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Darren Criss knows this has never been done before, so he is well-aware that it may not work. But he’s betting on the passion of theatergoers and Broadway supporters to make his first ever “Elsie Fest” on Sunday a success.

“Basically what I’m trying to do here is sort of a Warped Tour of musical theater, cabaret tunes,” Criss explained to me in between rehearsals. “Just to kind of take everybody out of the concert hall, ditch the dinner jackets and the ties and kind of trade it for a t-shirt, jeans and a beer.”

For this reason, Criss chose outdoor venue JBL Live at Pier 97 as the inaugural setting. The lineup features the former “Glee” star along with Aaron Tveit (“Graceland,” “Catch Me If You Can”), Lea Salonga (“Mulan,” “Miss Saigon”), Laura Osnes (“Greece,” “Cinderella,”), Leslie Odom Jr. (“Hamilton”), Seth Rudetsky and StarKid.

In addition to the announced lineup, Criss teased that a number of surprise guests will be making appearances on stage. The festival is also running opposite Broadway Cares’ Broadway Flea Market (both events benefit the charity). Criss also invited Marie’s Crisis – the historic West Village piano bar – to run the beer garden on site.

The goal, reflecting the spirit of the theater community, is to create an event that everyone feels welcome at. But again, this has never been done before, and its creator is well-aware.

“Well, let’s hope so,” when I noted that there seems to be something at the festival for everyone. “We’re going to find out.”

Criss said at the beginning of our conversation that he was simply trying to keep his head screwed on to his body. In addition to creating and performing at a brand new festival, the actor is currently filming “American Horror Story: Hotel.”

“Not only do you get to be around Kathy Bates and Lady Gaga but it’s also, you walk on set and it’s this crazy looking set with all of these people in crazy looking outfits,” he explained. “You just can’t help but be swept up by the whole thing.”

Surely to fans’ delight, Criss does share scenes with Gaga.

“But not as many as I like,” he added with a laugh. Perhaps he had a hard time keeping his head screwed on after all.

David Cook stopped by “Ralphie Tonight” to chat about his new album Digital Vein and how it got him back to a place where he once again loves to write and record music. Cook was candid about how the death of his brother affected his music, and why he’s in a really good place at the moment. He also took fan questions and talked about possibly returning to “American Idol” next season.

In this week’s edition of “Trend Hungry Tuesday” – Resident Fashionista Jessie Holeva talked about a trend she spotted on the red carpet of The Emmys: heavy-metal embellishments.


Visit Trend Hungry to find the latest fashion 411 on a skinny budget, and catch Jessie every Tuesday evening on “Ralphie Tonight.”

Photo: instagram.com/kerrywashington

Photo: instagram.com/kerrywashington

We caught up with friend-of-the-show Marc Scibilia recently on “Ralphie Tonight.” His new album, ‘Out Of Style,’ is set for an October 30 release. Scibilia just dropped the music video for the first single, “How Bad We Need Each Other,” featuring Vine star Brandon Bowen. He also made his national TV debut with a performance of the track on The Today Show.

Scibilia talked about life on the road; he’s been busy supporting James Bay followed by ZZ Ward in addition to traveling to radio stations in promotion for his single. He also revealed the one spot he always hits up in New York City; a place that has a location just blocks from my apartment and yet I have yet to stop in for this famed “Cereal Milk Ice Cream” that Marc speaks of.

Gotham Magazine Entertainment Editor Juliet Izon called in ahead of Sunday’s Emmys to chat about some of the nominees Niche Media has covered over this past year and what she was looking forward to with the award show.
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Betty Cantrell won the 95th edition of the Miss America competition last Sunday in a live telecast on ABC from Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. Cantrell did not celebrate her Miss America win with an extravagant dinner or over-the-top bash, although she attended the pageant’s after-party for about five minutes.

But after showing face, Cantrell retreated to a more intimate post-crowning setting.

“My after-party was in my hotel suite with my family and friends,” Cantrell revealed in an interview that aired Wednesday on “Ralphie Tonight.” “That’s pretty much how I celebrated; by eating like little cheese and crackers.”

For Cantrell though, the real celebration was when the crown went atop her head. In person, the crown is quite stunning; even the box it travels in looks elegant. There are four points on the crown signifying service, scholarship, success and style. And while Cantrell is looking forward to her $50,000 scholarship and the success and style that the title tows, she was quick to point out first and foremost that the next year for her will be one of service.
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“Miss America has to have a servant’s heart and be service-oriented,” she noted. “I love being a servant to the people and catering to the children that I so dearly love.”

“Healthy Children, Strong America,” is the platform that Cantrell plans to speak about in schools around the country. As Miss America, the Georgia-native will also represent the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.

