MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Til Death Do Us Part’ Takes on Intimate Partner Violence

By Gina Johnson Smith, SPMG Media

Spent Friday night out with a group to see ‘Til Death Do Us Part’, a new thriller by director Christopher B. Stokes (You Got Served), in collaboration with Producers Shondrella Avery and Marques Houston, Jerome Jones, Jarell Houston, Patrick Johnson Jr. and Footage Films. The film provides a brutally honest view of intimate partner violence, striking a delicate balance between the loving spaces of a couple and the dangerous darkness of a troubled abusive husband.


Michael & Madison Roland, had planned to spend the rest of their lives together, until the day Michael’s controlling ways turned their perfect marriage into an abusive rollercoaster no woman could survive. With the help of her best friend, Madison decides to get away. After adopting a new identity, she meets Alex Stone and learns to love again. All is well, until Michael discovers Madison’s whereabouts, and recreates the nightmare she once lived all over again.

Annie Ilonzeh stars as Madison, the beautiful new bride of Michael (Stephen Bishop). They enjoy a life of envious perfection. Ensconced in an elegant modern manse, with great friends on both sides – it seems life can’t get any better.

Madison has left her job at the request of Michael and now wants a child, to build a family – something she has wanted since she was 5-years-old. This triggers Michael’s previously unseen narcissistic tendencies. We get a glimpse of Michael’s past during chats with his friends. There is trouble there. They know it, but we see it present itself to Madison as Michael does a Dr. Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde, as she discovers Michael’s deceptive tactics. The explosive level of abuse once triggered, is not exaggerated behavior based on research by author Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.

“Til Death Do Us Part” has similarities to “Gone Girl” – a story about a seemingly perfect marriage that suddenly turns toxic and abusive. The difference rests with tension and culturally how we move in this space of domestic violence. The director, Christopher B. Stokes does an impressive job in his first effort of this magnitude, with introducing edge of the seat ‘what happens next’ tension. In my opinion, “Til Death” unfolds this story in the truest sense of our culture. African Americans rarely see mental health issues as something you seek help for – as Michael is resistant to do and his friend Rob (Malik Yoba) strongly encourages. Also, Stokes gives us nuanced glimpses of both character’s backstories to provide the reasons for their compulsions.  While the domestic abuse plot is predictable, the point is to share the story. Many women in abusive situations see themselves in these characters and these types of movies offer a way to provoke them to seek safety and shelter. It rallies them towards saving themselves. While men who may see themselves mirrored in the character, may also choose to seek help for their issues.

Annie Ilonzeh does an impressive job as Madison. Most of her performance is measured, adapting to that of a woman in love with her new husband, but a little excessi


ve when discussing having a baby. Perhaps more backstory on how long the ‘baby’ conversation has been played out would better explain the explosive shift in her anger with her husband on this topic. In other scenes, the undercurrent fear she holds in her body and facial expressions with her husband is spot on.  The interplay with Taye Diggs, a neighbor she meets and connects with, gives us a sense of the character’s natural nature and we get a glimpse of what her world would be like had she not married Michael.

Supporting actress Robinne Lee, who plays Madison’s best friend Chelsea, brings an authentic feel of a concerned friend who senses undercurrents in the relationship early on. Her performance brings a great balance between the tension between Madison and Michael.  She shines in the scene when confronted by Michael who now has an awareness of what happened and confronts Chelsea innocently. Superb.

Taye Diggs, as always brings his infectious, lightheartedness to a film in need of the balance. His charismatic energy upon meeting the freed Madison gives us a sigh of relief for her. He is normal, fun and a loving father to a bright eyed beautiful little girl, played by Jacey Sims. They provide the reprieve and solace for Madison.

Keep your eye on this bolt of sunshine. Jacey Sims has star potential!

Supporting actor Malik Yoba, who plays Michael’s good friend, seems to have some insight into Michael’s history and issues. His awareness brings assumed soothing to Michael’s dark place. Yoba’s performance as always is flawless. Similar to his performance as friend in ‘Why Did I Get Married’, he brings the sensibilities of a committed, balanced partner and husband. He aims to model the best in a spouse to his friend.

