The voice of Aretha Franklin shines in full operatic aria in ‘The Upside’ movie with star Kevin Hart

Music travels with us throughout our lives. It makes the world go round. For many, it is a lifesaver, gateway to the soul and makes up the soundtrack of our lives. Like the great reggae artist,  Bob Marley so eloquently says, “When the  beat hits, you feel no pain.”

photo by @debrafrombrooklyn

NYC based Influencer @debrafrombrooklyn rocks stripped pants and purple booties at a screening of ‘The Upside’ movie in Manhattan

 

This brings me to the recent release of ‘The Upside‘ a comedy-drama starring funny guy Kevin Hart taking a spin at a serious role opposite thespian Bryan Cranston and Oscar winner Nicole Kidman. The movie which features the music of late music icon, Aretha Franklin is a remake of the 2011 French movie, ‘The Intouchables’  which starred  Omar Sy and  Francois Cluzet.  In this American remake, the concept is kept pretty much the same but lacks the full-on heartwarming charm and inspiration that the  French version exuded thanks in parts to Sy.  The movie, based on a true story, tells the story of two men from different backgrounds culturally and financially, who change each other lives for the better. Hart plays Dell, an ex-con out on parole hired as the caretaker of Phillip (Cranston), a billionaire and quadriplegic, the result of a paragliding accident. Kidman plays Phillip’s assistant.

The movie is the first comedy-drama released for  2019. That it includes a soundtrack featuring the music of the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin   who passed away in August of 2018 will definitely lend to getting lots of music fans talking and filling theater seats. I had the opportunity to attend a recent screening in New York City, given by the  MOMS .

New dad Kevin Hart chats with The MOMS, Denise Albert  and Melissa Gerstein

New dad Kevin Hart chats with The MOMS, Denise Albert, and Melissa Gerstein …..photo by @debrafrombrooklyn

 

Aretha’s musical chords are woven perfectly into scenes. Hart himself even gives it a go, with a comedic spin, of course, singing on the much beloved  “Think”.  Four of Franklin’s songs appear on the movie’s soundtrack, each song adding flair to the storyline, like when  Dell is overcome with his appreciation of classical music while attending the opera alongside  Phillip and hearing  Nessun Dorma sung superbly by the Queen of Soul.

Surprisingly, taking the #1 Weekend Box Office opening position away from front runner  ‘Aquaman‘ which is holding high with billion dollar sales worldwide, ‘The Upside’ on its Jan 11-13 opening weekend cemented itself to the list of movies featuring  Aretha’s music that went on to become memorable.

 

Like I said music makes everything better.  I felt that the music saved the ‘Upside.’  The movie could definitely have been better. If I had to watch the movie again I would probably opt for the French version as Hart and Cranston didn’t fully click like Sy and Cluzet. The movie did showcase that if given more opportunities  Kevin Hart should really try dipping into more dramatic roles but without the funny.  Finally,  I would also ask Hollywood to stop going back to that old drawing board script that depicts black male characters as ex-cons, dead beat dads or not privy to a socially elite lifestyle.

 

With that being said out of 10  popcorn bowls The Upside  gets 5

Want to check out ‘The Upside’ movie  soundtrack take a listen here at the website Lyric Soundtrack.

Want to see the 2012 French version  ‘The Intouchables’  which starred  Omar Sy as the lovable  Driss a down and outer from the projects of Paris and Francois Cluzet playing the role of Phillipe. Watch here

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by Debra Lewis-Boothman

 

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HODA KOTB’S INSPIRATIONAL NEW BOOK MOTIVATES TO FIND YOUR CALLING IN LIFE

Are you searching for a new book to inspire you? One that will motivate you to make a change, in you! Then, look no more because  crownheightsmom has the perfect book for you.Trust me, there is no better time than now, to start reading a  book like this. Let me present, best-selling author and TV host Hoda Kotb’s newest book,Where We Belong : Journeys That Show Us The Way  . It is a definite must-read that will leave you inspired, motivated  and possibly rethinking  your life path and and where you belong.

