declined to comment for this story, as did several of his former "Chappelle's Show" colleagues. His friends and associates who speak about him tend to choose their words carefully, but what emerges from the accounts of those who have seen Mr. Chappelle since his return from South Africa is a portrait of a performer who, at least on the surface, appears unfazed by the controversy he created and invigorated by his newfound freedom.

"Right now he seems pretty happy," said Jason Steinberg, a talent manager who has known Mr. Chappelle for more than 15 years. "He seems like he's trying to figure out exactly what he wants to do, and put it out there the way he wants to." Without the obligations of a television series, Mr. Steinberg said: "He could say, 'All right, I'm going to play tonight in San Francisco,' and it will sell out that moment. To decide that and know the place will be full of fans coming to see you, it's such a powerful thing."

But another confidant, the rapper David Banner, wondered if Mr. Chappelle might still be struggling with the consequences of his drastic professional choices. "He looked better than he ever looked to me," said Mr. Banner, who appeared with Mr. Chappelle in a series of Hurricane Katrina benefits. "But he's the one who decides whether he can look at himself in the daytime. The one thing you have to understand about comedians is, the more they make people smile, the more pain that they usually feel inside."

At an HBO-sponsored charity poker tournament the evening before Mr. Chappelle was scheduled to perform, comics spoke with less hesitation. Jeffrey Ross, one of the hilariously vulgar talking heads from the film "The Aristocrats," was unqualified in his admiration for Mr. Chappelle, a longtime friend. "He chose art over commerce," said Mr. Ross, who had affixed himself to an hors d'oeuvres table. "He decided the quality of his emotions was more important to him than a fear of burning bridges."

Bill Maher, the acerbic host of HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher," was more skeptical about Mr. Chappelle's motivations. "He certainly created a huge sense of anticipation among people for his performance," Mr. Maher said. "I don't think anybody ever was angry with him - except maybe his network."

Jon Stewart, almost unrecognizable in a T-shirt and slacks, joked that he and other Comedy Central stars had formed a support group to help them cope with the loss of Mr. Chappelle. "Me, the kids from 'Strangers With Candy' and 'Mind of Mencia,' we meet every Sunday and have brunch, and we cry," he said. Then, in a more candid tone, he said: "People have the wrong idea about that dude. He's just a normal, nice, thoughtful guy."

If anything, Mr. Chappelle's recent notoriety has deepened his mystique and burnished his image as an unpredictable, iconoclastic artist. Upon being introduced to Mr. Chappelle the night before his show, even the formidable talent manager Bernie Brillstein could only muster a "hello." "I really don't like people who bother people," said Mr. Brillstein, who was walking through the Caesars Palace lobby in a blue-and-yellow tracksuit. "And who knows what Dave has on his mind?"

As the possibility that Mr. Chappelle might finally answer that question drew tantalizingly closer, speculation about his show became commonplace. At a question-and-answer session, Chris Rock said that he had heard that Mr. Chappelle's show would be three hours long. "Only if he talks very slowly," Jerry Seinfeld replied.

At the Mesa Grill restaurant in Caesars Palace, at least one veteran comedian was still skeptical that the concert would happen at all. "I think the greatest thing he could do is not show up," said George Wallace, a former writer for "The Redd Foxx Show." "Wouldn't that be something? It'd be the greatest press he ever got."

There was no doubt, however, in the minds of the more than 4,000 fans who were assembling at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace for Mr. Chappelle's sold-out 11 p.m. show. "Look at what a diverse crowd he can draw," said Jarod DeAnda, 27, who drove more than 300 miles, from Gilbert, Ariz., to see Mr. Chappelle. "You've got stoner rock 'n' roll dudes and you've got guys in dreads."

On a stage built expressly for Celine Dion's standing engagement, the dynamic young comedian Al Madrigal, who is of Mexican and Sicilian descent, was the first to take the microphone, joking that he and his half-Korean, half-Greek wife were "the interracial 'Blade Runner' couple of the future."

At midnight, Mr. Madrigal left the stage. And there in his place appeared Mr. Chappelle, a lanky exclamation point of a man, in a green zippered sweater, black jeans and sneakers.

"Thank you very much for welcoming me back to America," he said, as his first standing ovation of the night subsided.

"In case you haven't heard about me, I'm insane."

In a move that would set the tone for the rest of the evening, he opened with remarks that seemed to address his conflict with Comedy Central, but elliptically, and in racially polarizing terms. "Whatever you do in your life," he said, "do not stand up for yourself, because these white" - let's just substitute the word "people" here - "will beat you down."

But then he slowly backed off from the fight he had picked, joking about how his recent career maneuvers had put a strain on his marriage ("Don't think you can walk away from $50 million and your wife will be cool with it"), before segueing into a long riff about marital fidelity and the temptations he faced as a comedian on the road.

Mr. Chappelle is gifted with a wonderfully elastic, childlike voice, but it comes with several adolescent fixations, and he peppered his routine with extended bits about masturbation and gynecology. They got laughs, but they seemed like filler, coming from a man who can brilliantly tease out the racial overtones in the language of television newscasters or the remake of "Planet of the Apes."

For as much as Mr. Chappelle appeared to be tackling issues of race head-on, he was often keeping them, and his audience, at a distance. When he spoke about his experience watching "Hotel Rwanda," he was really talking about an embarrassing bathroom encounter he had at the movie theater and how it made him giggle inappropriately during the film. And to the extent that he discussed his retreat to Africa, he was trading in old stereotypes. " 'You know what you should always remember, Dave?' " said Mr. Chappelle, impersonating a local who tried to comfort him on his trip. "What's that, Mbutu?," Mr. Chappelle asked him. The response: "I ate a dog today."

Perhaps Mr. Chappelle feels he must soften his identity as an astute, slightly radical observer of politics, who already has his eye on a potential presidential match-up between Hillary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice ("You know who's going to win? Ralph Nader by a landslide"), and who essentially agrees with the controversial assertion of President Vicente Fox of Mexico that Mexicans would work jobs that not even African-Americans would take.

By far, Mr. Chappelle's most illuminating observation of the night occurred as he was discussing the rap star Kanye West's nationally broadcast remarks that President Bush does not care about African-Americans. "I don't know if you agree with him or not, but give it up for him," Mr. Chappelle said. "I've got a lot of respect for him. And," he added, "I'm going to miss him." Then, almost as an aside, he continued, "I'm not risking my entire career to tell white people obvious things."