Veteran actor Obba Babatunde, is introduced as Madison’s kept at a distance father. In the one scene with Babatunde, he encompasses the severely ill, hospitalized and dazed father, simply happy to see his ‘princess’ after a long absence.

Til Death Do Us Part” does a splendid job of depicting life with an abuser and the very real obstacles to starting over, which is one of the key areas of focus for Allstate Purple Purse campaign and events like The Positive Results Corporation’s 2nd Annual Purple Purse Tea Party & Purse Fashion Show Fundraiser. Leaving an abusive partner or spouse is complicated. Victims are often isolated and financially dependent on their abusers and organizations like those above assist with resources and more. The film wraps with stats about domestic violence and a call to action to those who need help.

’Til Death” provides both visually stimulating and edge of your seat entertainment while tacking a serious topic. It shows us that domestic abuse goes on behind all doors – urban doors, elegant doors, corporate doors and more. The film takes you on what is a real journey for some.

It is definitely a film you don’t want to miss.

Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline

Support, resources and advice for your safety

1-800-799-SAFE (7233) 


The biggest game of 2017 ‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ has already made $400 million, and it hasn’t even launched yet


Having sold over 13 million copies since launching in March — making nearly $400 million — “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” is a bona fide blockbuster.’

Even more impressive is that the game technically isn’t finished — it’s available only through Steam, the world’s largest digital game store, as an “Early Access” title. That means you can buy it, and play it, as millions have, but it’s not considered a finished product.

At any given point in a day, hundreds of thousands of people are playing “Battlegrounds.” It’s the No. 1 most-played game on the world’s largest game service, Steam, with over 1 million concurrent players:

screen shot 2017-09-05 at 94800 am

That’s a tremendously important metric. Steam is, by far, the largest game platform, with somewhere in the vicinity of 200 million active users.

The top two spots are usually permanently occupied by “Dota 2,” which is free, and “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive,” which costs $15 (“Battlegrounds” costs $30). Both of those games are created and operated by Valve, the same company that runs Steam.

The creative director for “Battlegrounds,” Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene, celebrated a previous Steam achievement on Twitter:

As Greene pointed out, “Battlegrounds” snagged the record for “highest peak player count of any non-Valve game” way back in July. Just a few months later and the game is the highest peak player count of any game on the service. This is especially impressive as the game has only been available since March and, of course, is unfinished, yet it bests the likes of “Grand Theft Auto V” and “Fallout 4” and even Valve’s own heavy-hitters.

There’s a simple explanation for why it’s doing so well: It’s an unbelievably good game.

More than just a bizarre name, “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” boasts a brilliant concept: 100 people on a massive island, armed with their wits and a scattered arsenal, fighting to the death. Whoever survives at the end of the match wins — and there can only be one.

The future of “Battlegrounds” is even brighter.

The game is expected to reach “1.0” by the end of the year, and it should arrive on the Xbox One by then as well. All of which is to say one thing: Expect to hear a lot more about “Battlegrounds” as the year goes on.



Sarah Jessica Parker says there won’t be a third ‘Sex and the City’ movie: ‘It’s over’

Sorry, “Sex and the City” fans.

On Thursday, Sarah Jessica Parker confirmed that there won’t be another movie, in an interview with Extra.

Last year, rumors spread that another “Sex and the City” movie was in the works. But this week, the rumors changed tone, and said the project wasn’t moving forward because of the demands of “Sex and the City” star Kim Cattrall, who is famous for playing Samantha Jones.

When asked about the rumors of the franchise officially being over, Parker told Extra:

“It’s over. We’re not doing it. I’m disappointed. We had this beautiful, funny, heartbreaking, joyful, very relatable script and story. It’s not just disappointing that we don’t get to tell the story and have that experience, but more so for that audience that has been so vocal in wanting another movie.”

But this might be a good thing for fans who have been burned before. “Sex and the City 2,” which came out in 2010, got a 16% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 43% percent audience rating.

