Important Black History Month news (Ha): The first black “Bachelorette”

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A couple of months ago I had a breakfast interview at Howley’s with former “The Bachelorette” contestant Ryan Beckett of West Palm Beach, and I asked if he thought there was ever going to be a non-white star of ABC’s dating franchise, since most of the contestants of color got bounced early. He smiled like he knew something.

“What do you know? You can’t even tell me if you know something, can you?” I said.

“I don’t know anything,” Ryan answered, although he was still smiling suspiciously.

Well, now, we all know – “I am so excited!!! It’s about time!!!!,” Ryan emailed me after the confirmation that stunning, smary attorney Rachel Lindsay of Dallas, who also happens to be African-American, will be the star of this coming’s season of “The Bachelorette.”

The announcement came officially on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” although there were spoiler Tweets all day long from ABC, and spoilers from other sites even before that. It’s weird that as of the end of last night’s “The Bachelor,” Rachel was still in the mix with repeat offender Nick Viall. But apparently that didn’t work out and now she’s got her own thing going.

And that’s great. I’m happy that the show will finally acknowledge that the beauty of black women, who dating site statistics and even suspicious science, have given a hard time.  (I’m currently dating again, and even some of the people that Match.com matches me with don’t like black women among their preferences. That’s your choice, of course, but do better, Match.) Then again, this is an admittedly addictive but silly show where a single person “dates” several people at the same time, claiming to look for love while mugging dramatically and trying not to pretend they’re dating several people.

So it’s not, you know, voting rights or Brown V. Board of Education or anything. But there’s now more equality in the chance to look silly on a dating show, so, yay?

Oscar Nominations: Shockers, snubs and finally not “So White”

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Academy Awards host Jimmy Kimmel

To me, the biggest surprise of the 2017 Academy Awards nominations this morning was the way the nominations were announced on “Good Morning America.” There was a filmed presentation of past nominees giving advice with the usual important-sounding Oscar-y score behind it, rather than an awkward press conference with reporters “Whoo!”-ing for the nominees they approved of and giving “Who dat?” silence for the ones they didn’t.

This was prettier, but I kind of miss the live feeling of it, because the nervous weirdness gives it more drama. Having said that, the nominees themselves were interesting because some were expected, some weren’t, and there was enough diversity to put that “Oscars So White” protest from the past two years at least temporarily behind us. I’m thrilled, not because I’m a writer who happens to be a black woman, but as a film fan who wants to see more than the same stories told over and over again.

And let me say that the people nominated here are not tokens placed there so Will and Jada and them will shut up about it. There are seven actors of color nominated, including several African-Americans and Indian actor Dev Patel. This feels fresh, not just in terms of race and culture but of new names. One of those new names is Justin Timberlake, and I think he stole Pharrell’s “Best Song” nomination, but that’s how it goes, I guess.

So what didn’t make me happy? I wish Tarjai P. Henson had been honored for carrying “Hidden Figures” with a Best Actress nomination, and that Janelle Monae had gotten one for Best Supporting, although Octavia Spencer, who was nominated, made me cry, although I was even more struck by the other two actresses.

Here’s something else interesting – in a year that seems to be celebrating diversity in an organic way, we’re also seeing the comeback of Mel Gibson, who seemed to have torpedoed his career years back for saying bigoted and misogynist things. But there he is with a nomination for Best Director for “Hacksaw Ridge,” which got several other nods including Best Picture.

“Moonlight” has done so well in nominations, and it’s amazing that it’s diverse in every way, about a black man exploring his sexuality. We don’t get to see those stories much, and I’m so pleased that it’s been received so well. I still think Viola Davis should have been in the Best Actress category for “Fences,” because she’s clearly the other star besides Denzel Washington, but if she needs to do Supporting Actress to win, that’s a strategy. I’m sad that Hugh Grant didn’t get a peep for “Florence Foster Jenkins,” but at least that unknown upstart Meryl Streep did. Love her. It’s her 20th nomination!

And in shallow news, I just want to see what Best Actress nominee Natalie Portman wears, because she’s nominated for playing Jackie Kennedy, so she’s got to slay.