It's a wise calculation. After all, it is only when he confronts the subjects he knows intimately that he has an act worth staking his professional reputation on. That's when he has the greatest capacity to be incisive and even poignant. The room went almost completely silent when he mentioned that his mother was half-white, and again when he said that his wife was Filipino, and a third time when he added that "our kid is Puerto Rican, somehow." That last line, the audience eventually figured out, was a joke.

Mr. Chappelle really did risk his career this year. But as he smoked his way through a pack of American Spirit cigarettes, he never really discussed the factors that led to the disintegration of "Chappelle's Show," which in any given episode was more daring than his current routine. He did not explain what ultimately compelled him to travel to Africa, except to say that it was a childhood dream, and he never expressed so much as a hint of remorse about how his actions might have affected the lives of former colleagues who did not have producing fees and DVD royalties to fall back on. After performing for almost exactly 60 minutes, Mr. Chappelle wrapped up a surreal bit about having sex with a woman who was wearing nothing but a motorcycle helmet, thanked his crowd, and bid them goodnight.

In typical Las Vegas fashion, most audience members filed out of the auditorium as quickly as Mr. Chappelle had departed it, though a few remained in their seats, as if they expected him to come back onstage and send them off with a parting insightful thought. But Mr. Chappelle did not return this time. Once again, comedy's most visible invisible man had eluded them.


Hip-hop boybands dress up kiddie-pop in grown-up clothes, except when butt-naked in the classroom
by Mikael Wood
Village Voice
November 17th, 2005 6:53 PM

"I'm grown," 18-year-old Shad Gregory Moss announces two times in a row in "Do What It Do," a cut from Wanted, his fourth album as Bow Wow. He says it once to prove whatever he didn't make clear when he famously dropped the "Lil' " from his stage name; he says it twice to rhyme with "I make you moan." If you hadn't already guessed, Wanted is Bow Wow's coming-of-age album: On the cover of 2003's Unleashed he posed amid Technicolor video-game explosions; here we get a sepia-toned portrait of the artist in front of a mean-streets cityscape—an obvious tip of the Kangol to Illmatic by Nas.

Bow Wow may be ready for his bump up from kiddie-pop to hip-hop: In the November issue of Vibe he declares that though "I might look like" a virgin, "I ain't." One pivotal scene in Roll Bounce, his recent feel-good roller-skating flick, features the Atlanta-based rapper demolishing his pop's broke-down four-door with a baseball bat, giving his introduction to adulthood some remarkably literal heft. And throughout the lean, compulsively listenable Wanted, Bow brags about an income greatly exceeding any weekly allowance or after-school wage: "Money stacks taller than the Empire State," he estimates in "B.O.W."

Still, despite the imminent loss of one of its biggest stars, kiddie-pop of the urban persuasion has been enjoying a renaissance of late, flourishing just as its white-bread counterpart gasps the latest in a long line of last gasps. This summer, the fourth edition of the BET-sponsored Scream Tour rolled across America, bringing with it two brother acts bred in Florida (where else?): Pretty Ricky and B5, both hungry to fill the vacancy created when B2K broke up last year. And the radio has been buzzing for months with nifty hits by young MCs and singers such as Brooke Valentine, Rihanna, former B2K frontboy Omarion, and Ciara, who duets with her boyfriend on Wanted's woozy "Like You," in which Bow lets her drive his Benz. (Even thug motivator Young Jeezy saw the virtue in forming a boyband, Boyz N Da Hood, before dropping his solo debut in July.)

Beyond soundtrack tie-ins and product-placement shout-outs—in "Is That You (P.Y.T.)," Bow name-drops iPods, Ugg boots, Mickey D's and Nextel camera phones ("with all the hot ringtones")—the question motoring much of this music is what kiddie-hop should say about its constituency. Should it reflect the adolescence too often sacrificed to circumstance or the cues taken from the adults steering the industry? Or both?

On the engaging yet deeply depressing Bluestars, Pretty Ricky queasily graft grammar school imagery to porn-culture desire. "We can play house and touch," singer Pleasure suggests in the album's slow-jam opener, "I'm-a eat your body out like lunch"; in "Call Me," as a music box tinkles Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, rapper Slick 'Em advises ladies to booty-beep him on his Sidekick. What's simultaneously fascinating and repulsive about Bluestars is that you keep expecting a reality check that never arrives—the would-be contradictions simply pile up ever higher. By the time Slick 'Em offers to get "butt-naked in the classroom on the teacher's school desk," you're just wondering who he's cavorting with.

B5 make things simpler—even if their appearance at a suburban Minneapolis mall earlier this month sparked what one Radio Disney rep called a "girl frenzy" that required 70 police officers to quell. In "Teacher's Pet," from the squeaky-clean Diddy protégés' self-titled debut, 15-year-old Patrick Breeding ogles "this girl so beautiful from her head to her cuticles"; when he discovers that she's his substitute, he requests the opportunity to "show you that I understand what it takes to be a man." That illicit conference aside, B5 tempers Bluestars' bluster with more age-appropriate sentiment: In the Rodney Jerkins–produced Jackson 5 update "All I Do," Patrick takes the long way home from school to mull over ways to ask out his crush. And in an a cappella rendition of "Let It Be," it's not Mother Mary speaking words of wisdom—it is in fact the brothers' actual mother. Is the Breeding brothers' message healthier for the youth of our nation? Hey, ask Samuel Alito. Sure is good to hear it, though.

The Source Under Fire

Here's Your Guide to the Lawsuits, Criminal Charges, and Beefs
by Aina Hunter
Village Voice
November 22nd, 2005 11:28 AM

The Source, the thuggish hip-hop magazine under attack from all sides, snarled its way into 50 Cent's opening-weekend hype for Get Rich or Die Tryin'.

Radio station Hot 97 greeted the movie with a blitz of promotions tagged "A G-Unit Weekend." Meanwhile, barking from every city newsstand, the November Source has 50 Cent and his labelmates on a cover headlined "G-Unot! Is Corporate Rap's Top Unit Fading Fast?" Spreading the attack, a separate article accuses Hot 97 DJ Funkmaster Flex of payola.

When 50 Cent himself showed up in the Hot 97 studio of Funkmaster Flex on a recent Thursday-evening shift, the pair spent precious airtime stoking the feud. "I gotta ask you about this wack rapper Benzino," Funkmaster Flex said, referring to The Source co-owner Raymond Scott by his performing name. Hearing it, 50 Cent began to murmur menacingly.

