Friday, September 6, 2013


WAS THE ORIGINAL "BEVERLY HILLS 90210" A RIP-OFF OF "SWEET VALLEY HIGH"? by Dane Youssef Now maybe this is just me, but.... I just couldn't help but notice... I had read some of the tomes in Miss Francine Pascal's world-renown series. Seriously, it didn't just have a cult following. It was a full-blown mainstream religion. It took the whole world by storm. And check out "90210." Not the big 2008 re-boot that's all the more recent. I'm talking about the original series that completely defined more than 90% of the 1990's. Which "S.V.H." did itself for reading, the 80's and girls. In a good way, of course. But in really looking at the two... 'couldn't help but notice the blinding similarities. "SVH" was a white-hot commodity back then. Hell, it was a worldwide phenomenon. But the original 90210 series that first premiered in 1990. I know it found it's very own voice and became very influential. But I noticed a really funny thing. Really funny. It was... well, exactly what the headline up there says. In the first season of a show, it's still defining it's voice. And the show seemed like... "Sweet Valley High." No really, it seemed like early on... Season One was entirely patterned after the "S.V.H." book series. Not just the characters, but the plot threads, the gimmicks... even the same tone! The scheming and manipulative plots of a lot of the girls, the focus on the school newspaper which let to major-league journalism, kids who looked like models and were impossibly perfect, the lurid affairs, the fact that these were all gorgeous children whose everyday problems were even gorgeous in some way. The use of themes as date rape, homosexual rights, alcoholism, domestic violence, Anti-semitism, drug abuse, teenage suicide, homicide, teenage pregnancy, AIDS, bulimia and abortion. Some of the characters even sound the same! They just changed a few things--like cutting up the likes of Liz, Todd, Jess, Bruce, Lila, Winston, Steven, Enid, Devon, Ned, Alice, Nicholas and Regina, Jeffrey, Amy, etc... and just moved a few things around. Very few. But I'm very astute, friends. I could tell. Come on, look at the show early on... the location of Southern California (most soaps in the '80's took place in the South since "Dallas" paved the way for that), the use of the twins (Liz and Jess, Brandon and Brenda), the parents of the twins are very similar in each series--the dad is even a lawyer in both series! Did "90210" creators Darren Starr, Aaron Spelling and co. hear about the fanatical book series trend Miss Pascal was partly responsible for? And seeing all the hype it was getting, just try to turn it into a TV show--and with very, very, VERY slight differences so as they wouldn't have to give her one red penny for it? Anyone who really read the books and watched S01 should easily pick up on what I'm getting at. Well... I'm anxious to hear from the rest of you. Please... open the floodgates. Let's speculate, shall we? --For "90210" and "The Valley"... Both of Them, Dane Youssef

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The wide world of Sweet Valley: Todd Wilkins

The wide world of Sweet Valley: Todd Wilkins:                                                          Oh Todd. I do feel a little bad for him in many of the books, because despite the...

I know what you mean. But to be fair, it was a soap-opera. All the primary characters cheated like crazy on one another. Todd cheated too. Hell, he often cheated with Jessica. They wound up getting married in the big reunion "Sweet Valley Confidential." The two WERE made for one another. But they had affairs because--well, that's what a soap opera's all about.

Friday, June 7, 2013

THOSE LATE TO CLASS... BALLET CLASS by Dane Youssef Being tardy to take up ballet is no crime or sin. Most males get into the "most feminine of art forms" late in life. A boy under 17 having anything at all to do with ballet--that can be hazardous to one's health. So any and all boys even so much as trying it... better know how to keep it under wraps. Keep your slippers, dance belt and "man-tights" under your mattress. The deepest, darkest secret... It's true, the art and form of ballet is extremely dainty and feminine. And boys doing anything ever at all like that can get one killed in the course of one recess. But... things are changing. It's a different time, it's a whole new world. Look once upon a time, only men were allowed to dance ballet--back in the dark ages, the 1500's back when it first came out. Back when ballet wasn't really ballet, but it was really more like "ballroom dancing with heavy, clunky costumes." Over time, ballet really evolved--becoming more acrobatic and gymnastic. More of a marvel, a superhuman impossibility. So of course, now the ladies are just better equipped to "do the ballet"--period. There's no speculation about it. One of the things women were just naturally meant to shine in... above all. Anyone out there know the actor Jeff Fahey? At the age of twenty-five, he started taking ballet class. Hell, he even received a full scholarship to dance with the Joffrey. ABT soloist Misty Copeland was thirteen when she took it up. Those hard-core, 48-karat ballet-aficionados--the authorities themselves on the craft will be the first tell you... you can be ANY AT ALL AGE TO DO BALLET! If you wish to try and make a living at it--well yeah, it best to start pre-pubescent. But... if you just want to do it... you can do it. Just do it. But well... talk to your doctor. No, really... like taking a prescription drug. You do have to be in decent health to do something as strenuous as ballet, the hardest, most difficult... the most damning of all exercises, all sports. All endeavors. If you can flourish in ballet, literally anything else will seem ridiculously easy after that. Believe you me... So... long rant short (though it may be too late for that now), if you want to... just dance. It's what life's all about. --My Sincerity (and to all the late bloomers), Dane Youssef