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I  just got through   reading this book which I  received   recently at a  MOMS  and Secret Resorts & Spa   luncheon  and book signing with Kotb.  The event, held  at Manhattan’s Hunt and Fish restaurant  in mid January  made for an wonderful afternoon that was filled with  laughter, tears , the sharing of personal stories and a delicious meal  amongst a group of mom bloggers—all fans and cheerleaders, of Hoda Kotb .

The book, released on Jan  5 is filled  with  inspiring stories of  individuals who answered “the call”  from within.  Individuals, whom were able to  the answer the questions each of us will ultimately ask ourself one day. The questions of what is your life purpose and where do you belong?

Hoda explains it  best  when  she writes in the book—-Most of us wonder what we’re doing. We float around in the glass half-empty, gaze out into the world of possibilities, and wonder if we should get off of our raft and climb out. Maybe even today you asked yourself: Is it too late to do that thing that made me so happy when I was young? Could what matters most to me finally be the center of my life? Can I really trust this yearning voice in my head and longing in my heart? Do I feel like I’m where I belong?

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In person,  Kotb is very much what you see daily on Kathie Lee & Hoda. During the fourth hour of Today alongside  Kathie Lee Giffords she is witty,  fun and  full of big smiles. In person she is the same way.

Hoda Kotb at the MOMS HodaMamarazzi

Hoda Kotb at the MOMS HodaMamarazzi

 

The mom bloggers chewed down on  delicious eats from Hunt and Fish including servings of salmon, chicken, pasta , salad and even french fries . To wash it down they  sipped on speciality  fruit drinks .Midway through the luncheon  Hoda walked in dressed in a vibrant fuchsia and purple dress that popped against her  tanned skin tone . Greeting the more than 30 moms in the room she took out her cell phone  and started takings pics of everyone in the room  before sitting down with MOMS co-creators Denise Albert and Melissa  Gerstein for a frank 20-minute girl  chat about the new book, surviving cancer, getting  divorced and her wish to have children.They were joined by her  co-writer Jane Lorenzini.

More than 30 mom bloggers attended  the  special MOMS' Hoda Mamarazzi luncheon

More than 30 mom bloggers attended the special MOMS’ Hoda Mamarazzi luncheon

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The yummy salmon, a favorite was the first serving on the delicious menu to go.

 

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These fruity non-alcoholic drinks from Hunt and Fish were a big hit

The breast cancer survivor and former Dateline correspondent   really impressed the   bloggers .She shared so much of herself  and  even  gave out  hugs in addition  to signing books  for everyone.

About  surviving  breast cancer she shared.  “I wrote in my journal every day.” Adding,  “at the bottom I would write one word . That one word  everyday was FORWARD, because I wanted to keep moving . I wanted to move forward .  Kotb would have that word  written on a ring  which she wears daily . Says the  journalist, “whenever I get scared, I look down.”

On regrets she tells the  group, “all of a sudden life gets away from you and you ask, what happened? I  look at my life now and every time I see a baby carriage or a baby stroller I melt. It happens every single time and it is hard,” Kotb  shares about not having kids of her own. She goes on to say, “I feel like something is missing but what do you do when you can’t fill that space?  How  do you do it?”The answer  she says  can be seen  with  a family in the book who  adopted late in life or as  Kotb recalls from personal experience when, ” I looked at PEOPLE magazine and I saw Sandra Bullock, [adopted ] and you go look what she  did .  I always thought about maybe starting a summer camp for kids. I thought that would help or that I wanted to be a school teacher.”

 

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Hoda and the MOMS’ Denise Albert and Melissa  Gerstein share a laugh

So  adoption  just might be an answer  for  Kotb. Says  the journalist, “Something is missing!  And you know, the people in the book did say   often you don’t know what is missing until you find it.  All of a sudden you  go ‘How have I lived this long without X. So there are a lot of things I am thinking  about.”

