Gold medalist, Final Five member, “Dancing With The Stars” contestant and New Jersey native Laurie Hernandez called in to my show Thursday night ahead of her homecoming show Friday at the Prudential Center in Newark. In between “DWTS” and all of the other opportunities she’s receiving as a 16 year-old Olympian, the Old Bridge-born star is on tour with the “Kellogg’s Tour Of Gymnastics Champions.” Buy tickets to Friday’s show here.
Photo: USA Gymnastics / John Cheng
Hernandez talked about coming home, touring the country, competing on the Olympics and on “DWTS” as well as if she’s started thinking about college or the 2020 Olympics.
Erin Andrews is a victim who found justice in our legal system. But judging by the way people reacted online following a $55 million verdict in a lawsuit she filed against the owner of the Marriott at Vanderbilt University and the man who stalked her across two different cities, you’d think the sportscaster had just gotten away with murder.
Back in 2008, Andrews was secretly videotaped through a compromised hotel door peephole by a pervert who was eventually convicted of interstate stalking. The perpetrator, Michael David Barrett, served 30 months in prison. But his ability to easily find out Andrews’ room number and then book his stay next door is the reason the TV host named both the hotel and Barrett in her lawsuit.
A jury in Nashville, where one of the incidents took place, sided with Andrews. When the defense is as incompetent as the hotel’s legal team was, it is not difficult to understand why she won. Attorneys for the Marriott’s owners, West End Hotel Partners and Windsor Capital Group, actually had the gall to argue in court that the leaked video of Andrews’ naked body helped her career.
The idea that Andrews, who since the tape’s release moved from ESPN to Fox Sports and also picked up “Dancing With The Stars” co-hosting duties, was helped by this criminal act is irrelevant. The idea that a person could prey on someone in a hotel and the company’s counsel would actually try and defend the act is reprehensible. Thankfully jurors in Nashville sent a clear message to the hospitality industry: the privacy and safety of guests is and should always be a priority.
That message, along with hopefully Andrews’ ability to heal from the pain and trauma of this incident, is the true value of this verdict. However some don’t see it that way, in part because they probably can’t see past Andrews: she’s attractive, successful and scandal-free despite the heinous crime committed against her. It doesn’t matter if her rights are violated and her privacy shredded to pieces because she’s famous and the best at her job, right?
I guess that’s why it made sense for one columnist in the New York Daily News to call the verdict, “a mockery of real pain and genuine suffering.” The author, Gersh Kuntzman, cited the police brutality cases in the deaths of Eric Garner and Freddie Gray. Their families received $5.9 and $6.4 million respectively.
Kuntzman doesn’t believe it is fair for Andrews to receive that kind of money from a jury when the verdicts for more serious cases are far less. Had Andrews won a $55 million settlement because she was mistreated by police, maybe he would have a point. Perhaps someone gave him some bad information, but hopefully by now he has been informed that these cases have nothing to do with each other.
(Ed note: TMZ reported Andrews will probably take home about $6 million after the appeal is settled and the legal beagles receive their cut; not that her take-home in any way is relevant to either the verdict or cases of police brutality.)
Kuntzman, Fox News legal analyst Arthur Aidala and countless Twitter experts who can’t even throw a name behind their opinion clearly have never experienced such a violation of privacy. The women in their lives must be immune to it as well, because I’d like to think that had this happened to someone they cared about, it wouldn’t be so quickly dismissed as “a mockery.”
Especially considering the verdict came down on the eve of “International Women’s Day.”
Andy Grammer stopped by and talked about the amazing 2015 he and his wife have had, capped with his Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade performance last week. Grammer re-released his album Magazines Or Novels with the new single, “Good To Be Alive (Hallelujah).”
If you were someone who thought that “Dancing With The Stars” winners Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Meryl Davis were dating – you were wrong. At least, according to Mark Ballas.
“Max and Meryl aren’t dating either,” Ballas told “Ralphie Tonight” in studio last week. “Here’s the thing, this is what happens: You get sucked in to the performances and the passion and ‘Oh, they almost kissed.’”
You also probably have read (if you enjoy keeping up on such things) that for the better part of this past season, Chmerkovskiy and Davis have played coy when asked about the subject matter. Dare we say they well…. danced around it?