Still, it’s the end of an era.

If you need a “Sex and the City” fix, you can watch the entire series on HBO Go or HBO Now. And if Sarah Jessica Parker is what you’re looking for, you can watch her on season two of HBO’s “Divorce” in 2018.




All the Places You Can Get Free Coffee on National Coffee Day

If you’re a coffee lover, today Friday (Sept. 29) is your big day.

National Coffee Day is already happening again, and many restaurants and websites are offering all sorts of discounts to make sure you get your caffeine fix.

Check out the best deals below:

Baskin-Robbins: For all of October, guests can enjoy a small Cappuccino Blast for only $2.99.

Caribou CoffeeOn Friday and for the entire month of October, Caribou Coffee is donating 10% of purchases to CancerCare, an organization that offers support, education and financial assistance to those affected by cancer.

Community CoffeeCommunity is offering customers 30% off online purchases of $30 or more with the promo code “COFFEEDAY.”

Cinnabon: Enjoy a free 12-oz. coffee all day on Sept. 29.

Dunkin’ DonutsAny DD guest who purchases a medium, large or extra large cup of hot coffee will receive an additional medium-sized hot coffee for free at participating locations nationwide.

Grounds and HoundsCustomers can get 20% off of their initial order or subscription using the code “BREW20” until Oct. 1; free shipping with code “DeliverFree” until Sept. 29; and a $10 gift card with orders over $45 using the code “CoffeeDay2017” until Sept. 29.

KeurigKeurig is offering 20% of all K-Cup pods on with the code “CELEBRATE” at checkout until Oct. 1.  

RELATED: Score! 88 Restaurants Where You Can Get Free Food on Your Birthday

Peet’s Coffee: Use code “COFFEEDAY17” to get 25% off all beans and a FREE drip coffee or tea with bean purchase, as well as 25% off all regular non-subscription bean purchases made at

Pilot Flying J: The chain is offering guests a free small cup of Pilot Coffee or another hot beverage of your choice, including tea and cappuccino.

Birch Coffee: Customers can pay what they please for their coffee drinks on Sept. 29 as the coffee shop hopes to “instill a stronger understanding and appreciation for the people involved in the process of getting coffee from the farm to the cup.”

Krispy Kreme: From Sept. 29 through Oct. 1, customers can enjoy any size Krispy Kreme signature hot brewed blends or a small Krispy Kreme premium iced coffee for free. 

High Brew CoffeeThis National Coffee Day (9/29), you’ll receive a free can of High Brew when you ride with Lyft in any of the following cities: Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, Dallas, Philadelphia

Illy Caffé: is celebrating all month long with the following offers:

  • Enjoy 5 illy Coffees for the Price of 4 (Use Code: CELEBRATECOFFEE)
  • Complimentary Frother with Select illy Espresso Machines (Use code: FROTHER)
  • Complimentary illy iperEspresso Machine. Join illy a casa Auto Delivery and receive your choice of a complimentary iperEspresso machine with recurring coffee deliveries.
  • On-the-Go Keurig Bundle. Save $11 when you purchase this bundle featuring 4 boxes of illy K-Cup Pods with the illy stainless logo travel mug.
  • Moka Lovers Bundle. Receive 2 cans of illy Moka coffee and the Alessi Pulcina moka pot for only $100 (regularly $120).

Tim Hortons: From Sept. 29 through Oct. 8, you can get any size free hot or iced coffee by downloading the Tim Hortons app.



‘Sideways’: 13 years later, hit film still makes waves in Santa Ynez Valley economy


Thirteen years after the premiere of “Sideways,” the region where the film is set continues to feel its impact.

The independent movie about two middle-aged men drinking and misbehaving their way through Santa Barbara wine country opened in limited release in October 2004 and went on to became a surprise hit, grossing more than $71 million at the box office. It was also a boon to the then fledgling winemaking industry in the Santa Ynez Valley and a boost to tourism in the region.

