Tag Archives: A Capitol Fourth

Tom Bergeron Sparkler on 4th of July

bergeron pbsTom Bergeron expects to touch down in Washington, D.C., today, July 1, to start the whirlwind of activities leading up to his hosting of this year’s “A Capitol Fourth” gargantuan Independence Day concert on PBS. “I’ll do some satellite TV interviews alongside Kermit the Frog on the 2nd,” he reports, speaking of the greenest member of his talent line-up. “On the 3rd we do a dress rehearsal to which the public is invited, which is the whole show except the fireworks. And on the 4th of July, obviously, we do the live show.”

Bergeron credits the “Capitol Fourth” team for doing “all the heavy lifting, all the hard work” in preparing the concert that’s beamed around the globe each year. This year, the affable “Dancing With the Stars” and “Funniest Home Videos” host will be joined by Frankie Valli, Patti LaBelle, Phillip Phillips, Jordin Sparks, Michael McDonald, Sara Evans, Kendall Schmidt, Kelli O’Hara, the National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jack Everly — and John Williams in a special tribute to the National Anthem — plus The Muppets’ Miss Piggy as well as Kermit.

“There are so many lures involved in doing this. The fact that it’s live TV is certainly one. The fact that it is America’s premiere birthday party on PBS is another,” Bergeron says.
When the party is through, Bergeron and wife Lois will be taking a vacation on the West Coast for three weeks, and then he will shoot his final season of “America’s Funniest Videos.” He announced earlier this year that he was going to call it a wrap as host of the show that, as he’s pointed out, often revolves around someone taking a hit to the head, gut or groin. His feelings about ending his run now?

“Well, you know, it was my decision,” he says. “It’s the show’s 25th year. It will be my 15th year hosting, and it just felt like a good time to, as I’ve said, pass the pinata stick to somebody else.” As for who will be the new host, he says, “I’m hoping that will be part of what plays out during the season. They’ll be auditioning people, some tongue-in-cheek and some legitimately.”
Then it will be on to season 19 of “Dancing With the Stars” — coming off one of its best and best-rated seasons in recent years. The team is still enjoying the afterglow of viewer adoration for winners Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Meryl Davis, and for dazzling Paralympian Amy Purdy. “There were a number of other elements that people brought to their hearts this season, but I think those two were the key,” Bergeron says.

He does hear rumblings about celebrities who may become contenders for next season, but “I always play dumb,” he admits.

“It’s always better to unveil them all at once if possible. In late August, I imagine, we’ll announce the new cast. And they’ll have about three weeks to rehearse and get ready. Typically, it’s the middle of September that we premiere.”

When it comes to celebrities he’d like to see on “DWTS,” Bergeron thinks of “a friend of mine who I’ve often cited — he’ll never do it — William Shatner. I thought he would be great. He has said he’s willing to be a guest judge, but he’s not willing to put himself through all that hassle of actually competing. I can understand why. It becomes all-consuming, and more so as you get deeper into the run of the season because you’re doing more dances and it takes more of your time and commitment. But he’d be a riot.”

How about a Shatner guesting on “America’s Funniest Videos”?

“I would love to have him,” says Bergeron. “The stage we’re on is right next to where ‘Boston Legal’ used to shoot, so he’s familiar with the neighborhood.”

Jordin Sparks in Transition, Just Now ‘Discovering Who I Am’

Jordin Sparks segues from the New Kids On the Block/Backstreet Boys tour to a special engagement in Washington, D.C. this coming week, performing on PBS’s live “A Capitol Fourth” Independence Day celebration concert. (Check local listings.) Talk about a sudden change.

“It’s going to be so different — from the wardrobe to the audience to the stage. The thing that’s going to be the same is that I’m going to try to perform the best that I can,” says Jordin, who recently shed 30 pounds and is looking gorgeous. She’s singing “Beauty and the Beast” — accompanying a dance by Mark Ballas and Chelsie Hightower in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Disney animated classic. She is also set to sing the national anthem — one of the two most nerve-wracking performances she can imagine, she says, the other being a return to “American Idol.”

