Monday, March 29, 2010

How excited are you about "Glee"?

You've memorized all of Sue Sylvester's best lines. You've practiced singing "Take a Bow" into your hairbrush while staring into the mirror. You're so excited for April 13 that you can hardly get through a day without re-watching this.

Sound like someone you know? Good! Because in honor of the insanely popular Fox TV series, "Glee" -- which returns for nine new episodes next month -- I'm trying to track down some of the show's biggest Charlotte-area fans so I can get their answer to one simple question: Why do you love this show so much??

If you're a "Gleek" (or know someone who is), please e-mail me at ASAP ... and you might wind up being a part of a "Glee"-focused story that will appear in an upcoming edition of The Charlotte Observer!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Intimidated? You should be.

Thrill-seekers who got a sneak peek Friday at the Carowinds’ brand-new Dale Earnhardt-themed “Intimidator” ride weren’t just on a literal roller coaster, but an emotional one as well.

Among the feelings elicited by what’s billed as the tallest, fastest and longest coaster in the Southeast:

Regret. “About halfway up, I thought we’d made a mistake,” said Rock Hill resident Mike Daly, 62. The ride starts with a long, slow climb to a huge initial drop, which measures 211 feet and dives at a 74-degree angle.

Disgust. “I had to close my mouth because I wasn’t feeling too good,” said Colton Clyburn, 11, also of Rock Hill. (He ended up reboarding at least two more times after that.)

Fear. Said Kelsey Peigler, a 17-year-old Olympic High School student: “I thought I was gonna fall out of my seat!”

The $23 million steel coaster – which boasts almost a mile of track and surges to speeds up to 80 mph – is being unveiled today, when Carowinds opens for the season.

Oh, and just remember: Once the safety restraint locks into place and the train begins to glide forward, you’re not getting off the ride for another 3 minutes and 33 seconds. No matter how much or how loud you scream.

Carowinds theme park is open from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. today and from 10 to 6 Sunday. Tickets are $22-$55. Details: 704-588-2600;

Thursday, March 25, 2010

He's got plenty of 'Jersey' pride now

Rick Elice was born in Manhattan, and as a kid growing up in New York, he didn’t care much for New Jersey.

He only had to put up with the Garden State when his parents would make the 45-mile drive down to see his aunt and uncle’s family in Middletown. But he hated it.

“New Jersey was always associated, for me, with very, very bad smells, very, very claustrophobic car rides, and varying degrees of nausea because of the smells and the car rides,” Elice says.

Then he co-wrote “Jersey Boys” with Marshall Brickman. And now?

“Oh,” he says, “it’s my favorite place in the whole world!”

The hugely successful and popular Broadway musical – which begins an all-but-sold-out three-week run at Belk Theater in Charlotte on Wednesday – centers on the rise and fall of The Four Seasons. The pop-rock group was founded by Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio in Newark, N.J.

Elice and Brickman wrote the book for the show and received a Tony Award nomination in 2006 for their efforts, but Elice says it’s the music that ultimately makes the play work.

“The connection that I see in the theater between people and the songs is really palpable, and very, very moving, and blasts the show into that rarefied place of real smash hit. I’d like to take credit for it … but the fact is, when those songs start coming, the audience goes into almost like a feeding frenzy.

“I imagine that almost anybody could have written this show, and I’m just glad that we did.”

In Sunday’s Carolina Living section in the Charlotte Observer, hear more from Elice and get the dirt on N.J. from four real-life Jersey boys.

O.A.R. plans another visit to Charlotte

O.A.R. has announced it will return to the Uptown Amphitheatre at The N.C. Music Factory on Friday, Aug. 13. The rock band also played the outdoor stage there in October.

Fans will not only hear hits like "Shattered," "That Was a Crazy Game of Poker," and "This Town," but they will also be treated to brand-new music from O.A.R.'s forthcoming seventh studio album. Citizen Cope will open the show.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, April 16 at, the amphitheater box office, Ticketmaster, or charge-by-phone (1-800-745-3000).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Best movie strip scenes ever

This is straight from a press release sent today by a publicist at 5wpr in New York:

While various "Best Movie Striptease Scenes" lists pop up around the web, they're typically ranked by the Web sites themselves. What's a better way of finding out if the actors were realistic in their portrayals than to ask strippers themselves?

