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On Sunday I covered my fifth consecutive Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas. I also acted as the on-stage warm-up act, hyping and prompting the crowd before the show and during commercial breaks, for my fourth year. Here are some news and notes from my perspective both on the Magenta Carpet and backstage.

– Any artist that actually stopped and did media on the carpet should get some type of award. The temperatures outside T-Mobile Arena were near triple digits. It was so hot outside that inside they actually blasted the air conditioning during rehearsals. Perhaps it was a nice way to test how cold the venue can become ahead of it receiving an NHL franchise?

– I brought a change of dress shirts to account for the weather. Almost everything I wore in both outfits came from my favorite designer, John Varvatos. The tuxedo pants were H&M and my flower and pocket square were both from TheTieBar.com.

– I’d hate to say I called it but… I called it. Celine Dion stole the show at the BBMAs. I had chills listening to 18,000 inside T-Mobile Arena sing-a-long to “My heart Will Go On.” Celine is beloved as an icon, her voice is still impeccable, the movie is adored and the song as of late has gained new life as a meme of sorts. It was one my second-favorite moment from Sunday night.

– Great running in to Dan Kanter backstage. I first met Dan in 2009 inside The Mall at Steamtown in Scranton; at the time he was playing guitar for this new artist… maybe you’ve heard of him… Justin Bieber? Kanter is Bieber’s musical director and assumed similar duties for Julia Michaels’ performance of “Issues” – which I was a big fan of.

– That Rachel Platten “La La Land” adlib was just that – it was not in the teleprompter. I got a kick out of it.

– Something I really loved about this year’s show is that the stars really seemed to be enjoying themselves. You had Young Money – Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Drake – front and center both literally and figuratively for the entire show. Instead of acting too cool for the room they decided to simply join in on the party. With Drake setting the new single-night record for awards, they had plenty to celebrate.

– One of my favorite backstage moments came when BK and Tyler from Florida Georgia Line walked off stage after accepting the BBMA for “Top Country Song.” The duo embraced, let out a Ric Flair-like “Woo!” and said to each other, “Man that never gets old!” Nice to see a genuine moment of gratitude between the two.

– Another cool backstage interaction involved Diddy, who was about to pay tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. and reveal the trailer for the new Bad Boy movie “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop.” The Chainsmokers were walking off the stage after accepting another award and Puff gave them a standing O before chatting with Alex and Drew for a few minutes. That’d be a fun collaboration right?

– Give credit to Vanessa Hudgens for holding her own on national TV and to Ludacris for once again making the whole hosting gig appear way easier than it actually is.

– Some other familiar faces that said hello backstage: Chris Daughtry, Miss America Savvy Shields, Mark Cuban and Hailee Steinfeld.

– I mentioned my second-favorite moment but not the one that tops the list. That honor belongs to my Mom. She was in the crowd cheering on her son while putting the video camera on her new-er iPhone to good use. I am thankful I was able to share the night with her.

It was a crazy six hours that saw nominees, presenters and performers all stop by our broadcast area as everyone prepared for the 2017 Billboard Music Awards. We chatted with everyone from the show’s co-host Ludacris, performers Jason Derulo, Halsey and Julia Michaels plus presenters Lindsey Stirling, Chris Daughtry and Hailee Steinfeld. Check out more below!







The original plan was to sit down here in Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport and write a piece about last night’s Billboard Music Awards, reflecting on the fact that I covered the show for my fifth consecutive year and spent my fourth year as the on-stage warm-up act.

But I can’t stop thinking about the victims of this explosion in Manchester outside of an Ariana Grande concert that has now left 22 dead and dozens more injured.

Part of my full-time job involves facilitating on-air contests for concert tickets. I think the best part of giving away seats to shows is when the winner is genuinely a huge fan of the artist performing. In some instances, we aren’t just giving away two tickets – we’re affording people the chance to witness someone or something that they may never see in person again. Tickets, along with the associated costs (fees, transportation, parking, merchandise, food) can get expensive. So it’s very possible that people who were attending Ariana’s show last night were seeing her for the first and/or only time. Maybe they received the tickets as a birthday or Christmas gift. The kids might have been saving part-time paychecks to attend. Perhaps the parents were scraping by around the holidays just to put a smile on their kid’s face. Or maybe they got lucky, called at the right time and won them on a radio station.