“Agriculture and tourism are really two of the big industries that are still important in Santa Barbara and the Central Coast, and wineries live right in the middle of those two,” says Josh Williams, president of Carlsbad-based BW Research, which studies the job market for the Santa Barbara County Workforce Investment Board.

Williams says his research shows the number of jobs in wineries in Santa Barbara County has grown from about 950 in 2005 to nearly 1,400 today. That’s huge growth compared to other industry sectors in the county, says Williams, who adds that winery jobs are good jobs.


“While tourism and agriculture tend to be low-wage paying industries, wineries pay anywhere from 30 to 50 percent more than the average tourism job pays,” says Williams.

Even though the sector tends to generate lower-wage jobs, there’s no denying the residual effect of increased tourism. It can be the tide that lifts all boats, bringing added customers to nearby retailers, hotels and other enterprises.

Many tourists follow the movie’s wine-tasting path through the region and decide to let someone else do the driving. That has meant opportunity for Eric John Reynolds, who started Stage Coach Wine Tours in 2001 with just a couple of vans. Now he has seven vehicles and employs seven drivers, or “tour hosts,” and he says he’s upped his game to stay on top of the competition.

“It’s now sort of like a prerequisite for my people to have an entry-level sommelier certificate” Reynolds says.



One economic barrier the film clearly broke through was the region’s lack of recognition. “I thought that all the wine came from Sonoma and Napa, so I didn’t even know this area was a big wine area,” says Lisa Carle of Scotch Plains, N.J. Recently she stopped to take pictures with her boyfriend by the Hitching Post II restaurant and bar in Buellton. More than a decade after the film’s release, they were on a mission to drink wine and see sites from “Sideways.”

“I remember Miles drank a whole bottle of wine here by himself,” says Carle, referring to the “Sideways” character played by Paul Giamatti, whose reflections and tantrums made Pinot Noir popular and Merlot passé.   “It made me appreciate this area of the country more,” Carle said of the film.

Not many people knew the wine being cultivated and produced in Santa Barbara County was of such high quality, but “Sideways” changed that, too. When consumers came looking for it, in places like Buellton, Solvang and Los Olivos, winemakers like Norm Yost were caught off guard by the sudden fame, but they were ready with a good product.

“When the movie was released after the fall of 2004, what happened here in Santa Ynez Valley was quite surprising,” says Yost, who founded Flying Goat Cellars in Lompoc in 2000.  “People came in the wine area up here [before],  but I don’t think they were really aware of what was going on, and ‘Sideways’ really opened  up the door to California and the world.”

Yost began making his own Pinot Noir in Lompoc four years before “Sideways” put the town and its wine on the map. He started small by himself, producing about 500 cases a year. After “Sideways,” that jumped to 1,200 cases, and his winery doesn’t even appear in the film. Today, Flying Goat has five employees and a tasting room and makes about 3,500 cases a year.


Palmina is more than a winery and enoteca. It is a philosophy and it is a passion. It is a strongly held belief that wine is an extension of the plate, a component of a meal and a means to bring people together.

In 2002, Kate Griffith moved to Lompoc to work in the city’s economic development department. Back then, tourists visited Lompoc to look at art and flower fields, Griffith says. The city’s hotels mainly serviced nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base during the week, but were less full on weekends.

Griffith learned that a small handful of wineries were based in an industrial park known affectionately as the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. The name embraced the non-glamorous side of wine-making: “the antithesis of any kind of chateau,” says Griffith.

In the fall of 2005, a year after the release of “Sideways,” Palmina was the first winery to open a tasting room in the “ghetto.” Today, there are at least 24 tasting rooms in Lompoc, and Griffith says the hotels do marketing tie-ins to wine tasting tourists.

“Once this movie came along, and we had people all over the world recognizing the Central Coast, Santa Barbara County and Santa Rita Hills in particular [were] producing phenomenal wines, it was easier to  go out and promote the city of Lompoc,” says Griffith, who eventually married Norm Yost and became co-proprietor of Flying Goat Cellars. “The real name we should be embracing now is the ‘Lompoc Wine Mecca.'”