Sunday, September 30, 2012


THE TRUE LIFE BIO OF THE FICTITIOUS TODD WILKINS OF "SWEET VALLEY:" A LIFE by Dane Youssef The tall, dark and especially handsome (as well as surprisingly intellectual) popular, neo-jock (basketball, football, there are others) and final fraternity member. Tawny-brown haired and matching amber-chestnut eyes. The boy looks like the proverbial boy-next-door. But he's more than that. Todd Wilkins is the poly-typical boilerplate ideal high-school dreamboat. Yup. Every girl's fantasy... Elizabeth's long-time on-again, off-again boyfriend. In the grand tradition of many--such as Sam & Diane, Ross & Rachel, J.D. & Elliot, etc. Elizabeth first met Todd in Kindergarten when he was crying because his mother had left there at a real school. She felt for him and tried to give him a tissue, but he just threw it away. Liz asks now, "Was that a sign right there?" Todd was initially romantically pursued by both the Wakefield twins. But in the end, he just always seems more interested in Elizabeth as they just have more in common. They begin steadily dating in "Double Love". And from thereon in, things go in every possible direction. He shares many of Liz's intellectual interests and pursuits. He himself is a real catch--Damn it, a scholar and an athlete. They break up when Todd and his family move to Vermont, and Todd eventually becomes romantically involved with the terminally ill Suzanne. On Todd's return to Sweet Valley, Todd and Elizabeth reunite. They re-unite only to break up all over again over Elizabeth's infidelity and later involvement with Devon Whitelaw at the end of Sweet Valley High, but reunite at the beginning of Sweet Valley University, only to break up again when Elizabeth won't go to bed with him. Todd later finds solace in the arms of Liz's long-time B.F.F. Enid Rollins. The two lose their virginity together and find sanctuary within each other. Liz and Todd are constantly breaking up and getting back together as well as committing infidelity. Of all the strong points Elizabeth Wakefield has, one of her especially large faults is how continuously unfaithful she is. Liz commits infidelity on Todd several times. And there are more than just a few times where Todd does return the favor. He fools around with other women--including once even with a supermodel while he's discovered and asked to model at a magazine Liz just happens to be working at. Jessica herself had aspirations for her and Todd. They themselves made time together. Once while Elizabeth was arrested and being allegedly convicted for an offense that Jess herself was guilty of. And again while Liz and Todd themselves were separated. Jessica tells of the entire liaison in her second diary. When they've gotten back together, Liz is horrified to find out Todd's been having a recurring affair with Jess on-and-off for a while--while Jess has been married to a very rich man! And poor, poor Liz finally finds out only after all the wedding plans she's made... for herself and Todd. According to Sweet Valley Confidential, Todd eventually marries Jessica and they have a son, Jake. Todd himself, like his first love Liz is somewhat into journalism. No, not the important kind. He becomes a sports-writer. That's right, the "toy department." He eventually lands himself a successful job as a sports editorialist and his column is picked up by several papers. Todd and Jessica have a brief falling-out and separation. And as you've all probably guessed, they committed adultery with other people at the time. But eventually the big confusing misunderstanding is cleared up and the two re-unite, declaring their undying love for each other... and the desire to stay together forever and ever. Todd and Jessica--the ones who were really meant to be. After all that... who would've guessed? Well, credit the Sovereign of "Sweet Valley" Almighty Herself Ms. Francine Pascal who put them together for good in her ten-year Confidential reunion. She saw something in them together. An odd match. But in the strangest way... it just seems to make the most sense of all. As for our subject, our hero... Mr. Todd Wilkins. His story is still being written... by a lot of different people. --For Our Hero, Both Our Heroines and All of "The Valley," Dane Youssef