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Sharing a smile and a hug with Hoda

Kotb uses her life path as a  teaching tool .”I  got married late in life. ….. I had a failed marriage ….and I  had breast cancer.” Adds the  on air personality, ” If I didn’t  get sick I wouldn’t have  had the guts to go in and ask for this job.”

Hoda couldn’t agree more that  the book comes at a great time of the year as  people make their New Years resolutions and self reflect.  “Now around the first of the year  people are rethinking their lives and wondering what they should be doing. ” Or ,as she also puts it quite eloquently,  “suddenly you feel like, am I just taking the path of least resistance,  just sorta  hopping on the train  and letting it go or am I choosing? ” Adds Kotb, “the thing about this book is everybody  chose.They put their hands on the steering wheels and they drove!”

 

Part of the reason  I love what I am doing now [with Kathie Lee] is for the first time in my life we get to bring JOY.–HODA KOTB

 

Kotb is  in the drivers seat .Joining the  fourth hour of Today  alongside  Kathie Lee in 2008 she says she loves it there  but can still remembers to that time when she did not find her purpose. She tells the story of covering  Hurricane Katrina  and the effect it had on her [She used to live in New Orleans].  “When you cover something that is personal you really feel it. Covering Katrina  made me think about all the other stories I’d  covered that weren’t personal to me  but were personal to somebody and I wished I had handled it differently because sometimes as  journalist you go in and you go out because you don’t have time to put your whole heart into it . It hurts your heart to do it over and over  and part of the reason is that you kinda get hardened .”

I love what I  am doing now ( with Kathie Lee)because  for the first time in my life we get to bring joy.We get to lift people up and it is cool.”

 

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Hoda alongside the MOMS and her co-writer Jane

 

Even with two New York Times  bestsellers behind her– Ten Years Later: Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives and Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee she  continues to be the genuine no-airs-about-me, lovable and approachable on-air personality  viewers are drawn to.

Hoda says it best when she says,  “There is something to be said for being exactly who you are authentically, because if you are not, people sense it.” .

So true Hoda…..so true .Continue to  stay exactly who you are. This is why we love you! ———by Debra Lewis-Boothman

 

 

 

Joan and Melissa Rivers

WHY ‘THE BOOK OF JOAN’ FROM MELISSA RIVERS MADE ME CRAZY ABOUT HER MOM JOAN ALL OVER AGAIN……By Debra Lewis-Boothman

That was quick! Yup, the lazy days of  summer has begun and with it comes the task of choosing  books that will get  you through lots of hot days by the  pool and at the lake.  I’ve already  planned a weekend  trip to the legendary family-owned bookstore  the  Strand. If I am lucky  I might even bump into  Nancy  who runs the store with her dad Fred.  I haven’t seen Nancy since our kids attended nursery school together.

strandbookstorecrownheightsmom.com

 

I  put my  summer reading  list together weeks ago . It’s an eclectic list ranging from  Chick Lit to memoirs, poetry  books to a few   DIY-ers – learning how to Code and even one on  how to build a doghouse .

In  just a few days  the family and I will  head to Pennsylvania  to officially start our summer vacation. I’ve  made the necessary stops at the library to pick up the  kids’ books for their required summer reading,  With reading materials put on reserve for pickup  our  evenings for  reading are squared away and will be filled with adventures, laughs and visits to far off lands thanks in part to our books.

One title I am looking forward to curling up with  is the Melissa Rivers bestselling  memoir,  ‘The Book of Joan.’

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I’ve had this book a few weeks now but  have held off reading saving it for my summer reading. Having only skimmed over the first chapter I am besides myself to just  dig in and read it all in one non-stop go.

Skimming through the bestseller,

Skimming through the bestseller, “The Book Of Joan” by Melissa Rivers.

After  meeting and  and hearing Melissa speak about her mom at  a  luncheon during  her  NYC  press tour I grew to like her even more than before.  I was even lucky enough to  have my copy of her memoir personally signed by her. So this book  is a define keepsake.