A few days later, on, Scott upped the ante, asserting that Flex "talks a lot of trash [on the air] and when he leaves, he has a group of security guards, but one day he is going to slip, and when we do collide you are going to hear about it."

People really do get hurt for less beef than this, especially around Hot 97, where broadcast taunts have preceded flying bullets, and especially around The Source, which has picked countless fights since its birth in 1988. But given the number of hits they're taking—tens of millions in credit claims and lawsuits, arrests, even murder charges against key staffers—it's amazing that Scott, fellow co-owner David Mays, and rookie editor Dasun Allah can put out a magazine at all. Just keeping track of the major court cases advancing this month is a task.

On November 30, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge will review an ar-bitrator's ruling that The Source must pay $7.5 million to CD-DVD distributor Image Entertainment. The company says two hip-hop compilations it paid Source Entertainment to produce were never delivered, and that The Source never got permission from the artists to use the music on the CDs it did deliver.

On October 31, Textron Financial Corporation asked a New York State Supreme Court judge to put The Source into receivership. Textron says it's owed $18 million. In the suit, the company accuses Mays and Scott of doing little bookkeeping, buying "promotional jewelry," and traveling on vacations while rent, bills, and state and federal taxes languished unpaid.

On November 28, general manager Leroy "Bum" Peeples and marketing director Alvin "Wiz" Childs are expected to answer to charges of attempted murder in front of a Manhattan Criminal Court judge. Peeples and Childs were arrested in July following a shoot-out in a bar that left three people seriously injured. Police say the shots were fired during an argument in Chelsea's Limerick House over whether or not to play a particular rap CD. The two execs have pled not guilty, says their lawyer.

On November 22 (as the Voice went to press), also in Manhattan Criminal Court, editor in chief Dasun Allah (formerly known as David Blanks) will find out if he is to be indicted for criminal mischief. Police say on October 20 he desecrated a Jehovah's Witness assembly hall in Harlem with graffiti. Allah, who has earned growing respect for his editorial vision as well as concern over his emotional volatility, spent the night in jail after his lawyer surrendered him to police.

And then there's the looming sexual discrimination and harassment lawsuit. On November 7, lawyer Ken Thompson received the right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission he had requested on behalf of former editor in chief Kim Osorio and former marketing director Michelle Joyce. In their EEOC complaint, the women say they were sexually harassed, physically threatened, and ultimately fired in retaliation for complaining about abuses condoned by Mays and Scott. The EEOC investigation was terminated without finding. Thompson says he's filing suit next week in Manhattan federal court.

The Source is hitting back, in street-fighting form and in the courts. Lawyer Mercedes Colwin—who makes frequent appearances on Fox and MSNBC—says she's ready to go. In an e-mail to the Voice, she calls the EEOC complaint "one very bad rap" and says The Source will achieve "complete vindication" as it does not "discriminate, harass, or retaliate on any basis including gender" and that the company "looks forward to proving it is not liable in the event it even gets to court."

Mays calls "the misleading and patently false attacks on our character . . . hurtful," but Scott declined requests for comment. Peeples (The Source's third-ranking executive after Mays and Scott) and Childs did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the attempted-murder charges, but lawyer Mel Sachs says they have been "wrongfully accused."

Editor in chief Allah, a member of an Islam-based religious group called Nation of Gods and Earth, did discuss his arrest. He told the Voice that the alleged graffiti incident had "nothing to do with The Source" and everything to do with his "personal history with organized religion and the Jehovah's Witnesses in particular." (He declined comment on any Source topic, including the defamation suit pending against the magazine stemming from an article he wrote last year making fun of hip-hop writers. Sacha Jenkins of Spin and XXL is suing in State Supreme Court for $150,000.)

The recent revival of The Source's front-of-the-book must largely be credited to Allah, an intern in 2001 for Voice investigative reporter and senior editor Wayne Barrett. The Hurricane Katrina spread in the November issue outpaced competitor XXL's catch-up job in December. An ambitious cover story package in the December issue considers the impact of the criminal-justice system on hip-hop.

In addition to recharging its feature articles, The Source 's co-owners have come out swinging in the courts to defend what's left of their business credibility. On October 19, Source Entertainment filed a $100 million suit against Black Entertainment Television, accusing executives of pulling out of a deal to televise the annual Source Awards slated for last month. A BET statement said only that it was Mays who failed to uphold his end of the deal, but one can guess at why BET's owner, Viacom, might rethink its relationship with the (indefinitely postponed) awards show. In 2001 The Source's former network broadcaster, UPN, called it quits after a riot broke out at the Pasadena show the year before.

Multiplying problems have affected how advertisers perceive The Source.Cris Dinozo of the Publisher's Information Bureau says last year the magazine stopped paying its dues to the organization, which tracks advertising pages. Steve Cohn, CEO of Media Industry Newsletter, points to a downward trend since 2000, when ad pages in The Source reached a height of 1,648 for the year. Cohn, who gets his data from internal sources at the magazine, says that by the end of 2004 The Source was down to 1,149 ad pages, and this year it's at 779 ad pages.

Fewer people, it appears, are reading The Source. It's hard to know, because in 2004 it pulled out of the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Textron in its lawsuit asserts that Source circulation hovers around 250,000—half of what it was two years ago. By way of comparison, the primary Source competitor, XXL, has an ABC-certified circulation of 314,355.

The magazine's revenue has also nose-dived, according to the Textron lawsuit. The lending company estimates 2005 sales at $20.7 million, a $5.1 million drop from the previous year. Profits have disappeared, says Textron, which asserts that The Source's net loss will rise above $2 million, more than twice the 2004 loss. All evidence to the contrary, Chris Flatley, associate publisher of The Source, calls the magazine "the number-one selling music magazine on newsstands in the world." And that "many of corporate America's largest consumer marketers continue to embrace The Source for its honest and thought-provoking coverage."

There once was a time when calling The Source the "bible of hip-hop" made sense. As Wired was to geeks, as Deneuve was to dykes, so The Source was to the hip-hop generation. Its anomalous conception in the dorm room of two white Harvard students in 1988 didn't much get in the way, because by the early 1990s David Mays and Jon Shecter had cobbled together a multiracial dream team of devotees who, in a few short years, transformed a xeroxed newsletter into a widely respected glossy fat with ads.