In light of this, SCORES, the world famous gentlemen's club in New York City, has ranked the Top 10 Best Striptease Scenes in Movies, as chosen by its dancers. Below, please find the results of the poll taken by SCORES girls.
  1. Demi Moore in "Striptease"
  2. Jamie Lee Curtis in "True Lies"
  3. The Men of "The Full Monty" in "The Full Monty"
  4. Salma Hayek in "From Dusk Till Dawn"
  5. Natalie Portman in "Closer"
  6. Jessica Alba in "Sin City"
  7. Daryl Hannah in "Dancing at the Blue Iguana"
  8. Elizabeth Berkley in "Showgirls"
  9. Kim Basinger in "9-1/2 Weeks"
  10. Elisha Cuthbert in "The Girl Next Door"
(Blogger's note: Sorry, you'll have to find the clips on your own...)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cobra Coley not returning to Charlotte

UPDATE: From a spokesperson at Time Warner Cable Arena: "Turns out Cobra is not playing here on Saturday. He’s on a different unit now and will be in another city."

As a student at UNC Charlotte, Charlie Coley rarely got out of his comfort zone.

He hung out at Concord Mills. Ate at the Waffle House in Concord, or the O’Charley’s on University City Boulevard. Otherwise, Coley said, “I pretty much stayed on campus, or at home.”

That was before he became known as “Cobra,” before he started trotting the globe with Harlem’s most famous basketball team.

Since graduating from UNC Charlotte in 2009 and signing with the Harlem Globetrotters last September, “Cobra” Coley has blocked shots in Central America, slam-dunked in China, and dazzled familes from coast to coast. On March 20, he’ll return to briefly to Charlotte, when he joins the exhibition basketball team for its annual display of antics at Time Warner Cable Arena.

“I’m really excited. I’m getting e-mails all the time about it,” says Coley, who has many friends here, in addition to a fiancee who still attends UNC Charlotte. He expects to play two quarters during the game.

In his senior year, the 6-foot-7 Coley averaged 8.9 points and 6.8 rebounds. But he was best-known for defying gravity with his 40-inch vertical leap. He executed slams in dunk contests that included hurdling a chair set on top of a table, jumping over 6-10 teammate Phil Jones, and soaring over 49ers guard DiJuan Harris as he pedaled a stationary bike.

“I could jump over anything pretty much,” says Coley, 23, who also once dunked over a car on a street in Miami. “Put a prop there, I can jump over it, make it look good.”

Coley says the Globetrotters gave him the “Cobra” nickname simply because it rhymes with his last name. But he’s embraced it: After he makes a great play or move, he flashes his “Cobra” sign – which basically has him moving his right hand around like a snake. It always draws affectionate hisses from young fans.

And the fans are what keep him going.

“You don’t know what kind of problems (they may) have,” he says. “Maybe they came to the game just to kind of cheer up, get their minds off everything. So to go out there and put a smile on somebody’s face, that’s like the best thing ever.”

The Harlem Globetrotters play an exhibition game at Time Warner Cable Arena (333 E. Trade St.) at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 20. Tickets are $22-$125. Details: 1-800-745-3000;

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Justin Bieber to visit TWC Arena

Lady Gaga is yesterday's news. Today, Time Warner Cable Arena announced that 16-year-old pop star Justin Bieber will bring his first headlining tour to the uptown Charlotte venue on Aug. 8.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 27 through,, the Time Warner Cable Arena box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, or by calling 800-745-3000. Reggae rapper Sean Kingston (best-known for "Beautiful Girls") will open.

Bieber's new single, "U Smile," was released this week. Judge it for yourself here:

The pop star is also set to make two appearances on "The View" to promote his sophomore album, "My World 2.0": He'll reportedly perform an acoustic version of "Never Let You Go" on March 22 and come back to perform "Baby" with a full band the next day.

What do you think? Is this kid talented, or terrible? Cute, or creepy?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lady Gaga is coming to Charlotte

Lady Gaga is returning to Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, this time as a headliner.