Melissa Rivers signature  in The Book of Joan

Melissa Rivers signed this copy of crownheightsmom’s ‘ Book of Joan’.

Since its release, the book has been climbing the bestseller charts and is  currently sitting on the New York Times,  the Los Angeles Times’ and  USA Todays’ Bestsellers books lists.

A quick sneak peek in  Chapter One  already  has me in stitches.  I can already tell  this is going to be  lots of laughs-out-loud. I am  literally rolling on the floor as Melissa retells events from her life with her mum.  Joan truly shines through each pages and  at every mention .

I am pleased that Melissa was able to take readers into the  world  she shared with her mother,  giving readers a  first class, front row seats into their wacky, funny and  loving family life. I can’t wait to read even more. 

When Melissa arrived  at  the MOMS event  held at Juniper Bar  in Midtown Manhattan,  I half expected to see Joan  following directly behind her.Smiling, she greeted everyone with a wide  smile and  an excited “Hello everybody.”   Dressed in a fun floral swing dress  to the knees and copper pumps she quickly took her seat next to  hosts Denise Albert  and Melissa Musen Gerstein the co-creators of The MOMS . The trio  chatted about everything Joan and family life.

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I left the event feeling that Melissa Rivers   is funny as hell. It was  clearly visible  how alike in personalities she and mom Joan really are.

Writing the book gave me permission to laugh.-—Melissa Rivers

Melissa looked happy and  everyone present noticed it. It  was good to see that  8 months after her mother’s passing the single mom was   looking healthy and happy.

“I don’t come from a family where you sit in a puddle and fall apart,” Rivers said off the bat in  dealing with the loss of her mum,  Joan’s death in 2014 she says plainly, ” You get up and you go forward.”

The MOMS discuss

Denise Albert [L],Melissa Rivers and Melissa Musen Gerstein [R] chat about Joan Rivers.

Readers  will come away knowing  how kind  my mother was and how real she was.”  – Melissa Rivers

Melissa Rivers poses with mom bloggers  in NYC

Melissa Rivers poses with The MOMS, CrownHeightsMom and other mom bloggers at Juniper Bar in NYC

After Joan was buried  Melissa  jumped head first into writing her memoir. Thanks to  her editor whom she she recalled meeting  the day  of the funeral when, as Melissa tells the  story  “this lady walked up to me extended her condolences   and proceeded  to kindly place a business card  into my hands.”  The rest is history – the result a well written and  oh so funny memoir  that will make Joan proud.

CrownHeigthsMom posing with Melissa Rivers

Melissa Rivers and Debra Lewis-Boothman

This  book  gives you a moment to laugh.”–Melissa Rivers

Writing the book say Melissa  brought comfort as well as a flurry of emotions– joy and tears. “I sat for a few hours every day  and a couple of times every week with my writing partner and I remembered funny stories and it allowed me to laugh. It gave me permission where nobody can judge me. It’s a funny book.Writing the book gave me permission to laugh.  Melissa  adds that these feelings and memories  spawned a bigger mission for her—preserving her mother’s legacy.

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On June 8  the GRAMMY Museum debuted its latest exhibit, Joan Rivers: Can We Talk?  to commemorate the comedian’s life . Joan won a posthumous Grammy in February for Best Spoken Word  for her  Diary of a Mad Diva. The current Grammy exhibit  showcases various stage costumes worn by  Joan during her career. It  also features family  photos, her Hollywood Walk of Fame Star award,  her hardcover book collection- including several of her New York Times bestsellers, the 1984 Harvard Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year Award,  her 1990 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk/Service Show Host and  one of her  Louis Vuitton travel trunks. The exhibit runs  through September 20th.