 

“Celebrity Apprentice” replaces swaps The Donald for Ah-nuld: Our take on the new season

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Before former California governor/action legend/human catchphrase Arnold Schwarzenegger even began his tenure Monday as the boss on NBC’s “The New Celebrity Apprentice,” there was much discussion about what his kiss-off line was going to be. He obviously couldn’t use previous host/current President-elect Donald Trump‘s “You’re fired.” Conventional wisdom had been that he might go with “Hasta la vista, Baby,” from “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” because that’s literally a farewell. I was hoping he’d go with “Hit the bricks” or “Get to stepping,” because neither have anything to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger but that’s part of the charm.

Sadly, the Governator decided to go with the expected but all-together appropriate “You’re terminated,” followed up by the fabulously droll “Get to the choppa” from “Terminator,” because SYNERGY. It was ridiculous and over-the-top and I loved it, because Arnold’s famously reserved Austrian-ness doesn’t necessary make for the most personality-laden hosting job. Trump was all alpha New York energy, with an impatient “Time is money” attitude and a caffeinated jittery air that fit his rabid-fire “You’re fired” and whatever that mongoose finger-pointy thing he used to do. That hair-trigger thing made him fun to watch but utterly terrifying to the contestants because his firing decisions often seemed to make no sense to anyone but him. He’d ignore the absolute incompetency of a project manager and go after some quiet girl in the corner just because she was trying to hide. Then there was the time he fired someone because her mean girl teammates decided to tell him she was crazy. (He brought her back on to apologize, but the damage was done.)

Ahnuld, on the other hand, seemed to base his firing decisions on actual job performance – YouTube celebrity Carrie Keagan got the heave-ho because she couldn’t defend not speaking up over legitimate issues she saw with the project, and project manager Carnie Wilson (who I loved but deserved to go) refused to accept blame and therefore could not “Hold On” for one more day. (Yes, it’s a dumb reference. What of it?) That logic might make him more boring, but it’s less stressful as a viewer. Also, I like the parts of the formula that he and creator Mark Burnett kept – the boardroom, a familial adviser (in this case, nephew and attorney Patrick) and making the booted contestant be publicly and immediately dismissed – and what they’ve added – the L.A. location and Tyra Banks. When she went after the female team in the first episode for failing to use any of their famous lady faces to showcase her makeup in their challenge, she had some of that “America’s Next Top Model” ferocity. I thought they might cry.

Our verdict? The new boss is not yet as memorable as the old one. But he’s got time. And Tyra can always start yelling at people. I’d watch that.

Former rival on why “everybody loves” new “The Bachelor” star Nick Viall now

Nick Viall, the new "Bachelor" on ABC
Nick Viall, the new “Bachelor” on ABC

When Palm Beach County real estate agent Ryan Beckett first met Nick Viall, who starts handing out roses Monday night as “The Bachelor,” he wasn’t super impressed. After all, they were trying to date the same woman.

“I didn’t give him a chance,” says Beckett, who like Viall was vying for the heart of Kaitlyn Bristowe, quirky star of the 2015 season of ABC’s “The Bachelorette.” Beckett, of West Palm Beach’s Bit Realty, was one of the original cast, who was surprised when Viall, who’d tried and failed to win the heart of previous “Bachelorette” Andi Dorfman, basically crashed the middle of the season because he’d met Kaitlyn and some or other “Bachelor” event and said he liked her. Viewers like me and contestants like Beckett, who was sent home the same episode that Nick showed up, didn’t buy it – “I’d known all the other guys from Day One, and this guy shows up. I didn’t know who he was,” Beckett says. “By the time I went home, it was episode 5 and I was actually ready to go home. I was like a beaten puppy.”

Like he had with Andi, Nick made it to the “Close but no engagement” spot with Kaitlyn, and got a full-blown weasel edit. But two years later, Viall’s now being pitched as the nice guy you’re all rooting for in his fourth franchise appearance.  He either has an unflagging commitment to finding love or just really, really enjoys getting dumped on TV. Beckett, who recently relocated from Wellington to West Palm, has gotten to know his former rival through various “Bachelor” appearances and on last summer’s “Bachelor” alum bikini-fest “Bachelor in Paradise.” And now he’s rooting for him, too.

