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Bassist says times are tough for jazz players

| Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Bassist and Pittsburgh native Mickey Bass says he's trying his best to ride out tough times in the jazz business.

"The only way you can get recognized in jazz is to win a Grammy," he says with a sigh. "People like me, heck, we can't get anything. We can't even get arrested."

Bass, 60, who has had a long career as a performer and teacher, will be bringing his Manhattan Burn Unit to the Crawford Grill on the Square, Station Square, on Thursday and Friday.

The band, which includes pianist John Hicks , saxophonist Abraham Burton and drummer Eric Allen , appeared at the Crawford Grill in the Hill District during the 1998 Mellon Jazz Festival.

But, with the jazz market not always being hot, the band isn't together all the time. At this job, Bass will have to find a substitute for drummer Allen, who cannot make this series of gigs that will head into the Midwest.

"I try to get this band out as much as I can, but it's a matter of catch as catch can," Bass says.

He gets frustrated at the realities of a life in jazz.

"There are maybe only three towns where you can be a steady jazz musician," he says. "New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. There used to be a string of clubs all across the United States that had jazz six nights a week. Now, there may be 12 clubs in the country that do."

Bass and the band will perform at 8 and 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday at the South Side club. Tickets are $15.

Details: (412) 281-2885.

-- Bob Karlovits

Fund-raiser to benefit Coal and Coke Trail

Financial Solutions Group, of Mt. Pleasant, is holding a dinner and celebration at Nino's Restaurant on St. Patrick's Day to raise money for the Coal and Coke Trail.

Work on the trail, a five-mile path along the Westmoreland-Fayette line, is scheduled to begin this year. Eventually, the Coal and Coke Trail is expected to link with the Five Star Trail, which now runs from Greensburg to Youngwood but is expected to extend to Scottdale eventually. The Coal and Coke Trail is also expected to connect to the Yough River Trail in Connellsville. While the trail is receiving grants for specific projects along the route, it is in need of general funding.

Guy Junker, Commissioner Tom Balya and Mt. Pleasant Mayor Gerald Lucia are expected to serve as guest bartenders. There also will be an auction featuring spa treatments, autographed sports memorabilia, jewelry from Wood's Jewelers, and other items donated to help the Coal and Coke Trail.

The buffet dinner at Nino's will begin at 6:30 p.m. March 17, the auction at 7:30 and the St. Patrick's celebration at 8 p.m. Reservations can be made by calling Financial Solutions Group at 724-547-2820.

'Oklahoma' at Apollo-Ridge

The musical "Oklahoma" will be staged 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Apollo-Ridge High School. General admission is $5. Reserved seating is $8. For more details or tickets, call 724-478-1049.

Hempfield to present 'Pippin'

Hempfield Area High School will present the musical comedy "Pippin," 8 p.m. March 31 and April 1-3 in the school's auditorium. For ticket information, call 724-850-2252.

Comic book hero signs deal with Random House

Harvey Pekar , the cult comic book hero and inspiration for the acclaimed film "American Splendor," has agreed to write three graphic novels for Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House.

Pekar's first work for Ballantine, a "sequel of sorts" to "American Splendor," will come out this fall.

"People have been frustrated for the last 10 years or so. They've known Harvey's around, they've known he's alive, but they can't find his stuff anywhere," Pekar's wife and collaborator, Joyce Brabner , said in a statement Tuesday.

"Now, publishing with Ballantine, the work will have a much wider distribution, and Harvey will find a much broader audience."

"American Splendor" starred Paul Giamatti as Pekar and Hope Davis as his wife. The real Pekar and Brabner, along with foster daughter Danielle and some family friends, also appeared in the 2003 movie as themselves.

-- The Associated Press

Harding hits the ice in minor league hockey

Disgraced former U.S. figure skating champion and aspiring boxer Tonya Harding has a new goal: minor league ice hockey.

The Indianapolis Ice of the Central Hockey League announced Monday that it has signed the 33-year-old Harding to join the team for its game Friday against the Colorado Eagles.

It's been 10 years since Harding's ex-husband hired a hit man to attack rival Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 national championships. Harding has always denied knowledge of the attack, but pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hinder prosecution, was stripped of her 1994 national title and banned from amateur figure skating competition.