Going it alone  without both parents, Melissa says she misses them (her dad  passed away when she was almost  18) but,  she has kept going for her only child,  Cooper 14. “Having kids changes the dynamics of how you get through grief”  says Melissa . “You get up and you move forward,” she says,  adding, “That is how we have lived our whole live. There are days  that are angry days, some  that are painful days  and that’s fine. ” Adds the proud mom,   “My son needs to see that there is light at the end of every tunnel. Yes, there are days that are horrible and it sucks, but we are going through it.  The example has to be that life continues and it does. That is what your parents would want you to show your children.”

Joan and Melissa Rivers

Melissa Rivers and her mom Joan Rivers

 “There was such a realness to our relationship [ it ] that everyone could see a little bit of themselves.”-Melissa Rivers on  the relationship she shared with mum Joan.

On working with her mum for so long.  Melissa says,  ” In creating a career with my mom, it was hard and it was difficult and it was frustrating.   It was coming to peace and terms with a lot of certain  things and understanding that  there  are preconceived notions,” she notes, adding,” For me it was having to work harder than everybody  else to prove that I am  my  own person.”

Coming  from a showbiz family she says of going into the biz.”If you are going where your parents went and your parents were  successful, you are going to have to work harder. You might get the interview but you are not going to get the job because of it.”   If you get the job everybody will say you only got it because of your parents, so you have to work ten times harder just to be considered to be  as good as everybody else and  you know that  and it doesn’t make it fair and it doesn’t make it less frustrating.

“We never let her drive! The worst words to hear at home from my mom was, ‘Melissa get in the car!'”-Melissa Rivers  on mom Joan’s driving.

Melissa admits that growing up as the daughter of Joan Rivers wasn’t easy. “I wrestled  control over  certain things by the time I was 17.”  In facts she  says, “We never let her drive! The worst words to hear at home from my mom was, ‘Melissa get in the car'”. Other things say Melissa  included Joan hiding money around the house.  ” She was also not good with her Blackberry and she could not deal with the iPhone, at all,”adds Melissa.

Writing the book  made it ok to laugh and  ok to say we are all a little crazy.”—Melissa Rivers

Melissa says she hopes  that the  take away from reading “The Book of Joan” will be that, “readers  will come away knowing  how kind  my mother was and how real she was.”  She adds that she  hopes that it gives readers  a moment to stop and laugh. ” About  that  special thing her and mom  Joan shared she says, “What resonated  with us is that people related  to us. Everyone could see a little bit of themselves with us and admitted it was ok to laugh.My mother’s personality was so big and she was so well known and was such a character you are hearing about it in her voice but from my point of view, which is different from her point of view. ”

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I want  people to know that even though our lives were crazy we took  moments to laugh.- Melissa Rivers

Moms are  big fans of Melissa Rivers' new  memoir

Mom bloggers Nichol[L] and Nilsa[R] deciding on who will get this copy.

“I want people to know how kind my mother was and how real she was and that even though our lives were crazy we took  moments to laugh.

“One of the things that always resonated with  my business partnership with my mother and our performing together and her being her and me  being me is that people related to us because of the  mother  daughter relationship.  There was such a realness to  it that everyone could see a little bit of themselves. It made it ok to laugh and say ok, we are all a little crazy,” says the Fashion Police co-host.

If you would like your own copy of Melissa River’s memoir “The Book Of Joan” you can grab it at the  Strand Bookstore  in NYC or at  their website here.

TAKE A PAGE OUT OF LITTLE BILL’S BOOK MR. COSBY….BY Debra Lewis-Boothman

 

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Gosh darn, come on now Mr. Huxtable. Does this mean  Little Bill is a lie too?

Books are a big part of my  home.  You can find them in almost every room except  the  bathroom. With my two youngest  attending  charter school, reading is happening even more at home.

Finding my children  lost in books is never a surprise—  I came in from work last Tuesday and found my 7 year old son  sprawled across  the bedroom floor amongst  7 to 8   books. It  made me smile . On  a closer look of the titles I saw the  kid fantasy, “The Legend of Zelda”, “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” which  is on my “bathroom talk” list  as it celebrates  the wedgie, booger and  fart loving humorous stage  only boys love to love and  which  my son currently LIVES for, and lives to tease  his 8- year old sister  with.  The other four books including  the one in his hand  were  all   “Little Bill”  book titles .