“I’ll be on the on the steps of the Capitol building, in our nation’s Capitol, singing the National Anthem on the day of our nation’s independence,” she points out. It doesn’t get much more American than that. The concert, hosted by Jimmy Smits, also features Steve Martin, Josh Groban, Matthew Morrison, Little Richard and Broadway’s Kelli O’Hara.

At 21, the youngest-ever “American Idol” winner (she won at age 17) feels her newly-svelte shape is part of a metamorphosis she’s undergoing that has to do with, well, growing up. “I’m just now discovering who I am and what I can do. It’s a transition. I’m coming into my own. I sort of have a different approach onstage now. The dancing, the choreography is definitely different from what I did last year,” she tells us. “It’s been really fun, discovering who I am and what I can do.”

Jordin Sparks I Am Woman

Her saucy “I Am Woman,” with its driving beat, is completely different for her, Jordin points out. It’s also completely different from the Helen Reddy feminist anthem of the same name decades ago. (Sample lyric: “It ain’t easy walkin’ in stilettos, but somebody gotta do it.”) Combined with the right video — one has yet to be made — it could capture the zeitgeist for the young 2010s woman in a big way. Jordin loves seeing girls get up and dance to it at concerts, as they have been.

She’ll soon take off on a string of one-off dates, then a Euro trip.  As for what’s next after that? “I did Broadway for a couple of months last fall — In the Heights. I loved it. I’d love to do Broadway again if the right part and story came along.” She’s also been working on her acting skills, and says, “I’d love to do a TV show or a movie.”

Pasty Faces Galore in New Robert Pattinson Film

While Robert Pattinson is busy celebrating the box office bonanza of  “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” there’s also work to be done.  He’s in the midst of shooting “Water for Elephants” with Reese Witherspoon, which has been locationing in downtown L.A. the last couple of days with at least some cast members who apparently share Edward Cullen’s pasty pallor.

Forces on the film have been seeking proficient Foxtrot dancers who are not only Caucasian, but “very, very pale – not a suntan at all,” who are thin, with no implants and no piercings, according to casting notices.  There was also the need for a very pale cigarette girl, and a very pale man with a 32-inch waist.  The pallid faces and thinness have nothing to do with vampires on this movie, of course.  Based on Sara Gruen’s acclaimed novel, it is set in the 1930’s Great Depression and, as notices remind, “nobody’s doing well.”

MORE THAN A PARTY:  Happy Independence Day to one and all, and a thoughtful note from Jimmy Smits, who is hosting the 30th Annual “A Capitol 4th” event being carried on PBS from the nation’s Capitol.  After performances from the likes of David Archuleta, Reba McEntire and Gladys Knight, the show ends with a phantasmagoria of fireworks.  “To have this fireworks display in Washington, D.C. is so moving because of the backdrops of the national monuments,” notes Smits.  “Being that we’re in a time of conflict and having young people serving and protecting us, to me, it kind of focuses what it is that the fireworks represent for the country.”

THE INDUSTRY EYE:  Tricky casting challenge on Gavin Polone’s movie showing the behind-the-scenes drama of making 1973’s landmark “An American Family” documentary series.  They need to find an actor who can play Dick Cavett in that  era when he was the intellectual choice for late night viewing.  Lance Loud – being portrayed by Thomas Dekker in the movie – notoriously guested on the old Cavett show.  Diane Lane and Tim Robbins play Lance’s parents.

Smits’ New Series to be Spiked With Real-life Controversy

Jimmy Smits

Expect Jimmy Smits’ forthcoming “Outlaw” drama to be fueled by hot button issues, attention-grabbing news blasts and tough controversies.  That’s the word from the star himself, who points out, “My years of working on ‘The West Wing’ did cement in my mind the fact that there is an audience out there for topical stories.”