Subjects that mattered to black kids and wannabes were given regular, serious treatment. "We had the greatest interviews; there were no publicists—we had pager numbers for when something went down," says Reginald C. Dennis, one of the first music editors. "Hip-hop wasn't media savvy then. It was young black people speaking their minds—people who had never been given the opportunity to speak."

Trouble began in November 1994—when
The Source was at its zenith. It came in the form of a long, fawning profile of the Almighty RSO, a rap group fronted by Benzino, the big-mouthed Boston rapper who would later reveal himself as co-owner of the magazine. Mays felt his sidekick deserved some press; the Source staff disagreed. So Mays himself wrote a feature on RSO and slipped it in behind the editors' backs. There was an editorial-side exodus, with the highly regarded editor in chief James Bernard writing an emotional resignation letter to the hip-hop community. The scandal destroyed The Source's editorial credibility.

"Every two or three years there's a big upheaval and the whole editorial staff changes over," says Jeff Chang, author of the hip-hop history Can't Stop Won't Stop. "You get to the point where you're chasing away so much talent—at a certain point it becomes unsustainable."

"It's been like watching Rome burn," says former Source writer Kenji Jasper.

Obvious cronyism and erratic critical standards have continuously afflicted its music reviews department. Editor in chief Fahiym Ratcliffe, Dasun Allah's predecessor, resigned in August after a dispute with Mays over a music rating. "You want to work for someplace that you believe in," Ratcliffe told the Voice. "If there are constant clashes with owners, then you have to remove yourself."

But more than the internal scandals, it was the relentless campaign against Eminem that turned off readers. In 2002, Scott worked tirelessly to persuade readers that the rapper is a bigot, backing up the charges by playing old recordings to reporters featuring a 15-year-old Eminem disparaging black women and big butts and niggas. Few observers disputed Scott's claim that part of Eminem's success is due to his color, but it raised another question: Where would Raymond "Benzino" Scott be if it weren't for his Caucasian best friend and cheerleader David Mays?

Eminem responded with an apology and an explanation: He said he wrote the lyrics because he was pissed off over a breakup with a black girl. The confession turned the controversy into old news, but not to Benzino. A drawing of him holding Eminem's severed head showed up in the February 2003 issue, and he rapped about him in several tracks of his own. "You the rap David Duke, you the rap Hitler, the culture stealer," he spat out on his single "Die Another Day."

The endless Eminem vitriol also proved costly—music ads from Def Jam and Interscope disappeared. "Mays made some bad decisions. The mission of the magazine has been warped and perverted to fit Benzino's obsessions," says self-described grizzled hip-hop veteran Bill Adler. "The attacks on Eminem are transparent and pathetic— nobody in hip-hop cares."

Michelle Joyce (left, with glasses) and Kimberly Osario (right, in pink) are filing suit against The Source.
photo: Brian Kennedy
Last April, when the full texts of Kim Osorio's and Michelle Joyce's EEOC harassment complaints were posted on , fans got an eyeful of an editorial office resembling something out of a Pam Grier movie. Judging from the allegations, the Chelsea offices sorely needed a Foxy Brown character to kick in the door and beat the hell out of the misogynist idiots described in the documents.

It's not that anyone was really surprised that a workplace usually described as a men's locker room complete with Vaselined- girl-bending-over posters on the walls and rappers-cum-execs slap-boxing in the halls could be sexist. The former executives' complaints detail more than how they say women are treated. They describe a magazine where writers were forced to write untruthful articles about the publication's perceived enemies.

Says former associate music editor Miranda Jane: "Writers have to take their sides of any beefs. If you don't know the game, or if you can't keep track of who they were or weren't doing business with that day, you could have serious problems, the least of which was getting fired. For a man that could mean being put in a state of fear. For a woman—going to work each day being called a whore."

In the complaint, Osorio accuses Mays of allowing a male writer to "degrade her as a woman" and threatening to "knock her upside the head" in response to her asking about an article he hadn't turned in. Both Mays and Benzino, she charges, frequently "berated and humiliated" women employees, while men—many of them Benzino's old friends—were given a free pass. Osorio says she was fired in March after refusing to rescind a discrimination complaint she says she e-mailed to the company's human resources department.

Former vice president of marketing Michelle Joyce was there just over a year to Osorio's five, and says the men she was charged with supervising harassed her with impunity. One felt comfortable telling her he'd "give her something to suck on." Mays would "yell, curse at [her], and often ask whether [she] was 'fucking stupid' or 'some sort of asshole.' " According to her complaint, the climate was so toxic several female execs would "often hide in their offices and avoid walking through the corridors out of fear of being sexually harassed." She also claims that she was fired after complaining about the way women were treated.

Many female former Source employees agree that the office is exhaustingly sexist, but not all women in the hip-hop world are willing to let Osorio completely off the hook. She was the editor in chief when the magazine, many observers have noted, grew exponentially more shallow and sexist. It was Osorio who played the infamous Eminem tapes to reporters two years ago, and she who backed up many of Benzino's dubious claims. "While I believe the [EEOC] allegations, my feeling is that Kim was basically bitten by the dog she fed," writes Essence magazine writer E. Assata Wright in an e-mail.

"They used to address meaningful issues, gang truces, police targeting black and brown kids," recalls former Source writer Rachel Raimist, before coming to depend on "just one story all the time. Pimp and stripper culture-porn is the norm."

In answer to critics, Osorio (who recently started work as an executive editor at says that decisions on content were often made on the business side. Besides, churning out sexist product does not exempt a business from following harassment and discrimination statutes, nor does the law care who someone might be sleeping with. Those concepts are lost on Mays and Scott. Soon after the complaint was made public they faxed a statement to reporters that said: "We find it peculiar that [Osorio] would make these allegations because during her tenure at The Source she had numerous sexual relations with artists. We have proof of this and we find it unacceptable . . . "

Co-owners Mays and Scott don't view themselves as oppressors of women or anyone else—they've long positioned themselves as defenders of the little guy against the hip-hop industry "machine."

Says Mays: "For the past few years, The Source has been the sole voice willing to speak out against the corruption, bribery, deceits and greed in the corporate Rap music industry that is destroying the greatness of Hip-Hop culture."