I don’t care how many I get to attend or send others to: it’s not lost on me that these can be once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

And the night should have reflected that, from the pandemonium of Ariana taking the stage to thousands of people singing along in unison to every lyric. Concerts can provide a sense of community. Everyone in that venue could have been anywhere else but they chose to spend their time and perhaps their hard-earned cash for a common cause: to escape the world’s troubles and have fun for a few hours.

Then a senseless act of violence changed all of that. Now 19 are dead, dozens more are injured and the world is once again shocked, saddened and rendered speechless.

I’m mourning for the families who lost loved ones and praying that those injured heal quickly and fully. I’m also thinking of Ariana and her team (who are all safe and OK) along with the countless other staff members that it takes to make something like an arena concert take place.

But most of all, I wish I didn’t have to write this. I wish that Ariana was simply continuing on with her European tour after an uneventful yet successful show in Manchester. I wish that evil didn’t rear its ugly head period, let alone at a concert attended by innocent children.

I will say though, one part of my original plan will certainly stay intact: I’m reflecting on last night with an immense amount of gratitude. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and those, nor our lifetime, should ever be taken for granted.

Since leaving Niagara Falls, New York for Syracuse University in 2003, I haven’t spent Mother’s Day with my Mom often. The 2007 SU commencement was on that Sunday in May and I can remember at least one other time when my Mom visited me but otherwise, I’ve been away from the family. It was mostly a byproduct of the job; the only holiday you’re really guaranteed to have off in radio is Christmas. The fact that pretty much my entire family, sister included, are still back in Niagara Falls also factors in to it.

But on the flip side, it makes a Mother’s Day spent with Rachele that much more special because I certainly don’t take it for granted. And so you can imagine my joy that this year, as the Yankees readied to retire Derek Jeter’s number on May 14, my Mom floated the idea of coming to the city for it. While my Mom isn’t a huge baseball fan, she does root for the Yankees and likes getting to at least a game a year in the Bronx.

She, like many of us, also loves Derek. When we visited New York for my first time in 1998, my Mom was the one who overheard a worker at Niketown talking about Jeter. Minutes later I was standing in front of the shortstop and shortly thereafter, thanks to my Mom, this photo was taken.

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And so my Mom and sister Raquela flew down Saturday morning in to a rainy Manhattan where they shopped, napped and then met me for dinner at Dafni’s on 42nd. They love staying in Times Square (I’ve stopped fighting it) and have eaten at this Greek restaurant before; after our meal, I would sign up for a return visit.

That night, the two of them walked up a few blocks to see Josh Groban in “The Great Comet” (Rachele gave it high marks). The next day, we grabbed a nice early Italian dinner at Pomodoro Rosso on the Upper West Side. This quaint red-and-white tablecloth restaurant served generous portions for a moderate price. We left with full stomachs and walked to the C train so we could transfer to the D at 125 and end up at 161st and River.

Once we got inside the ballpark and made it to our seats, I ran back downstairs to spend too much money on hats, shirts, pins and programs marking Jeter’s (second) Day at Yankee Stadium. I made it back to our Jim Beam Suite seats in time for the start of the ceremony, which in typical Yankee fashion was a fantastic stroll down memory lane.

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Ironically the most forgettable part of the trip was the game itself; the Astros jumped out to an early 8-0 lead after the first few innings. But the score didn’t matter; my Mom enjoyed herself so to me, it was a winning weekend.

BradsDeals.com‘s Caroline Thompson called in to the show Thursday and offered up some solid options for last-second Mother’s Day gifts. The full guide is here.

Miley Cyrus is back on the cover of “Billboard” and set to perform her new single “Malibu” for the first time next weekend on the 2017 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas.

If it seems like déjà vu, well that makes sense. Back in 2013 Cyrus used The BBMAs as a springboard to promote her return from a three-year music hiatus. On the red carpet she talked about the comeback and “We Can’t Stop,” which would be released later that month to much fanfare.