The glam-pop queen, who opened for New Kids on the Block when they played the Bobcats' home venue in October 2008, will close out her 2010 "Monster Ball" tour with two Carolinas dates: Sept. 18 in Charlotte, then Sept. 19 at the RBC Center in Raleigh.

According to the Live Nation press release: "In keeping with Lady Gaga's flair for the theatrical, as well as her innovative and creative spirit ... the tour promises to push the limits of the live concert experience, bringing fans an (eye-popping) spectacle."

"It has a New York theme, it's a story, and the story is that me and my friends are in New York and we're going to the Monster Ball, and we get lost," Lady Gaga said in a February radio interview with Ryan Seacrest on L.A.'s KIIS-FM.

Lady Gaga's five singles -- "Just Dance," "Poker Face," "Lovegame," "Paparazzi," and "Bad Romance" -- have sold more than 30 million singles worldwide. Lady Gaga recently premiered the video for her new single "Telephone," featuring Beyoncé, on the E! television network and entertainment website VEVO. See it here. (Warning: Explicit content.)

On-sale date will be announced this spring. Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Irish pub makes a welcome, timely return

When I was a kid, there was this series of ads for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups that used the slogan “Two great tastes that taste great together.”

I would like to make a motion to bring that tagline back, but instead attach it to my favorite Irish meal: the Beef and Guinness Stew at the newly refurbished Rí Rá in uptown Charlotte.

The pub’s signature dish – chunks of meat simmered in the dry stout beer, with carrots, pearl onions and mashed potatoes – is just as rich and flavorful as it was before a fire last May did $1 million damage and shut down the spot on Tryon Street for more than 10 months. Rí Rá reopened March 1.

Originally, the owners had hoped to reopen late last summer, but still, their timing is impeccable: Next Wednesday is St. Patrick’s Day. And where do partiers want to hang out on St. Patrick’s Day? Somewhere that feels Irish.

Few places feel more authentically Irish than Rí Rá, which was one of the first Irish bars in uptown when it opened in 1997 and has been fully restored with its etched glass panels from the 1800s, its St. Patrick statue thought to be more than a century old, and its beautiful, original 19th century Victorian Dublin bar.

The pub will begin its St. Patrick’s Day celebration when it opens at 9 a.m. Saturday; it’ll also have a float in the parade along Tryon Street at 11 a.m. Then on Wednesday, Rí Rá will open at 8 a.m. and beginning at 2 p.m. will host nearly 12 hours of live music, including a “traditional Irish session” in the afternoon and modern alt-rock covers by U-Phonik from 10 p.m. till last call.

If you go, do try the Beef and Guinness Stew. Or, if you’re a vegetarian, ask your server to hold the beef and the stew, and put what's left in a pint glass.

Rí Rá is at 208 N. Tryon St. Hours are 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. daily. 704-333-5554.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A little rain won't stop Paddy's Day parade

Frank Hart hopes the luck of the Irish is on his side this weekend.

It certainly wasn’t with him last March: The St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival he and his wife Linda organize here was postponed due to rain. It wound up taking place after the holiday instead of beforehand, and several invited guests – including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent Peter Gorman, initially tabbed as the parade’s grand marshal – couldn’t make the new date.

The forecast for Saturday, when the 2010 event is taking place? Thirty percent chance of showers.

“I think it’s just gonna be something passing through,” said a hopeful Frank Hart earlier today. He indicated there was a zero percent chance of a postponement this time around. “Last year was different, I mean, last year was like 39 and 90 percent chance of rain and there was a big front coming in.”

Saturday, Gorman will finally handle grand marshal duties (then-Mayor Pat McCrory filled in last year); the parade will feature more than 100 groups and organizations, from “Star Wars” re-enactors to drumlines and about a dozen floats; the festival will offer Irish food, vegetarian food, nearly 60 vendors, a balloon artist, sand art, and inflatables for kids.

The Charlotte Goes Green Festival runs 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. on Tryon Street between First and Third streets. The parade starts at 11 a.m. at Tryon and Ninth streets and proceeds south to Tryon and Third streets. Details: 803-802-1678 or

Monday, March 8, 2010

Creed to perform before NASCAR race

From a Charlotte Motor Speedway press release that just popped into my inbox:

CONCORD, N.C. - Grammy Award-winning rock group Creed will perform a pre-race concert presented by Native Trading Associates for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, May 22, at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The 75-minute concert begins at 3:15 p.m. in the infield between Turns 1 and 2. Admission to the concert is free with the purchase of a ticket to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and tickets start at just $39.