It's hard to argue with the first part, but the second half of his statement is more troubling. Former editor Ratcliffe (who now heads up Smooth, a King-like men's magazine) says that in spite of The Source's recent editorial successes, readers have stopped paying attention.

"Mays is a very smart man. He created the most important urban magazine in 15 years. But he and Benzino need to look at themselves with honest eyes," he says. "The Source is a shadow of itself. But even if its brand doesn't have the same luster it once had, it's still strong. But as long as you have Mays and Scott the industry will always look at them as the problem, even if their message is good."

Mays and Scott may have to jump ship in order to save The Source. "They opened the gates for the hip-hop lifestyle—they legitimized it," says Dr. Samir A. Husni, chair of the journalism department at the University of Mississippi. "But when the giant reaches the top of the mountain and hides his head in the clouds, he cannot see what's going on on the ground."

If Mays and Scott do get knocked out, there are plenty of takers. Hip-hop deal maker Steve Stoute told Hot 97 he'd like to take over, and Jay-Z's name has floated about. Still, Mays and Scott are going down fighting—in the courts and perhaps in the street.

Meanwhile, Source Enterprises has christened two foreign-language versions—The Source Latino and Nouveau the Source (French). Judging from recent events, at The Source and abroad, a magazine devoted to thug activism might be a lucrative export.

Who's in the Corner Office?

New York Times
In ways less obvious than race and gender, the corporate elite has become less elite and more diverse over the last decade or two, while its counterpart in Washington has become more homogeneous.
November 27, 2005

ON some levels, corporate America can learn a lot about diversity from the nation's political elite.

When, in 1967, Thurgood Marshall became the first African-American to be nominated to the Supreme Court, Franklin D. Raines was just finishing high school in Seattle. More than three decades would pass before Mr. Raines, at Fannie Mae, became the first black chief executive of a Fortune 500 company.

Today, the corner offices of the nation's largest companies are dominated by white men in a way that few other parts of society still are. Only a handful of women hold prominent chief executive jobs, while 81 women are in Congress. There are more female senators from Maine (two) than there are women running Fortune 100 companies (zero).

Yet the full picture is not as simple as all this suggests. In ways less obvious than race and gender, the corporate elite has become less elite and more diverse over the last decade or two, while its counterpart in Washington has become more homogeneous.

They may be paid like kings, but C.E.O.'s seem to come from a wider variety of economic backgrounds - with growing numbers rising from humble beginnings and fewer having attended Ivy League colleges - than they once did. Many spent just a few years, or none, at their companies before becoming the boss. Being younger than 50 no longer rules out someone for the top job.

"There's much less emphasis on the cosmetic aspects and the cultural aspects and the refinement aspects, as opposed to the down-and-dirty, get-the-job-done aspect," said Gerard R. Roche, an executive recruiter for 41 years, whose firm, Heidrick & Struggles, has recently conducted chief-executive searches for Coca-Cola, Disney and Nike.

Wall Street, for example, was once seen as a club for the well heeled; today it seems much more open. James E. Cayne, the chief executive of Bear Stearns, didn't graduate from college. E. Stanley O'Neal of Merrill Lynch, one of just three black chief executives of large companies, went to Kettering University in Flint, Mich. Kenneth D. Lewis of Bank of America graduated from Georgia State.

With the glaring exceptions of sex and skin color, in other words, the mold for a big-company C.E.O. has been broken, and there isn't a new one to take its place. The story is different in Washington, where political leaders are richer, older, more likely to have gone to an expensive college and more likely to have first held another elected office than they were in the past. So in some ways, corporate leaders now mirror the rest of society more closely than elected leaders do.

IT is almost as if two separate meritocracies have sprung up. The top of the corporate one remains largely closed to women and minorities. But it also rewards skills - like communication, real-world smarts and a common touch, executives say - that require little in the way of a privileged background.

"I think of the people at Whirlpool who failed over the years, and it rarely had to do with their technical skills," said David R. Whitwam, the company's former chief, who worked his way through the University of Wisconsin emptying bedpans as a hospital orderly. "It was usually their leadership capabilities."

The rules for advancement in the political system are different. They bear some resemblance to those of the college-application process that many 17-year-olds are now sweating. Women and minorities, both racial and religious, succeed far more often than they did in the past. The Senate now has almost twice as many Catholics - 24 - as it did in 1980, and more Jews and Mormons, too. (Data on the religious background of C.E.O.'s isn't readily accessible.)

But whether the goal is winning a seat in Congress or a spot in Harvard's freshman class, wealth appears to be more important than it once was. And the types of analytical skills that rarely make the difference at Whirlpool help determine both admissions decisions and Supreme Court nominations.

Not since Richard Nixon in 1969 appointed Warren Burger, who had attended the University of Minnesota, has the court had a new justice who attended a public university for college or graduate school. Since then, every new justice has held a degree from one of four universities: Harvard, Yale, Stanford or the University of Chicago. Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., who is preparing for confirmation hearings, graduated from Yale Law School and Princeton.

In fact, the changing educational backgrounds of the corporate and political elite may best sum up the trends. In 1980, about 23 percent of chief executives at big companies had attended one of the eight Ivy League colleges, while only 13 percent of senators had. The boardroom, not surprisingly, was a more elite place than the halls of democracy.

Today, the two groups have switched places. The number of senators educated at an Ivy college has risen to 16. Among C.E.O.'s in the Standard & Poor's 500, the share has fallen by more than half, to 10 percent. The University of Wisconsin has tied Harvard as the most common alma mater for top executives, according to Spencer Stuart, an executive search firm.

This is particularly telling because students at Ivy colleges have changed relatively little - in economic terms - over the last few generations. The same is true at other elite colleges like Duke, Stanford and Williams. If anything, the percentage of them coming from middle-class and working-class households has fallen slightly in recent years, recent research shows. At Harvard, for instance, the median family income was about $150,000 last year, financial aid forms suggest.

So the colleges offer a rare way to examine the shifting class backgrounds of the nation's elites. The changes seem to say something about both the business world and the colleges themselves.

At a time when the economy was not so brutally competitive, when there was less global trade and when technology had not ripped down the barriers between industries, companies could afford to draw from a relatively narrow talent pool, executives and recruiters say. That isn't the case today.

"Businesses are more complex. God knows they're much larger than they ever were before," said William W. McGuire, chief executive of UnitedHealth Group and a University of Texas graduate. An Ivy League degree "opens doors," Mr. McGuire said. "I'm just not sure that opening doors is tantamount to success in today's world."