“He’s like Mitt Romney. Everybody loves him now,” Beckett says of Viall. “People like him because he’s good at articulating his feelings.”

And for what it’s worth, Beckett says he’s forgiven Viall for showing up mid-season and being the man who, as he jokingly Tweeted to me, “#stolemyrose.” All’s fair in love, war and televised rose ceremonies – “In retrospect, I realize he didn’t owe anything” to the other suitors, “and now I think ‘Why was I so upset?'”

Beckett says he’s made a lot of friends from the Bachelor universe, but doesn’t plan to return, “although I didn’t think I would have gone on ‘Bachelor In Paradise, either. I was at a wedding in the Bahamas when a producer (reached out) to me, and I was waffling about doing it. My friend said ‘Let me get this straight. They’re going to pay you to go to a beautiful resort, date beautiful women and drink tequila. Why aren’t you going?”says Beckett, whose salt-and-pepper beard on “Paradise” earned him the nickname “Silver Fox.”

He’s still out here dating, but in reality, rather than on reality TV. But Beckett’s agreed to watch “The Bachelor” and tell us what he thinks of Nick’s picks every week. He refuses to give spoilers but is pulling for his former rival.

“He’s good at expressing himself and being vulnerable,” Beckett says. As the promos say, “Fourth time’s the charm.” Lord, we hope so.

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Juno Beach Cafe’s autistic employee: His mother provides inspiration to help young student speak

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Our story about the amazing Carpenter family, whose son Reese has become a favorite of Juno Beach Cafe customers during the year he’s worked there, has gotten overwhelming praise from those in the autism community, those in Juno who’ve been on the receiving end of one of Reese’s sweet smiles and his coffee-pouring prowess, and just people who like a good, positive story about the power of hard work and belief.

Reese has gained a lot of fans, but there’s at least one North Palm Beach family who are fans of another Carpenter – Reese’s mother Angela, who quit her job as a paralegal when her son was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, and went to work as a teaching assistant for a charter school for kids like him.

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Landon Saake, who learned to speak with the help of Miss Angie Carpenter, mother of Juno Beach Cafe employee Reese Carpenter

“Thank you for writing this!,” writes Calley Smith, whose five-year-old son, Landon Saake, is a student at The Learning Center at the Els Center of Excellence in Jupiter. “Miss Angie was one of the teachers in Landon’s class last year. She kept telling me that he was going to have a breakthrough and start speaking. I never really allowed myself to believe her, but she was so right. Over the summer he started speaking. Not well, he still has a long way to go, but before he wouldn’t even try. But Miss Angie is an amazing person!”

Miss Angie, who now works at Palm Beach Gardens’ Connections Educations Center, another charter school for those on the spectrum, originally told the Post that she went into education to both learn what to do when her son entered school and to serve as a resource to other parents. Obviously, it’s working.

 

Local mom gets “Shark Tank” deal with Lori Greiner

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Sarah Blain, the single mom entrepreneur whose Boca Raton-based business Sealed By Santa was recently featured in the Palm Beach Post, appeared on Friday night’s “Shark Tank” to try and get a $150,000 investment for 20 percent of her company. After a video visit from St. Nick himself, three offers and some tears, she left with a deal from QVC queen Lori Greiner.

Blain, whose company offers customized letters from the North Pole complete with an authentic postmark, as well as reindeer food and a certificate that the receiving kid made the Nice List, got an initial offer from notoriously prickly Kevin “Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary. (He, incidentally, did not make the Nice List.) But it was for a third of the company, which she explained was too much equity. She then started to cry, elaborating that she was now a single mother who needed to keep it around the 20 percent in an order to protect her business for her and her two daughters. She also explained that the day “Shark Tank” called was the day that her husband left, making it both the worst and best days. (If you’ve had both profound loss and gain in quick succession, this makes so much sense.)

She wound up accepting Lori’s offer of $150,000, consisting of a loan of $75,000, for 22.5 percent of the company, after being intrigued by the idea of adding a Tooth Fairy letter option. (Kids lose teeth year-round, doncha know.)