Tom Pirko, managing director of the beverage consulting firm BevMark says “Sideways” hit a nerve at a time when Americans were ready to take their wine drinking to another level. He compares the movie’s release and success to another historic event in the world of wine: the 1976 wine tasting often called the Judgment of Paris, where California wines bested bottles from Bordeaux and Burgundy.


“What we really have is an industry that found its way because of a little movie, and Pinot Noir almost is synonymous in many people’s minds with red wine,” Pirko says.

Because of its proximity to the ocean, the Santa Ynez Valley has the elements to  grow Pinot Noir grapes: cool temperatures, fog, ocean breezes and rich soil. As the “Sideways” character Miles explains: “It’s thin-skinned, temperamental, it ripens early. … It’s not a survivor, like Cabernet.”


The Santa Barbara County Vintners Association says that, 10 years ago, it counted 75 member wineries. Today, that number is almost double, and the association believes there are at least a hundred more wineries in the area that aren’t members. Very few wineries in the area had tasting rooms 10 years ago; now there are at least 35 in the city of Los Olivos alone.

The Hitching Post II is now offering a “Sideways” 10-year anniversary Pinot Noir flight and serving the Pinot it was bottling back in 2003, while “Sideways” was filming. Owner, chef and winemaker Frank Ostini started making wine for his family’s restaurant in the late 1970s. Every aspect of his business expanded after the film’s release. The already successful restaurant saw a 40 percent jump in traffic, with many customers lining up before the place even opens in the late afternoon. Ostini had to hire another 20 people.

“I always told my staff the movie would come and go, so we better do everything right here,” says Ostini. “But in the end, the movie will outlive us all.”

The Hitching Post’s wine production has grown from 3,000 cases a year, pre-Sideways, to 22,000 per year today. It now produces its wines at the Terravant Wine Co. in Buellton, a modern facility that opened six years ago and serves dozens of wineries with grape-crushing, bottling and label development.

“That company wouldn’t have existed except that ‘Sideways’ came here,” Ostini says.


But even riding the “Sideways” wave of popularity, the local wine industry wasn’t immune to the recession. Rideau Vineyard in Solvang increased case production and added employees, but owner Iris Rideau says she had to cut back and get creative when times got tough.

“After the recession set in and we were all growing exponentially as a result of ‘Sideways,’ I had more wine in the winery than I needed to bottle,” Rideau says.

She started selling her bulk wine straight from a tasting room tap in growlers like some craft breweries. Wine people would just call them jugs.

“It’s been phenonomenal,” Rideau says, laughing. “People come back with three and four empty growlers in their hand.”

Economist Kenneth Harwood with the Solvang Chamber of Commerce says the lasting impact of “Sideways” carried the region through the darkest days of the recession.

“‘Sideways’ was affecting this valley just at the very worst time economically and helped to save it,” Harwood says.

In 2007, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, which already owned a casino resort in the region, took over the Royal Scandinavian hotel in Solvang, remodeled it and rebranded it with a wine theme, calling it Hotel Corque.

“The Chumash stripped that down to its bare bones, and they did that blessedly during the recession, and it provided jobs here, and it has since,” says Harwood, the economist.


Of course, one of the most remembered scenes in “Sideways” was a huge smack at Merlot, which was very popular at the time. Giamatti’s Miles character dramatically refused to drink “any [expletive] Merlot,” even to impress dates. So what happened to the much maligned Merlot?

The answer turned out to be complicated, as a 2008 working paper for the American Association of Wine Economists pointed out:

While it is difficult to attribute any change in the growth rate of case volume to the movie, we do observe relative growth of Pinot Noir and a stagnant and even declining growth in case volume of Merlot since 2004.

You certainly won’t find Hitching Post owner and winemaker Frank Ostini discrediting Merlot as a wine varietal. His winery bottled a Merlot the same year the movie was released.

“Despite what Miles said, Merlot is compelling and wonderful wine here in Santa Barbara, different from Napa Valley, and it’s different from anywhere else in the world.” Ostini says, standing over a vat of Merlot grapes at the Terravant wine facility. “So we’re proud of it.”