The change is not limited to the United States. The number of top executives in Britain who graduated from its most exclusive colleges, Oxford and Cambridge, declined from 1992 to the early part of this decade, The Economist found.

Thomas J. Neff, chairman of United States operations at Spencer Stuart, said he could not remember the last time a client doing an executive search had asked him to focus on graduates of particular colleges.

"I think if a C.E.O. or a board member went to an Ivy League school, there might be a bias. But it's small," Mr. Neff said. "When it comes to senior level appointments, it's 'What have you done for me lately?' "

Executives who attended public universities also say that these campuses bear a closer resemblance to the rest of society than those dominated by the upper middle class. Many of the executives went on to business school at Harvard or Stanford, but they say that their undergraduate experience also helped prepare them for the business world.

"When you look at today's C.E.O., he or she has to be very comfortable talking about the business with folks on the factory floor or customers who are increasingly diverse," said Robert A. Eckert, the chief executive of Mattel and a University of Arizona graduate. "While private schools have the advantage of smaller classes and the financial wherewithal to attract the world's greatest faculty, the public schools offer the diversity and variety that go along with the size they have there."

The high-income students at the Ivies and similar colleges, meanwhile, have been showing less interest in corporate America. First, the antiwar movement of the 1960's and 70's made a business career unappealing to many. About the same time, colleges were changing admissions policies to give more weight to academic skills, said Jerome Karabel, a fellow at the Longview Institute and author of "The Chosen," a history of college admissions.

Capitalism is more popular on elite campuses now than it once was, but many students there still do not see corporate jobs as the best match for their skills. Instead, many turn to law, consulting or hedge-fund management. These fields tend to value skills at which the students have long excelled - skills that can often be measured objectively. Minorities have done better in some of these professions than in corporate America. The pay in these fields also tends to be higher for younger employees, and a career rise can happen quickly.

"The most able students interested in business are increasingly finding their way into entrepreneurial activity, into financial services, into high tech and into consulting," Lawrence H. Summers, Harvard's president, said. "Joining large organizations is no longer the major choice for students interested in business."

Frederick W. Smith, C.E.O. of FedEx, attended Yale in the mid-60's and recalls being surrounded by sons of coal and steel executives. In recent years, he has spoken with Yale's president, Richard Levin, about encouraging students to join corporations. Students "are more interested in Wall Street rather than in manufacturing, transportation and so forth," Mr. Smith said. "They're much more interested in government. They are much more interested in the media."

Not only are they interested in government, but running for office often requires wealth that is common among Ivy League students and alumni. Many candidates spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their campaigns, and sometimes much more.

Voters now seem to care less about a candidate's background - economic, religious or otherwise - and more about his positions, said Brandice Canes-Wrone, a politics professor at Princeton. The best example may be the willingness of evangelical Protestants to vote for conservative Catholics. But the rise of wealthy politicians from elite schools makes the point, too.

There are almost as many millionaires in the Senate as nonmillionaires, according to Roll Call, a newspaper covering Capitol Hill. Since 1988, 9 of the 10 major-party nominees for president have held a degree from Harvard or Yale, the only exception being Bob Dole. In the previous 24 years, only 1 of the 12 nominees went to Harvard or Yale. That was Gerald R. Ford, who received a law degree from Yale.

"By traditional measures, we have an elected and appointed elite that is more representative of the American public," said Larry J. Sabato, of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "Yet in many ways they're less representative."

Of course, it is hard to argue that C.E.O.'s are representative of the public when almost all of them come from the roughly one-third of Americans who are male and white.

"Clearly, it's an area where there's work to do," Mr. Eckert of Mattel said. "We haven't yet achieved the diversity of our work force and our customer base."

For all the differences between the corporate and political elite, this may be the biggest similarity: both seem to be missing out on a lot of potential talent.

Luke Kummer contributed research for this article.

BET's Bob Johnson and Developers Agree on Hilton Deal in Norfolk

The Virginian-Pilot
November 23, 2005

NORFOLK –– City officials will announce an agreement today with one of the nation’s richest hotel entrepreneurs to build a 20- to 25-story luxury hotel and condominium project next to a new conference center and parking garage downtown.

The city and private developers will spend more than $100 million on the project, to be built at the corner of Main and Granby streets just south of the Trader Publishing office tower now under construction, city officials said Tuesday.

The city will spend $61 million, with $33 million earmarked for the conference center, $18.5 million for a parking garage and $9.3 million for land acquisition.

RLJ Development of Bethesda, Md., is the primary developer. It’s headed by Robert L. Johnson, a billionaire who founded Black Entertainment Television and owns the Charlotte Bobcats professional basketball team.

RLJ will work with Fulco Development of Norfolk, headed by William Fuller, a former professional football player. Fulco will hold a minority interest in the project, Fuller said.

The developers will spend at least $28 million to build the hotel, which is expected to be a Hilton, and at least $15 million on 50 to 60 condominiums that would rise on the top five or six floors of the building.

The developers will build the conference center and parking deck and run the conference center for the city.

“It’s very difficult to get full-service, four-star quality hotels financed and constructed in today’s market,” Mayor Paul D. Fraim said. “This deal accomplishes that and brings to the table an association with one of the great American entrepreneurs.”

The hotel is to include an upscale first-floor restaurant, such as a Morton’s Steakhouse. It will receive a performance grant – a rebate of a portion of taxes it generates – from the city that could be worth $750,000 over 10 years.

The hotel will have at least 240 rooms, but city officials said they are hopeful it will have 300 or more. It will generate more than $1.8 million in direct taxes in its first year, city officials said.

The agreement could mark the successful end of the city’s five-year effort to attract a black developer downtown.

An effort by former University of North Carolina football player Donnell Thompson to build a hotel next to Waterside nearly five years ago derailed over site issues. Fuller was a part of Thompson’s investment group.

“I always hoped that a member of the African-American community would be able to enjoy this robust economy we’re enjoying right now in downtown Norfolk,” said Councilman Paul R. Riddick

Norfolk will be building a conference center at a time when there is a glut of convention centers and competition is ramping up in three communities less than 100 miles away.

Richmond, Hampton and Virginia Beach have built or are building large convention centers and competition between all three already is fierce.

Fraim noted that Norfolk’s center would have 73,000 square feet, about one-seventh the size of Virginia Beach’s new facility.