“Outlaw,” as you may know, has him as a Supreme Court Justice who steps down.  “The way we’re positing the character is that during his time on the bench, he’s been one of the more conservative-leaning judges.  His father, you see in the pilot, is an activist, kind of liberal.  When his father dies, it causes him to reassess what he wants to do in his life,” Jimmy explains.  “He decides he can make more of an impact by going around the country, trying cases.

“It’s exciting trying to do something a little bit out the box there,” he adds.  “This character is edgy and not predictable.”

He reports that he’s seeing outlines for the shows’ scripts as the writers work away, with plans for production to start the second week of July.  Before he steps before the “Outlaw” cameras, however, the actor — who now holds the distinction of playing both the President of the United States and a Supreme Court Justice on TV series — heads to Washington, D.C., appropriately enough.  He’s hosting the 30thAnnual “A Capitol Fourth” Independence Day mega-event before a crowd of a quarter million on the lawn of the Capitol building – plus millions of viewers at home via PBS.

“I’m always psyched to do it.  My family loves it,” he says.  “They always try to be as eclectic as possible in terms of the performers, to have a real tapestry of our country, and this year they’ve done it in a really big way.  David Archuleta from ‘Idol,’ Gladys Knight, Reba McEntire, Darius Rucker, and the National Symphony Orchestra, which is going to do a wonderful tribute to Erich Kunzel” — who died last year, having conducted at the event for 20 years.  Then there’s the other big “Capitol Fourth draw.  Notes Jimmy, “I grew up in New York, so fireworks on the 4th of July is a way of life.”

Darius Rucker: ‘Everything’s Happening at Once’

Darius Rucker U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis

Darius Rucker reports he’s about to make a video to go out in conjunction with his new “Come Back Song” single – which is about a guy who is miserable since his girl left, not about Rucker’s transformation from hit-challenged Hootie and the Blowfish lead to hot country star over the past couple of years.  “Everything is happening soon,” says Rucker, who is also part of the lineup for this year’s “A Capitol Fourth” celebration.

“They just called me out of the blue and I was really happy about it,” he reports, speaking of the 4th of July song and fireworks spectacular taking place on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol.  He’ll be on a bill led by host Jimmy Smits and including David Archuleta, Gladys Knight and Reba McEntire.  Though he doesn’t know exactly what he’ll be performing, he’s looking forward to joining his stellar colleagues onstage.  “Some people are going to jam together and it’s going to be fun.”

Rucker’s touring all summer, mostly with Brad Paisley.  His second country album is coming out in the fall.  “It’s super busy, but the great thing about being in country music is you can tour on the weekends and be home three or four days a week.”  Besides, his two daughters and his son, as well as his wife,  Beth, come out to see him on tour.  “They’re getting old,” he says of his offspring, who range from 15 to five.  “They all say they’re going to be in music.”  Time will tell.

COME AS YOU ARE:  Joey Lawrence, who returns to series TV in August with “Melissa and Joey” — his ABC Family sitcom also starring Melissa Joan Hart — says he’s grown to appreciate his TV fan base more and more as years have passed.  The actor who rose to fame as the teen heartthrob of “Gimme a Break!” and “Blossom” notes, “When you’re on a show like that, you’re sort of on TV forever and that’s a really cool thing.  People have watched you while they’re eating breakfast in the morning, or at night with their friends or sitting in their underwear.  You get such a loyal following.”   Plus, one doesn’t have to be pigeon-holed.  As Lawrence reminds, “Will Smith, Tom Hanks, John Travolta – they all started in TV.”  Lawrence is developing features for himself under his own production banner.

HERE AND THERE:  Stefanie Powers, who’ll play Norma Desmond in a stand of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Sunset Boulevard” in Maine this summer, is also taking on a role in a low-budget indie shooting in L.A., we hear.  It’s called “Three Days” and it has to do with actors in a radio play.  The wild animal preservationist and one-time “Hart to Hart” heroine has just wrapped up work on her forthcoming memoir for Simon & Schuster.