“I don’t ever label anything,” Cyrus told me outside of the MGM Grand Garden Arena that May, while standing alongside Renaissance man will.i.am. The duo collaborated on “Feelin’ Myself” and the uber-melodic “Fall Down.” “All my party jams are real s— too. It’s all what I really need to say.”

And she said quite a bit with her fourth studio album and first on RCA, “Bangerz.” From the aforementioned lead single to the smash-hit “Wrecking Ball” followed by the tour to support the LP, Cyrus demolished any remnants of the “Hannah Montana” era.

Now seems that the songstress is in a different place. A better place? Maybe – you’d have to ask her. She’s rumored to be back on with fiancé Liam Hemsworth. She shouldn’t be judged for her appearance but from the Billboard cover this much is obvious: the edginess is either changed or gone altogether.

As for “Malibu” – well it certainly sounds more “real s—“ than “party jam” – not that Cyrus makes a distinction.

As the great philosopher Michael Gary Scott once stated, “Ain’t no party, like a Scranton party.”

And with that, let me tell you about my whirlwind weekend in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

I’ve had the honor of hosting a radio show on WBHT-FM for almost 10 years now. It was my first gig out of high school. And it let my career to places I never could have imagined (especially starting in Scranton, Pennsylvania). And last weekend, a new era of the station launched with its rebrand as “97.1/95.7 BHT” – a new name to reflect the 95.7 WBHD simulcast that covers the northern part of the market.

Straight off an all-nighter, I hopped aboard an 8:30 am bus out of Port Authority that didn’t get in to downtown Wilkes Barre until noon. I grabbed a venti Starbucks, headed to my hotel and grabbed a quick mile run on a treadmill. A hair, makeup and wardrobe change later I was out the door to my next stop: the radio station. I had to meet some new staffers, see a few familiar faces and prep for my return to WBRE-TV’s “PA Live.”

For years I checked in to the NBC affiliate’s lifestyle show with “The Ralphie Report,” a weekly recap of entertainment stories I was covering. It had been a while since I was on the show but the crew welcomed me back with open arms. I talked about the upcoming rebrand and promoted the big party later in the evening at The Woodlands.

The party lasted well in to the night, but I had to keep the train on the rails: a busy Saturday awaited me. In the span of a day I made four different stops, including PNC Field where I threw out the first pitch for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders game.


We ended the work day at La Tolteca, a Mexican restaurant that satisfied my Cinco de Mayo (Seis?) guac and marg cravings.

Following a quick visit to Mohegan Sun Pocono, I retired back to my room. Thankfully Sunday was a bit chiller: brunch, a bus back to the city and a nice 5.6 mile run in Central Park as the sun set on yet another eventful weekend.

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I certainly didn’t need another confirmation, but that Michael Scott sure hit the nail on the head.

The day after performing on “The Tonight Show” and the day before her new album “Lost On You” came out, LP stopped by to chat with me about her late night talk show appearance, the new record and the path from artist to songwriter and back to artist.

On Friday I checked in with “The Cocktail Professor” LaTanya White to grab three recipes for Cinco de Mayo cocktails that are not margaritas or a beer and are perfect for the summer season. You can hear our chat and check out the recipes below.

From LaTanya:

– The Mexican Commissioner: a take on a 71 Proof Krewe favorite, mix your favorite brand of Mezcal with triple sec and fill pineapple for a smoky toast to la revolucion!

– Felpa Mayo: a sexy summer treat that will take you right to Midtown since it’s a Cinco de Mayo twist on another favorite, Midtown Plush! Take the lovely St Germaine Elderflower Liqueur, add a splash of high quality tequila, top with club soda and squeeze fresh lime…it’s so plush!

– Lastly, Kanye gave the original recipe when he said “You mix the Goose with Malibu and we call it Malibu-yah!”…well for Cinco de Mayo, we take that Goose and use tequila, keep the Malibu and add a healthy splash of pineapple for The Mexicana!

Business Coach KK Hart called in to the show and explained why The Kardashian family is smart and successful by using 3 “F’s” – fun, function and flexible.