“We really think our niche is the small association group that brings hundreds of conferees as opposed to the thousands that will come to the larger convention centers in our sister cities,” Fraim said. “We hope to attract a crowd that is willing to spend a higher amount for a better quality of service.”

The City Council will be asked to approve a memorandum of understanding between the city and developers on Tuesday. A final deal isn’t expected for six months and the hotel and conference center likely will not open until late 2008.

Both the city and developers have agreed to spend $250,000 each over the next six months as the deal is finalized.

An announcement on the project has been anticipated for more than a year, but negotiations took longer than expected.

“You’ve got tough, methodical negotiators on both sides,” said City Manager Regina V.K. Williams, who handled negotiations for the city along with Roderick S. Woolard, the city’s director of economic development.

“People have been wondering, is it going to happen?” City Councilman Anthony L. Burfoot said. “I’m just glad to see it coming to a close.”

Vice Mayor Daun S. Hester praised Fuller, whose company recently opened a Farm Fresh supermarket in Berkley, for bringing Johnson to the table.

“This will send a message across the country” that Norfolk is a good place to do business, she said.

Unanimous City Council approval seems all but certain.

The project is modest and has more council support than others Johnson has proposed. After a heated debate, the Baltimore City Council two months ago approved a 752-room downtown Hilton Hotel on a 9-5 vote. The city will spend $305 million on that project.

Norfolk’s conference center will be paid for with hotel and meals taxes increases enacted several years ago by the City Council.

Williams said the taxes generate nearly $5 million per year, nearly twice what it will take to service debt on the conference center.

The taxes were increased with the intention of funding a new conference center or basketball arena. Some of those funds have been spent on upgrades to Scope, the city’s aging arena, and to groups helping to promote tourism.

The parking deck, which would have at least 500 spaces and up to 800, will be paid for with parking revenue .

The city spent $9.3 million over the last year from general tax revenues to acquire land for the project, including three buildings – the Ikon Building, a building formerly owned by lawyer Peter G. Decker Jr. and an art deco building that once housed a men’s clothing store – that the Norfolk Preservation Alliance says are historic.

Williams said it isn’t yet known if a portion of those buildings can be saved, though the memo of understanding asks the developers to do all they can to save them. Decker said he was told the facade of his building likely will be saved.

Williams said that the city probably would have spent the $60 million regardless of whether it cut a deal with Johnson. She said the council decided in 2000 that it needed to build a conference center, and the parking deck is needed in part to provide parking for the nearby Trader Publishing building.

Having a Hilton attached to the conference center and at least 240 additional hotel rooms downtown should help ensure the convention center will be a success, she said.

Anthony J. DiFilippo, president and chief executive of the Norfolk Convention and Visitors Bureau, said both the conference center and hotel rooms are sorely needed.

He said the city’s current meeting space, at the Waterside Convention Center, can host groups of up to 1,000. The new conference center would have a banquet room of 23,000 square feet that could host groups of more than 2,000.

“The biggest piece of the pie available is groups in the 1,500 to 2,000 range,” DiFilippo said.

“We’re losing business because we just can’t fit them in.”

Moreover, he said, downtown’s 1,600 rooms aren’t enough to meet current demand.

“It’s going to fill a real void downtown,” Burfoot said.

Reach Harry Minium at (757) 446-2371 or

"The World of the Superniche": MTV's New Chief Digital Officer

Jason Hirschhorn, MTV's new chief digital officer, talks about his new role and the future of personalized TV

MTV Networks, which broke new ground 24 years ago when it debuted as a music-video TV channel, set yet another precedent on October 27, 2005, when it appointed 34-year-old Jason Hirschhorn to fill the newly created position of chief digital officer.

In his role as CDO, a novel title in executive ranks at media outfits, Hirschhorn will oversee the digital media and interactive strategies for all of MTV's programming outlets, from Comedy Central to Nickelodeon to Spike. He had served in number of technology roles at MTV since arriving in 2000 after the network bought his successful Web design and content company Mischief Media.

BusinessWeek Senior Writer Tom Lowry spoke recently by phone with Hirschhorn (he was in Lisbon, Portugal, attending MTV's European Music Awards) about his new role and the future of TV in the changing media landscape. Here are edited excerpts from that conversation:

TV is a medium that's more than 65 years old. Yet it seems in just a relatively short amount of time, it's facing enormous change. What's going on? For one, the barriers of entry [to do programming] are so much less than they used to be. You can buy a new HD camcorder for under a grand, and you can create your own content and edit with a suite of tools on your computer, and you can upload it. And it doesn't require you to have your own channel, so to speak.

What's interesting is that people are consuming media like never before, just at different times. We measure in prime time and day-parts, but people are on [consuming media] their phones, they're at their desks, and they're watching TV at home.

You look at channels like MTV, doing as well as it ever has, and yet it launches [broadband channel] OverDrive, and that business, too, flourishes. It's not cannibalistic -- it's complementary. It's just different experiences.

The next part of the revolution beyond user-generated content is going to be when it comes back into the living room, with the promise of iTV and the interactivity of the TV screen and what else you will be able to do while you're 10 feet away on your couch.

As the new CDO of MTV, what's your strategy, given this fast-changing environment? I want to cultivate great talent and great experiences for an on-demand, digital environment in which we are creating a ton of programming.

Obviously, there's an upside as a business proposition. TV was thought of as this Old Media business, and suddenly video is the next big thing. Think of the libraries of content we have. Think of the access to talent we have. Think of the way we can dovetail on production in an economical way because we already have crews and shows out there.

And then how do we bring our audience in to it? Interactivity allows our viewers to watch what they want when they want it, reorder it, or do it on-demand. That's just on the content level. The next stage is how our users are going to contribute content themselves and mix it up with our content.

So there's going to be this intersection between filtered and unfiltered content. Filtered being professionally produced content, vs. unfiltered, which is user-generated, where we are going to put our users' programs on the same platforms as our own programming. Hopefully, we'll be able to find some talent out of that, and stars.

It will be the world of the superniche. MTV Networks is already a pioneer in personalization. We've built channels for specific audiences and demos. The next evolution is to go even deeper with that.

What are the risks in pursuing these models? The biggest downside is not to do it, or to execute it poorly, or in some cases to try to control the uncontrollable. We are [strong] brands and have meant something for years to our users. Going into this new world, we're going to have to relinquish some control. I don't see it as a risk. It's opportunity.