The Ice in 2002 signed 7-foot-7 former NBA player Manute Bol for a one-game stint with the team, but he never made it on the ice because his feet swelled inside his custom-made skates.

-- The Associated Press

Three Tenors might get invitation to N. Korea

North Korea may invite The Three Tenors to perform at its annual spring festival next month, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan reported Tuesday.

Song Sok Hwan , North Korea's chief organizer for the international festival, revealed the plan to have the opera singers perform during an interview with the People's Korea, a newspaper published by Koreans in Japan who support the Pyongyang government.

"We aspire to develop our festival into a world-class event. For example, we are considering a program bold enough to invite the so-called Three Tenors: Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo ," Song was quoted as saying. The interview was published on the newspaper's Web site Tuesday.

North Korea's April Spring Friendship Art Festival, timed to celebrate the April 15 birthday of national founder and late President Kim Il Sung , is the largest international event hosted by the isolated communist state every year.

For this year's festivities, North Korea plans to invite 700 musicians and other artists from 40 countries, Song was quoted as saying.

-- The Associated Press

Celebrities cry foul over tax increase

Diana Ross and some other famous names in Greenwich are appealing the town's tax appraisal of their properties.

Ross faces a $168,000 bill for local taxes on her estate in the exclusive Belle Haven neighborhood and a waterfront lot in the Byram section, the Greenwich Time reported. That's a 3.5 percent increase.

Also appealing their taxes are James Stillman Rockefeller , the 100-year-old grandson of Standard Oil co-founder William Rockefeller , and Sloan Lindemann , the daughter of cell phone pioneer George L. Lindemann and owner of the town's most valuable piece of residential property.

Dozens of property owners argued their cases Monday before the town's Board of Assessment Appeals. Ross, Rockefeller and Lindemann did not appear before the board, instead sending their lawyers, the newspaper reported.

Ross is disputing the town's $13.4 million appraisal of her 5-acre Belle Haven estate, which includes a 12,562-square-foot mansion with 11 bedrooms, six full bathrooms, five fireplaces, a hot tub, pool, tennis court and central air conditioning, plus two apartments over the garage. She's also contesting the $8.1 million appraisal on the Byram property.

The pop diva claims the town exaggerated the extent of improvements that have been made to the Belle Haven property she bought in 1988. Town officials say Ross denied their requests to enter her home for appraisal purposes.

Rockefeller's tax bill is more than $140,000; Lindemann's is about $207,000.

-- The Associated Press

Film festival to honor Gov. Schwarzenegger

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be honored as a movie maverick by the Cinequest film festival.

The Cinequest organization, which oversees the 14th annual San Jose screening series, announced Monday it would present a special Maverick Spirit Award to "The Terminator" star Wednesday at the San Jose State University campus.

Tom McEnery , former mayor of San Jose, plans to moderate a conversation with Schwarzenegger and take questions from the audience before the presentation.

The award recognizes directors, producers, actors, cinematographers, editors and composers. Previous honorees include Alec Baldwin, Ian McKellen, James Woods, Spike Lee, John Waters, Kevin Spacey, Jackie Chan and Jennifer Beals .

-- The Associated Press

S. Africa 'very proud' of Charlize Theron

South African President Thabo Mbeki congratulated Charlize Theron on her recent Oscar win, telling the South African actress: "The whole country is very proud."

"Very well done, Charlize. Excellent," Mbeki told Theron when she met him Monday at a government guesthouse in Pretoria.

Theron, who grew up in the small South African town of Benoni, won the best actress award for her role in "Monster."

The 28-year-old received an ounce of gold ingrained in the rock in which it was formed. The gold came in a wooden box with the wording: "Presented to Charlize Theron, our South African star, by President Thabo Mbeki."

"It's gorgeous," Theron said. "This has been lovely. It's been such a warm welcome."

Theron also thanked Mbeki for a congratulatory message he sent her in Los Angeles via her mother, Gerda .

"She said you had gone out grooving," Mbeki joked.

"It's all lies," Theron replied, laughing.

-- The Associated Press

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