Read more on Sarah here.

Former Sec. of State Madeleine Albright stops for lunch at West Palm diner Howley’s

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (right) with server Shannon O'Neil at Howley's Restaurant in October.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (right) with server Shannon O’Neil at Howley’s Restaurant in October.

The well-known slogan of classic West Palm Beach eatery Howley’s is “Cooked in Sight, Must Be Right.” Last month, there certainly was something special in sight, among the high layer cakes and sweet potato fries: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stopped by for lunch with friends on October 22, to the delight of staff and restaurant patrons.

“People recognized her. She was walking through the restaurant and people thanked her for her work,” recalls server Katie Swift, who was working the lunch shift that Albright visited and observed that “she was a very sweet lady. She said hello to everyone and was very nice.”

Swift said that Albright, in town to campaign for then-Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, wasn’t doing any politicking at the restaurant but was “just eating with friends. She was awesome. She stopped and talked to people who wanted to talk to her. We enjoyed having her.”

 

 

National Black Cat Day: Places to cross paths with a lucky kitty of your own

Pepper, a former Palm Beach submitted by Pal, Beach Post Pet of the Week, submitted by Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control
Pepper, a former Palm Beach submitted by Palm Beach Post Pet of the Week, submitted by Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control

Did you know that black cats are the least likely kitties to be adopted from shelters, perhaps because of their unfair reputation for being bad luck? (One of my favorite all-time felines, Cusack Joan Streeter (1992-2005), was a darker-hued lass and one of your sweeter beings to ever completely hog a queen bed). Dispel that myth by celebrating today’s National Black Cat Day, honoring the coolness of coal-colored kitties everywhere. You can look up interesting facts on black cats, like the fact that they’re actually considered lucky in some cultures, or visit Meow Mix’s Cat Giffer where you can turn photos of your feline friends of any color into Web-ready images.

Max, a black cat from Ft. Pierce's All Pets Rescue
Max, a black cat from Ft. Pierce’s All Pets Rescue

But the most important thing you can do is go to the local shelter of your choice and bring one of those hard-to-place honeys home with you.   (The Palm Beach Post’s Pet of the Week column always has some good ideas, too)

 

Okeechobee Music Festival 2017: Music line-up just announced!

 

 

 

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Well, that’s interesting!

The Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival, following up its sold-out inaugural year of rocking, camping and yoga-ing near the lake, announces a winning line-up for its 2017 version, which hits the beach March 2-5.  Acts include Solange, who just did “Saturday Night Live,” Bassnectar, Usher & The Roots, Kings of Leon, The Lumineers, Usher & The Roots, Flume, Wiz Khalifa, Pretty Lights, Rae Sremmurd, Young The Giant, Porter Robinson (Live), Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, and more.

A limited quantity of both 3-day and 4-day Early Bird festival tickets as well as Early Bird VIP packages are on sale now at  OkeechobeeFest.com. Early Bird 3 day GA price is $229, Early Bird 4 day GA price is $249, and Early Bird Eternal Sunshine VIP price is $599.

 

Singer Darius Rucker Retweets photo of 3-year-old Halloween version

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There was no real science behind why I choose to dress my three-year-old son Brooks as country and pop icon of laidbackness Darius Rucker. Brooks just started learning to play guitar, has taken a shine to Rucker’s style, and Rucker is part of a series of cute brown-skinned guitar-playing men that my son could play with a few accessories and a swirl of creative eyeliner. Also, I just thought it was funny.

You know who else thought it was funny? The actual Darius Rucker, or whoever runs his Twitter. The former Hootie and the Blowfish lead singer and now mega country star Retweeted my post about Brooks and his costume, and so far it’s been Retweeted about 17 times and liked more than 150 times. It’s sweet as a parent, particularly an adoptive mom who was not allowed to even post photos or his name online for more than two years after Brooks came to live here. Next year, he’ll want to pick his own costume. I hope that maybe he’s going to pick Mr. Rucker again. A lot of material to cover, you know.

More on Halloween costumes here.