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


JEREMY VINCENT GARRETT: AN ACTOR'S BIOGRAPHY by Dane Youssef Darkly-handsome while just smoldering with heavenly brown hair, deep hazel eyes, he was blessed with such charisma and attitude, Jeremy Vincent Garrett was one American actor and model that didn't just want to be just one more pretty face de jour. Damn it, he wanted to be an actor. Like oh-so many others, Jeremy's first foray into acting was in high school drama club. He saw it as the start of something. He wanted to make drama his absolute major. The coach urged Jeremy to keep right on reaching. He eventually found his way to the professional theatre and was granted such plums as Algernonin in "The Importance of Being Earnest," as well as in several one-act plays. Jeremy also put those pin-up supermodel cover-boy Indo-European looks of his to good use by modeling professionally before even acting. And while modeling was paying the bills, he continued to chase acting around. He auditioned mostly for the theatre. He also performed La Jolla Playhouse in a festival of plays that took a look at racial bigotry, and in "Jason's Mask" at the Old Globe in San Diego, as part of the Young Playwrights Festival. He portrayed an alpha-male jock who's something of a mad prankster. He finally through broke with his first TV guest spot on the basketball-based Disney series "Hang Time" where he played a former all-state star athlete for Deering who's now managing the restaurant. He seems like the perfect guy, but we later see he's been sexually harassing Mary-Beth. But the part that gave him that big break in the public eye was replacing fellow pretty-boy actor Ryan Bittle in the plum role of Todd Wilkins, longtime boyfriend to Elizabeth Wakefield in the TV series adaptation of "Sweet Valley High." Jeremy found himself profiled heavily in magazines, on covers from the book-series as well as other SVH-based propaganda. After the "Sweet Valley High" was cancelled due to incredibly low ratings (the show had strayed away from the book series and just got more and more campy), he grabbedguest-sints on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher", "CSI: Miami," "Ally McBeal," "Hangtime" and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch". He managed another regular steady-spot as Clay Logan on the short-lived civil-war period soap "Legacy" as one Clay Hogan. After that ended, he recurred on the WB's "Jack & Jill." His most recent role was the TV movie "Lies and The Women We Tell Them To" along with Kyle Chandler, Martine McCutcheon, Ed Helms. Since then, seems to have been staying quiet since. Jeremy seems to have just vanished. He once remarked he wanted to get into fashion photography as that's what he started out doing. But to be the one taking the shots instead of being taken himself. He got into photography after his dad bought him a camera and wound up taking classes. In 2012, he finally returned to the screen after a seven-year absence in the short art-house independent film "The Abandoned Circus." Just please, don't confuse him with that bluegrass guy from Tennessee who just happens to have been blessed with the same moniker. JUST SOME QUICK TRIVIAL PIN-POINTED FACTS: * He has brown hair and hazel eyes. * He has a drawl in his voice, sounding somewhat like Christian Slater. * He has a deeply clefted chin. * His mouth is often in a pout and his lips are often pursed. * His favorite movies are "The Big Blue" and "Shine." * His favorite band is "Wham!" and he absolutely loves Boy George. * His favorite TV show is "Absolutely Fabulous." * His family is mostly of Italian heritage. His hobbies include writing, photography, travelling and architectural design. * He worked as a model travelling to Paris, Milan and Tokyo. * Among his crowning achievements was receiving a regional Emmy award nomination for his work as a host on a local San Diego TV Show at the age of 18. * Although he used to prefer acting to sports, but now playing basketball in his spare time. * His all-time favorite actors are Leonardo DiCaprio and Meryl Streep. * He is not to be confused with the country-bluegrass musician Jeremy Garrett. * He speaks fluent Italian and does speak it when the entire family is together. Everyone in his family speaks it except for his father. * Like his "Sweet Valley High" co-star Cynthia Daniel, he is a photographer and plans on having his photos of his tour through Europe published someday. Personal Quotes From Mr. Vincent Garrett Himself: * "Many a time getting your first shot at a role is based on your look. You can get your foot in the door. But if your talent doesn't match your look then the door quickly closes." * (Does he get nervous around girls?): "The only time I get butterflies is when I go on a date for the first time - I get so scared of messing up. But I just take a couple of deep breaths and start talking." * "My motto for life is: pick a job you like and you'll never have to work a day in your life." * "I write in my spare time. I've just about finished a screenplay about a young boy who has to choose between his girl and the Mafia. I'm going to play the lead!" * (On his interest of photography): " I grew up in San Diego and my dad bought me a camera one day. He said that I should take a photography class. I thought, 'Ugh, what am I going to do with a camera, I'll be stuck taking family photos all the time.' But you know what, I fell in love with it. Then I started assisting a photographer in San Diego and then here in L.A. I wanted to go into fashion photography, travel around the world doing pictorials for magazines, I'm so into that. But sometimes you have two loves and you have to decide which one is loving you more." * (What scent he enjoys the most): "I love fruity creams from The Body Shop. They do a Dewberry moisturizer and if I smell that on a girl I get a hungry feeling!" * (Do girls ask him out because of his stint on "Sweet Valley High"?): "My episodes have only just started showing, so it hasn't made much difference. I've always been quite a flirt though, so I've never had trouble talking to girls." * "It blows my mind how, no matter what they say in Shakespeare plays, it sounds beautiful. Instead of just say 'good-bye, ' you say a ten-line poem which is so beautiful. No wonder girls commit suicide over you." * "It's hard to tell people that you're good-looking. I know I had nothing to do with it. So I say, 'Thank my parents. They're the ones with the good genes.' " * "When a girl keeps looking down at my shoes, I can tell she's really not into me." * "Sometimes I'll go to the record store, pick up some music I never heard before, and end up getting some really great stuff." * "If I can trust a girl and she trusts me, I know we've got everything going on. But without total trust, feelings are about to get hurt." * (His own personal idea of the perfect romantic getaway spot): "The island of Capri in Italy. It's very clean, quiet and isolated, so I can really get to know a girl there." * (His personal ultimate hook-up): "I was modeling in Italy, and I had no idea how to get where I was supposed to go. So I asked a pretty girl on the street for directions and she took me there. I gave her my phone number and she called me a month later... after she broke up with her boyfriend!