Before “Sideways,” he says, Pinot Noir was a hard sell, but he didn’t give up, and he’s not giving up on Merlot.

Sideways film locations

Sideways_SolvangSideways location: Miles and Jack stay at the windmill motel: Days Inn Buellton, 114 East Highway 246, Buellton, California

Photo: Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau

A bit of a dark horse from Alexander Payne (Election), with a handful of Oscar nominations, and Thomas Haden Church walking off with one of the little gold chaps.

Before committing to married middle-age, college pals Miles and Jack (Paul Giamatti and Church) take to the road for a weekend of winetasting (hangdog Miles) and casual sex (reckless Jack). Most of the film was shot north of Los Angeles, around the Santa Barbara area, and you can get a free map of their tour from the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau. In fact, the opening, supposedly ‘San Diego’, is Santa Barbara itself; and Miles’ mother’s home in ‘Oxnard’ is Santa Maria, north toward San Luis Obispo (we’ll be back to Santa Maria later).

As Miles heads into Los Angeles to collect Jack, he drives past the towering, circular Holiday Inn, 170 North Church Lane, in Brentwood – which was the hotel into which Al Pacino moves in Heat), but once on the road, the pair travel around the California coastal area, between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.

Sideways location: Santa Barbara, California

Sideways location: Miles and Jack tour Santa Barbara’s Wine Country, California

Photo: Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau

Miles teaches Jack the finer points of wine tasting – “the faintest soupcon of asparagus, and just a flutter of nutty Edam cheese” – at Sanford Winery7250 Santa Rosa Road, Buellton, before travelling on to Solvang, yes, built to look like a Scandinavian village, and then, erm, Buellton. OK, geographically it doesn’t always make total sense.

The ‘windmill’ motel at which Miles and Jack stay is Days Inn Buellton114 East Highway 246, Buellton. They walk down to the Hitching Post II406 East Highway 246, Buellton, where Maya (Virginia Madsen) waits tables, and where Miles recommends the ostrich steak.

Cracks in the odd couple relationship start to appear over breakfast at the Solvang Restaurant1672 Copenhagen Drive, Solvang.

Sideways location: Santa Maria, California

Sideways location: Miles and Jack tour Santa Barbara’s Wine Country: Santa Maria, California

Photo: Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau

Moving on, Miles and Jack cheekily help themselves to full glasses at Foxen Winery7200 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria – and we’ll be back to Santa Maria yet again. The next stop, where Jack meets the flirtatious Stephanie (Sandra Oh), is Kalyra Winery343 North Refugio Road, Santa Ynez.

Sideways location: Santa Ynez, California

Sideways location: Miles and Jack tour Santa Barbara’s Wine Country: Santa Ynez, California

Photo: Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau

Three of the foursome enjoy dinner at Los Olivos Cafe and Wine Merchant2879 Grand Avenue, Los Olivos, where Miles (“I am not drinking any fucking Merlot!”) phones his ex.

An awkward romance blooming, Jack goes bowling with Steph and her daughter at Ocean Lanes, which stood at 1420 East Ocean Avenue, Lompoc, before being demolished; and plays golf with Miles at River Course at the Alisal, Alisal Guest Ranch, 150 Alisal Road, Solvang.

The barrel room, into which Jack, Miles and Maya sneak from a particularly boring lecture, is Firestone Winery5000 Zaca Station Road, Los Olivos. Things are starting to look up for Miles as he and Maya enjoy a stroll through Lompoc Farmers’ MarketOcean Avenue and l, Lompoc.

The much-derided winery lurking behind the fake name ‘Frass Canyon’ (“frass’ is fly shit, and no, of course the winery isn’t that bad), where Miles discovers his novel isn’t going to be published and attempts to drink the spit-bucket, is the Visit: Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard6200 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos. Fess Parker, you might remember, was Davy Crockett in a couple of Disney films in the 50s. Oh, and Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch is in Los Olivos, too, if you want to drop in and try your wine from a Coke can.