And she will travel, a lot. Cantrell’s schedule won’t keep her in the same city for more than three days. But the Broadway-hopeful, who wowed the likes of Brett Eldridge and Vanessa Williams with her Opera performance during the talent portion of the show, doesn’t seem to mind.

“I’ll just get sleep next year!” she joked, while also noting that “home base,” if you can even call it that given her schedule, will be Atlantic City.

Maybe one day she will call New York home. But Cantrell has much to accomplish before she can entertain those thoughts. Besides, the next stop on her press tour was a place she would be visiting for the first time, and also one associated with stardom and big dreams.

Hollywood.




Monday night’s interview with Justin Bieber is creating headlines both in the States and abroad.

Everyone is talking about it for the same reason: during my chat with Bieber I mentioned 17 year-old Shawn Mendes. I find a few similarities in the two: both achieved success as teenagers, both are talented and good-looking singers who can play guitar and both are from Southern Ontario. Mendes scored a number one album this year and has a single climbing the Pop chart. The two apparently have a number of mutual friends and were even both up in the same Much Music Video Award category back in Canada.

But, now infamously, Bieber responded to an inquiry I made about the up-and-coming singer by asking, “Who’s Shawn Mendes?”

The media is having a field day with this one. Billboard, MTV News, VICE, USA Today, E! News, Entertainment Weekly and SPIN all covered it.

Then Mendes appeared Wednesday morning on BBC Radio 1’s Breakfast Show with Nick Grimshaw. Audio of their exchange is below. The original interview hit 100,000 views in 24 hours.

And in a plot twist, last night Bieber began following Mendes on Twitter.

In this week’s edition of “Trend Hungry Tuesday” – Resident Fashionista Jessie Holeva highlighted a trend seen at NYFW: see-through style.


Visit Trend Hungry to find the latest fashion 411 on a skinny budget, and catch Jessie every Tuesday evening on “Ralphie Tonight.”

Photo: https://instagram.com/lclaurenconrad/

Photo: https://instagram.com/lclaurenconrad/

The reports on Justin Bieber, and there were plenty of them, said that he was simply hanging with the wrong crowd. That explained the rumors of drug use and parties, the run-ins with the law and the rather reckless behavior.

In an interview that aired Monday on “Ralphie Tonight,” Bieber admitted as much.

“I just had pretty bad people around that were just taking advantage of my generosity and taking advantage of my sweet soul,” a low-key and relaxed Bieber spilled to me while donning a black sweatshirt, hood pulled up above a black baseball cap. “I just thought that that’s how it was supposed to be. They were saying the right things.”

But Bieber, in perhaps one of the many ways that he has changed, stops short of placing all of the blame on others.

“I was young and naïve,” he admitted before adding, “and just trusting people and got my heart broken.

“So then I was just like, f— everybody.”

But now the 21 year-old is surrounded by a group of people he feels is looking out for his best interests. I ask if those people, such as his mother Pattie Mallette and manager Scooter Braun, were always there but simply not paid any attention to until now.

“For sure, but it has to be on your time,” he replied. “They were poking me and poking me saying, ‘Justin! Justin!’ (But) until I really wanted to listen, it wasn’t going to happen.”

But this journey, which he explains involves no longer internalizing what people say but rather reflecting it back out in to the world as a positive light (his words, not mine), is what Bieber attributes in part to scoring his first chart-topper on the Billboard Hot 100. “What Do You Mean?” debuted at number one, with 337,000 downloads sold in its opening week.

“I want it to be all about the music but you want to see people win when they’re genuine and authentic,” he stated. “I was in a place before where I was just trying to figure it out.”

It seems that at least to this point, Bieber has done that, although even he warns that inevitably he will “fall again.” But right now his focus is on a new album, due out this November, which he says is “40% done.”

“Like the album is pretty much complete,” he elaborated. “I just have so much touching up to do, but it’s going good.”

By “touching up,” Bieber means that he’ll go back to some songs after he sits with them for a few weeks and re-cut lines and/or add background vocals. The Canadian-born singer said there will be features on the LP, but would not reveal who. However when I asked him what artists are influencing him positively, one came to mind.

“I really like Ed Sheeran,” he responded. “I think he’s a really good dude too.”

And perhaps that is just an example of Bieber “reflecting” his light of positivity towards others. Ultimately though, he will be judged by his actions and not words. Yet even his harshest detractors might admit that the pop star sounds like someone who has experienced a life-transforming moment or two.

77 WABC Host/Reporter Rita Cosby called “Ralphie Tonight” for a special edition of “Weekend Scoop.” Cosby recalled covering the September 11 tragedy for Fox News and breaking the story that Osama bin Laden was the mastermind behind the attacks.

To donate to The Wounded Warriors Project, visit: woundedwarriorproject.org.

BONUS: Here’s my first ever national cable news report. This is from the fall of 2006. I was a senior at Syracuse University and Rita was an anchor at MSNBC. Small world, eh?