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I did a double take and asked. “Hey what ya reading there ?” No answer. Finally an ‘Oh, hi mommy, I’m just reading Little Bill’s The Meanest Thing To Say’ was  his reply.

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Bill Cosby, 77 is under fire for acts against women

In light of the accusations   that have been leveled against Mr Cosby by many women including former top model Janice Dickerson as seen in PEOPLE  magazine I immediately wondered did my 7- year old  hear something on the news or read something  on the computer . For me, I, wanted to know,  if he did hear something,  what , where, when  and how much. Moreover, does he understand any of it.

Whispering to my husband I asked why the  amount of Little Bills on the floor all of a sudden? What gives?  In hindsight though  had this happened  before Mr. Cosby hit the headlines  I would not have asked such a question.  Instead I would have been happy knowing that he had chosen these books—-a  book series by a black author and a  black female illustrator, the late Varnette  P. Honeywood.

Thinking aloud,  I wondered will we have to decide on the  fate of these books as many  were  deciding on the fate of the legacy of Mr. Cosby . Would  this series   of books  loved by my  children ages 22 to 7 continue to stay on our  bookshelves. My eldest son  grew up with Little Bill. They have a  more than 15-year relationship.

On Mr Cosby. I have  compartmentalized him into a few categories——the man accused of allegedly  drugging and taking advantage of  women going back more than 20 years; the man who has done great things to uplift  his race; the man with the ideal legacy; the man who stood for fatherhood.

Looking back I  remember to 2006 while still a reporter at PEOPLE  that the magazine  interviewed  five  accusers of Mr. Cosby who were at that time part of a civil lawsuit Cosby  settled  with Andrea Constand,  a former Temple University employee who claimed she was  drugged and sexually assaulted by him in his Philadelphia-area mansion in 2004. At that time 13 “Jane Does'” as they were referred to in the court papers had come forward to testify.  Fast forward  8 years later and we have celebrity faces like Dickerson and now most recently  the famed African American model Beverly Johnson speaking out  to Vanity Fair  of being drugged by him.

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Famed Model Beverly Johnson

Mr Cosby  has stood  for a lot   and   his  Little Bill books stand for so much more . To  children across the world the book series by one of America’s most beloved comedians has  helped them to wrestle through the many stages of growing up.  Yes I am torn about the man and  what  he is alleged to have done. But am I going to throw my Little Bill books out ?  No,  I am not. These books. They are staying  on the bookshelf.

Our Little Bill books have a history and that is what  makes them that more special to us and especially my  small son and daughter.  Besides knowing that they are  hand-me-down books  from   big brother  Dillon. Each of  the 12 books help affirm the value of  family and friendship and  help encourage kids to  solve problems fairly.. Mr Cosby definitely knows what makes kids tick and how they relate to each other. Hmmm, maybe he needs  to take some “Little Bill” advice.

I can remember buying each and every one  of  them for Dillon.  Packed away  as he grew older  they were put  back on the shelf  when we  moved to our home in PA in 2006.  When our now  7 and 8-year olds became Cosby fans  they opted for the syndicated Cosby Show  and my  husband’s  personal library of  taped VHS Cosby Show programs.  Once  they grew older and got into   reading  chapter  books  they were quickly and easily hooked to Little Bill.  the illustrated artwork alone is a draw. .

Little Bill has taught  my black sons and daughter how to read better, how to treat their fellow man, how to cope with mean kids, the consequences of telling fibs, dealing with being afraid of the dark, and being teased about  first  crushes and more  .

All in all  Little Bill  became that  friend  in a book . An imaginary bestie that they to this  day continue to learn from

So I think Little Bill  will get to stay. Big Bill though, I am not too sure about!