Creed has sold nearly 35 million albums, delivered numerous chart-topping records and was the first act to have seven consecutive number one rock radio singles.

"I love North Carolina and performing at Charlotte Motor Speedway during a NACAR event is really exciting, especially for an amazing crowd of passionate racing fans," said Scott Stapp, lead singer of Creed. "Watching the incredible speed is an awesome experience that makes this sport so spectacular to me."

The Florida-based group formed after lead singer Scott Stapp and guitarist Mark Tremonti, high school classmates and friends at Florida State University, decided to form a band, and then recruited Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips to complete the act.

In 1997 Creed released their debut album, My Own Prison, followed by their sophomore record, Human Clay, in 1999. In 2001, the band released their third album, Weathered, which sold more copies in the first week than any other rock release in 2001 and tied the Beatles Anthology for the most consecutive weeks (eight) at No. 1 on the Billboard's Top 200 chart.

In 2001, the band won a Grammy for best rock song for "With Arms Wide Open," and was voted Favorite Group in 2003 on the People's Choice Awards. Creed has also won numerous American Music Awards and Billboard Music Awards throughout their illustrious career.

In October 2009, Wind-up Records released Full Circle, the band's first album of new material since 2001. Full Circle represents the band's long journey from past to present, with the first single, "Overcome,"

spotlighting Creed's remarkable transformation and comeback onto the rock scene.

Creed's performance at the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race will be made possible thanks to presenting sponsor, Native Trading Associates, who will work in conjunction with Charlotte Motor Speedway officials to present race fans with this spectacular pre-race rock concert.

"Native Trading Associates is thrilled to team up with Charlotte Motor Speedway to bring Creed to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Weekend,"

said Susan Jesmer, owner of Native Trading Associates. "With three multi-platinum albums and a Grammy Award, Creed has made a much-anticipated reunion to the delight of their fans. It is our honor to bring the diehard fans of NASCAR a band of such caliber on the American rock scene. We look forward to an extra special, rockin' race weekend."

Charlotte Motor Speedway is the home of NASCAR's biggest back-to-back race weekends with the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on May 22, and the Coca-Cola 600 on May 30. Tickets and interest free payment plans are available by calling the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS or online at Connect with Charlotte Motor Speedway by following on Twitter at or become a Facebook fan at

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mez rolls out red carpet for Oscar bash

Over the past decade, Charlotte’s Oscar Night America gala/fundraiser has bounced from venue to venue to venue.

Ballantyne Resort in 2002. Then to the Hilton. Then the Omni. Then back to the Hilton in 2008, and over to the Belk Theater in ’09.

This year, the 11th annual party – scheduled to coincide with the Academy Awards ceremony on ABC Sunday night – is in yet another new location: Mez at the EpiCentre Theatres, a spot that comes closer than any before it to fitting the theme of the evening. And a spot that may solve some problems from past years.

“The feedback was that some people want to party and take the odd glance at what’s going on (with the Oscar telecast); other people said even though the party was great, they really missed not being able to see and hear everything,” says Dianne Stewart, organizer of the local Oscar Night America bash, which is sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

So partygoers on Sunday will get a reserved seat in one of the three movie theaters in which Mez will be displaying the live feed of the pre-show and the ceremony. At the same time, the HDTVs in Mez’s lounge will carry the action. “Then those who really want to party can do so,” Stewart says, “but they won’t be disturbing those folks that are in the movie house that actually want to watch the show.”

If Mez is as perfect a venue as she hopes, the event may not need to be moved again for a long time. …

Stewart expects about 300 guests Sunday. Tickets are $75 per person, and cover cocktails and soft drinks, snacks, desserts, swag bags, and access to a silent auction (featuring a Vespa scooter, entertainment packages and more). All proceeds will benefit United Family Services programs, including support of the construction of a battered women’s shelter here in Charlotte. The party starts at 7 p.m.

For details, call 704-777-4842 or log onto