You ran a successful Web-design and content business before MTV made you an offer you couldn't refuse. What lessons from running your own shop can you apply in your new gig?
When you're poor, you're a lot more creative. When you don't have the resources, it makes you think harder. And I had to be the programmer, the business person, the marketer. Ultimately, I acquired a respect for other people's jobs, understanding what goes into marketing, understanding what goes into finance, and what goes into programming.

Having my own business gave me a unique view, not at being great at one thing but at being good at putting all the pieces together. The downside of that was that I did everything myself, so I always tell [MTV Chairwoman] Judy [McGrath] that MTV Networks was my graduate business school -- I had to learn to relinquish control over stuff.

The biggest upside that I've had at MTV Networks is finding people and delegating authority and allowing them to be the best they can be in their jobs. Let me tell you when you have a person who's great at programming or great at marketing and they're taking it to a level you never could have, you sleep much better at night.

On Oct. 13, MTV announced it had purchased for $49 million the popular Web site IFILM, a collection of short-form video from Hollywood as well as amateurs. How will you use IFILM at MTV? It's a step in the direction toward exploiting more user-generated content. We have broadband channels Motherload [Comedy Central], OverDrive [MTV], TurboNick [Nickelodeon, Vspot, VH1] and MTV Revolucion in Latin America, and even more channels coming out. Now we want to have a unique hold in user-generated content.

IFILM is going to teach us about that. It's about how talent bubbles up to the top and what works in user-generated content. It's going to be a brand that stands alone. We're going to give it the resources to grow. We want [IFILM] to be a world-renowned brand.

And I'm sure we'll forge some partnerships with Viacom (VIA ) companies for access to content, but you won't see us use it as a promotional platform for our own content. If the IFILM people want to use [our programming], they can. If they don't, they have their own way. We think it's going to be an interesting experiment, and it will be a real business.

Any hints of cool stuff coming from MTV? I would rather not say right now. But I will say that there's so much choice out there, with more to come. It's really phenomenal the pace at which all this is evolving.

NBC Dress Code Spawns Endorsement Deals

Top Brands Rush In to Outfit Players off the Court
November 22, 2005

NEW YORK ( -- The national basketball Association’s mandatory dress code is turning into a cottage industry for clothing retailers seeking exposure by having players suit up in their brands.

High-end suits
Levi Strauss & Co.’s Dockers brand has offered to outfit all 450 NBA players with business-casual clothing from pants to shirts to shoes to socks, at a cost of almost half a million dollars. J.A. Apparel Corp.’s Joseph Abboud, maker of high-end suits, has sent a letter to more than 100 first- and second-year NBA players -- with the league’s blessing -- offering a clothing-for-advertising deal. Even Italian fashion house extraordinaire Valentino has contacted the league about an apparel deal, according to executives familiar with the matter.

The NBA has been tight-lipped about any arrangements. “The players and we agree that business requires a certain level of professionalism and certain minimum standards,” said Mike Bass, VP-marketing communications, without elaborating further.

But clearly the league is thrilled with the response to the month-old code, which bans everything from jeans and throw-back jerseys to sunglasses, caps and even the bling that accessorize many stars’ outfits. Instead, the NBA -- trying to buff its image a year after the infamous brawl in Detroit between players and fans -- wants its players outfitted in business attire for league functions, including sitting on the bench and making appearances.

Clothing allowance controversy
At one point after the dress code decision was announced, Denver Nuggets player Marcus Camby, who makes $8 million annually, said players should receive a clothing allowance. His comments were roundly criticized, but many players are now finding they can cut deals to receive free clothing in exchange for having their images used in ads.

In fact, long before the code existed, Joseph Abboud was supplying New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury with a free suit for all 82 regular-season games in exchange for appearing in print ads and at promotional events.

Knicks President Isiah Thomas “is a friend, and when he joined the Knicks he instituted a team dress code,” said Marty Staff, president-CEO of Joseph Abboud. “That’s how we hooked up with Steph. ... Many of these guys are cultural icons. It helps me if they become brand ambassadors.”

Dockers' offer
Dockers’ offer to the NBA was more tongue-in-cheek, said John Ordoña, director of nontraditional marketing. “We’re a lighthearted brand,” he said. “We really wanted to speak to our customers.”

Mr. Ordoña said he has received several calls from agents and players about the offer—consisting of five pairs of pants ($275), 10 shirts ($350), two pairs of shoes ($130), a sports coat ($150), nine pairs of socks ($30) and a reversible belt ($25). Total: $960 a player, or $432,000 for the 450 players on NBA rosters.

But not all the players are looking for a freebie. Mike O’Brien, CEO of Elevée, an exclusive, appointment-only couturier in Van Nuys, Calif., said he’s been inundated with requests from NBA players, thanks to a little word-of-mouth from one of its original customers -- former Los Angeles Laker and now Miami Heat star Shaquille O’Neal. In Mr. O’Brien’s 20,000-square-foot store, suits fetch as much as $15,000.

Book News: Tyler Perry Set to Publish First Novel

By James Wray

Tyler Perry is to bring character at the center of "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Madea Goes to Jail" to a new book, "Don't Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings: Madea's Uninhibited Commentaries on Love and Life" to Be published by Riverhead in 2006.

The popular playwright and performer who created the box office smash, "Diary of A Mad Black Woman," will write his first novel. The publishers say Perry will share his uniquely wise, endearing, and ferociously funny observations, advice, and beliefs in the book through the voice of his beloved character Madea Simmons.

Sean McDonald, Senior Editor, Riverhead Books comments, "For anyone who's witnessed any of Tyler's performances, on stage or screen, it's obvious how dynamically talented he is as a writer and as a performer. He's funny, sharp, and irreverent, but also inspiring, and he manages to instantly craft fully human drama, dialogue, and characters-most especially Madea, who is truly one of the great dramatic creations of our time.

"So it's thrilling (and a little terrifying) to be involved in bringing her voice to the pages of "Don't Make A Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings," he added.

Perry says, "I hope that my book will continue the same spirit of my other works; to make people laugh and give them something to think about to help their lives. I am so delighted to be associated with Riverhead and Penguin Group. As usual, Madea is insisting on having the first word."

We will keep you posted on further developments as they happen.

You can read more about "Diary of A Mad Black Woman" in our database and a review of the play "Madea Goes to Jail" on this page.

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