There’s consolation for Miles at Gaviota State BeachHighway 101, 33 miles west of Santa Barbara, but more problems for Jack when he gets involved with married waitress Carri who works at AJ Spurs350 East Highway 246, Buellton.

Back home, and spiralling into deeper depression after meeting his ex at Jack’s wedding, Miles surreptitiously downs his precious 1961 Cheval Blanc from a plastic cup, with a burger and onion rings, not in ‘San Diego’ at all, but back in Santa Maria, at Orcutt Burger, 1785 South Broadway. Maybe not as bad as it seems – Orcutt has a reputation as the best burger joint in the area.

And those ostriches? You can see them at Ostrich Land610 East Highway 246between Buellton and Solvang. The really good news – these ostriches are not raised to be eaten.




Hugh Hefner, Founder Of Playboy, Dead At 91

Playboy founder and legendary ladies’ man Hugh Hefner has died at the age of 91, according to Playboy Enterprises.

The magazine said he “peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home.”

Hefner’s dreams of running his own magazine began while he was working as a copy editor at Esquire in 1952, and the following year he secured enough funding to launch Playboy.

The December 1953 inaugural issue featured none other than Marilyn Monroe as its cover girl, and the magazine would go on to become a multimillion-dollar empire ― including TV series, websites, DVDs and endless licensed merchandise ― and one of the most recognizable brands in the world.


In the 1960s, Hefner became the public face of the company, and was known for donning a smoking jacket, a pipe and the assurance that wherever he was, a bevy of beautiful women were not far behind. He launched a series of private key clubs that he staffed with hostesses known as “Bunnies” for their now-iconic uniforms that included bunny ears and a tail.

Hefner was arrested in 1963 and charged with selling obscene literature after publishing nude photos of actress Jayne Mansfield. The charges were dropped after a jury was unable to reach a verdict, but the experience led Hefner to launch the Playboy Foundation, which provided funding to groups researching human sexuality and fighting censorship.

Hefner took the company public in 1971, but by the mid-’70s, the magazine was facing more competition with the arrival of hardcore publications such as Penthouse and circulation began to fall. In response, the magazine released its first full-frontal centerfold in January 1972, featuring model Marilyn Cole.

The Playboy founder would find himself with health problems in 1985, when he suffered a minor stroke just a few weeks shy of his 59th birthday. It was an eye-opening experience for Hefner, who decided it was time to tone down his wild parties, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“I survived a stroke two weeks ago,” Hefner said in a statement. “My recovery is total and something of a miracle. What has happened is actually a ‘stroke of luck’ that I fully expect will change the direction of my life.”

He handed over his empire to daughter Christie, who had been president of Playboy Enterprises since 1982. She began running the company as chairman of the board and CEO in 1988.

In 2009, Scott Flanders replaced Hefner’s daughter as CEO and Playboy Enterprises Inc. began to make a radical shift focusing on its branding potential and licensing opportunities.

Two years later, Hefner made a $207 million deal to buy out the company and take it private. The deal gave him a $1 million-a-year contract, full editorial control of the magazine and the right to keep living at the Playboy Mansion, Forbes reported. Hefner told The Hollywood Reporter in September 2011 that he owned close to 37 percent of the corporation, but noted that he had limited involvement with the company’s new focus on licensing. The media mogul also revealed he estimated his personal wealth to be more than $100 million.

In that same article, THR broaches the subject of death, but it was not something Hefner ever talked about, a close colleague said. Hefner said he was not afraid of death, and had no faith in any afterlife. And his death wasn’t just a subject that Hefner avoided — at the time, the company hadn’t thought about it either.

“That’s hard to imagine. There’s no succession plan,” Flanders told THR.

But the company wasn’t without a plan for long.  In 2012, Hefner announced his then-21-year-old son Cooper was being groomed to become the public face of the company. Hefner wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, but it’s unclear how much involvement Cooper currently has with the company.

“I’ve taken a massive step back with Playboy. Just due to that fact that at this point in time I do not agree with the decisions and direction the company is actually going in,” Cooper told Business Insider in March 2016.