Friday, March 16, 2012


by Dane Youssef

I hear from oh-so, so, so many--usually male, X chromosome and all--who say they WANTED to take ballet when they were younger. But of course, if they had, they surely would've been killed once the word got out. Once the secret is revealed (and it always is, no matter what) , the other children will brutally rape, lynch and crustily any boy who dares even to show the slightest interest in anything ballet-related.

Why? Any guy who wears pantyhose and house slippers and prances about for any given reason... well, there is no justifiable cause, is there? Not even if it's an art form, not even if it's your life passion. Not even if there are countries where those who dare to dance "the ballet" are right up there with the football, baseball, basketball and hockey right here in the U.S.

Ballet is a men's sport, too. And that's not just this ballerino here, speaking. For ballet's sake's, some of the most famous ever to dance the dance were men. Vaslav Njinsky, Rudolph Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Peter Martins, Edward Villella, Alexander Godunov, Ethan Stiefel, Sasha Radetsky and Vladmir Makalov. And that's just to name but a few. I doubt you reading would want to go through the entire Encyclopedia. Point is--the boys do have their place, just like all the women who've been screaming for a spot in the mainstream mostly dominated by the male sex for the last few centuries. The ladies are the stars, and they ARE much better equipped. But... ballet is unisex now. Oh, what am I saying? It has been for quite some time. So... don't you think it's time a lot of us finally embraced it already? If not now, in the Marvel age... the 21st century... then when?

--For Every Boy Who Dared To Dance... Dance "The Ballet," Dane Youssef

Saturday, March 3, 2012

"Os Reis da Noite" (1989): A MOVIE REVIEW by Dane Youssef

"Os Reis da Noite" (1989): A MOVIE REVIEW
by Dane Youssef

"When an actor asks you to read his script, your heart sinks. The number of scripts I've been given by actors that are so unbelievably terrible! It's well known that actors are lousy writers." --Richard E. Grant.

Words to live by. Especially in Hollywood.

I was kind of looking forward to this one. I enjoy Eddie Murphy and I love it when a star hand-makes a vehicle for themselves or when someone who writes decides to mark their own directorial debut. But when the star's head gets too big for the rest of his body, there's always a danger of a big-budgeted Hollywood vanity production.

Will the filmmaker keep it real… or will he just waste amounts of money (the studio's and ours) and time (the studio's, our and his own) patting himself on the back for an hour in a half? Sadly, it's the latter here.

Another thing I really like is when someone breathes new and fresh life into an exhausted and dried-out genre. None of that here. The warring nightclub movies have become so worn-through that even the parodies of it are dreary and done to death.

Murphy does neither. He does the most clich├ęd: He plugs into a routine conventional formula gangster picture and plays it as seriously as if it were "The Godfather." It's like a script where the next draft, they put in the jokes and the new ideas. But it seems like someone with clout just looked at it and went: "No… this is fine."

Probably Murphy. He is credited all over this. In the opening shot of beautiful white satin sheets, his name headlines across the credits about five times.

THE PLOT? A young orphan saves Pryor's life one night at his nightclub and after finding out how handy this kid is, Pryor figures he needs not only some company, but some degree of family, he adopts the little ragamuffin.

20 years later, Pryor's dump has become a first-class posh nightclub scene. They're pulling down big money and a gangster wants their action. He's even got a dirty cop in his employ. But Pryor comes up with a scheme, a la "THE STING."

Murphy's screenplay plays like an unfinished first-draft that nobody had the pair to call him on. The actors aren't really allowed to stand-out much, if at all. Even the almighty Murphy seems to be on auto-pilot.

Pryor shows class and gentlemanly manners as Sugar Ray (perhaps it would have been better to name his character BROWN Sugar Ray—further evidence that this one needed a polish), but everyone here is basically just on vacation.

The Oscar-nomination the movie received is richly deserved (Joe I. Tompkins' Best Costume Design), but the production values are the only part that makes the '30's feel authentic.

Some sets look somewhat fake, but this is supposed to be a comedy of sorts. It's rare one movie gets nominated for both a Razzie and an Oscar (unless it's one of Lucas' new "Star Wars" chapters).

It's 1938 and everyone is talking like it's 1988, particularly the comedians. This is a prehistoric white man's formula. And with all these black comedians and satirists, you expect them to skewer the genre or at least bring new life to it. Nope. Murphy is pretty much just coasting here.

The great Roger Ebert summed it up perfectly when he remarked in his review: "Murphy approaches his story more as a costume party in which everybody gets to look great while fumbling through a plot that has not been fresh since at least 1938."

Jasmine Guy is perfectly cast and seems to be indulging herself in her role and Michael Lerner has all the looks, evil and mannerisms of the prototypical mob boss down pat. And there are moments where Pryor gives you an idea of what a more interesting leader and authority figure would sound like. He gives every scene he's in a feeling of dignity.

Would it have been too much to ask that Della Resse sing? Or at least quit embarrassing herself with all her "Kiss My Ass talk?"

And the late Redd Foxx doesn't get to leave much of a swan song here. He has some back-and-forth with Resse which could have been some great stuff. Nope. Murphy wastes another opportunity again here.

Murphy's Quick is charismatic and likable. But those moments are few and far between for sure. Murphy has never looked better and never been duller. His character made me laugh twice throughout the whole movie.

Stan Shaw's boxer with a horrible speech impediment isn't just painful and embarrassing, it's annoying. There's more to comedy than simply showing something taboo and offensive. You have to incorporate some kind of light touch and funny situation. Watching him strain even the some of the easiest words just makes us feel sorry for him and annoyed with Murphy.

Can Murphy write a good screenplay? Well… there was "Raw," but that was really stand-up material. He wrote the outline for "Boomerang" and "Coming to America" for sure. But he didn't have the last word there.

Does Murphy think he's a writer? I don't mean a great writer. I mean a writer--period. Maybe a team of ER-like script doctors could've revived this one.

Murphy's direction is so slow and quiet, you'd swear he was asleep at the wheel some of the time. He has too many static shots and doesn't seem to know how to build and release suspense. On some level, I think Quick is the real Eddie Murphy. Angry, young, hot-headed and ambitious. But occasionally charming. Now if he were only funny sometime.

There's a scene in which Murphy has a femme fatale in bed who plans to make love with him and kill him. You can probably guess how it turns out. Like everything else in the movie, this could have been better, but…

"Surprisingly," Murphy has not directed another movie since (he got a Razzie nomination). And he no longer writes the finished draft for his films either (he WON the Razzie for writing this!)

It's great to look at and the music is beautiful, and there are a few really nice scenes. But that just falls under the category of "gems among all the junk." Not enough of them.

Could've been. Shouldv'e been. Wasn't.

Oh, well...

--For Those Beautiful Dark Nights in Black Harlem, Dane Youssef