While Hefner was always surrounded by beautiful women, in recent years he’s made the most headlines for the company he kept ― young, blond Playboy models who lived with him at the infamous Playboy Mansion.

Hefner was first married in 1949 to a Northwestern University student named Mildred Williams, with whom he has two children ― Christie and David ― before divorcing in 1959.

In 1989, he married again, this time to Playmate of the Year Kimberley Conrad, who was 36 years his junior. Together the couple had two sons, Marston and Cooper, before they separated in 1998 and finally divorced in 2010.


City to deposit $20 million in Chicago’s last black-owned bank


The last black-owned bank in Chicago is set to receive a $20 million deposit of city funds.

City Treasurer Kurt Summers on Monday announced the deposit into Illinois Service Federal Savings and Loan Association.

Founded in Chicago in 1934 to help give the black community better access to credit, ISF Bank is one of just more than 20 black-owned banks in the country, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The deposit is meant to help drive economic development in the city’s neighborhoods, Summers said.

“It’s about being a community bank,” said Summers, noting that his office works to invest in the city’s neighborhoods and institutions. “Community banks are a great opportunity for that because they are designed for the sole purpose of reinvesting in their local area.”

Though the Bronzeville bank survived the financial crisis and remains the last black-owned bank standing in Chicago, it has seen recent overhauls.

Ghana’s Nduom family, which has a conglomerate that spans West Africa and the United Kingdom, invested $9 million into the bank in June 2016. The family brought plans to make services more efficient, among other changes.

Now, the bank is in a more stable position, and the time was right for the city to make the deposit, Summers said.

On average, the city keeps between $300 million and $700 million on deposit in banks. In order to receive deposits of city funds, financial institutions must go through a special certification process.

The deposit at ISF Bank, which went through the certification process, is the first the city has made with the intent to bolster a community bank, Summers said.

This newest deposit will strengthen the bank’s financial foundation, Chairman Papa Kwesi Nduom said in a news release.

It will ensure “that we can strengthen the economic base of our communities and help people fulfill their dreams,” he said.

The push to invest in black-owned banks and by extension the community is nothing new. The idea is that with money on hand, institutions can improve surrounding communities with loans to individuals and small-business owners.

One of ISF’s competitors, Seaway Bank and Trust, ran a local version of a national campaign known as Bank Black that encouraged people to bank at black-owned institutions. Some industry experts, however, have questioned whether opening new accounts at black-owned banks would turn around neighborhoods affected by lack of investment and jobs.

Seaway was closed by regulators early this year and after two sales is now part of North Carolina-based Self-Help Federal Credit Union.





47th Annual Legislative Conference



The CBCF Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) is the leading policy conference on issues impacting African Americans and the global black community. Thought leaders, legislators and concerned citizens engage on economic development, civil and social justice, public health and education issues. More than 9,000 people attend 70 public policy forums and much more. Join subject experts, industry leaders, elected officials and citizen activists to explore today’s issues from an African-American perspective.



Thomas Lee Lyle, son of musician Bobby Lyle, passes away


MESSAGE FROM BOBBY LYLE: My family and I are mourning the loss of my beloved son Thomas Lee Lyle who passed away Sept. 8th 2017 from diabetic complications. He had just celebrated his 50th birthday Sept. 1st.

We will be having a memorial service on Friday Sept. 22nd at the Angelus Funeral Home 3875 Crenshaw Blvd. Los Angeles, Ca 90008 to celebrate Tommy’s life and talents. The viewing is scheduled for Thurs. Sept. 21st. from 2 to 8 pm. also at Angelus. Rev. Michael Beckwith of the Agape Truth Center will officiate.

I will be leaving facebook for awhile in order to grieve and be with my family, but on behalf of my surviving children, Robin, Amaani and Ashley, as well as my Doggett/Woodard Memphis family, I want to thank you all for your prayers and condolences in this difficult time. Amaani and I will remain in LA until Tues. Sept. 26th.



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