“I think it’s because so that we do what we’re doing right now,” Ballas responded when I brought this up during our conversation about them. “They’re just intelligent. They know how to play the game.”
It is a game that Ballas is well-aware of but is not currently playing. After a season of “DWTS” that ended with a shoulder injury, the artist is now turning his attention to physical therapy and the promotion of his new single, “Get My Name.”
“The day we put it out, it debuted at number 24 on the iTunes Pop Chart,” Ballas recalled proudly of May 5. “I’m doing this all independently; no (record) label. So considering that, I’m really excited.”
The song is a fun pop track – Ballas croons over a bouncy beat infused with a bit of jazz. His “DWTS” cohort Derek Hough directed the song’s music video, a total throwback to the era of the 50’s and 60’s. “Get My Name” is the first single from Ballas’ forthcoming LP.
“This is the first full studio album I’ve done,” the singer said of the project. “I’ve done acoustic EPs and I’ve done acoustic stuff before, which has been a little more stripped back because I hadn’t had the resources or the access to amazing producers in the genre that I wanted to go in to.”
That changed when Ballas signed a music publishing deal with Nashville-based BMG.
“(BMG) put me in the studio with some great producers like Jim Beanz, The Stereotypes, and then the producer that’s done a majority of my record’s name is Wizz Dumb,” Ballas revealed. “He’s Timbaland’s protégé; he works in that camp.”
It certainly makes sense that an artist who has drawn comparisons to Justin Timberlake and opened up for Robin Thicke would be working with someone on Timbaland’s team. But Ballas pulls no punches about the fact that he wants to create his own lane as an artist who can sing, dance, and play guitar. He hopes to educate the masses that he possesses all of those talents with an album release tentatively slated for late summer.
Ballas is also looking to jump on to a tour for a major artist as a supporting act. The singer says that while he is undecided on a return to “Dancing,” he will have four months off regardless.
“I have a Valentine’s date this year, so I’m looking forward to it,” Ballas said, not naming dropping aspiring singer Tiffany Dunn. “I haven’t had a Valentine’s date in a while, so it’s going to be nice to do something.”
Before flying back west, Ballas performed inside Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT. The “Dancing With The Stars” pro is in the studio working on the follow-up to HurtLoveBox.
“I’m not sure when it’s going to be out yet, but it’s a lot different to my old stuff,” he noted. “My other two records are just acoustic albums, they’ve been kind of more singer/songwriter. So this next record, we’re going a little more urban/pop with it.”
If Ballas could compare – essentially he’d like to play the guitar like John Mayer, sing like Bruno Mars, and move like Justin Timberlake. Yes, he is taking the project in a much more mainstream direction, but Ballas insists that has nothing to do with the mainstream show he dances on.
“For me, this is what I wanted to do,” he revealed. “When I do my music, I don’t really do it because I think that it’s what should be done, I do it because it’s what I feel.”
As far as “Dancing” goes, season 14 kicks off next month, and one person Ballas feels would be great for the show is legendary actress Betty White.
“I think she would be amazing!” he gushed. “I think if Betty White were to come on, they’d bring my dad (Corky) back for her… it would be great to have my dad back, you know?”
Ballas will continue writing and recording throughout the year, and hopes to drop a single from his new project before 2012’s end. Since her appearance on “DWTS,” he has become close with singer Nicole Scherzinger, and hinted that they may collaborate in the future.
On Wednesday evening I talked Jennifer Lopez, Kirstie Alley, Katie Couric, and Charlie Sheen with hosts Brooke Anderson and A.J. Hammer on CNN HLN’s “Showbiz Tonight.” It was my first appearance on “Showbiz” and a pleasure to join the program for a couple segments of the hour-long show.
The Life & Style Scene Queens reported that Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino traded drinking and partying for dancing… as in, practice for “Dancing With The Stars.” Entertainment reporter Juliet Izon discussed “The Sitch’s” new regimen on “The Ralphie Radio Show.”
He’s flying from coast to coast – filming a new movie, “Inkubus” in the east, appearing on “Dancing with the Stars” out west. He just welcomed a second child in to his life. This summer he is preparing for a two week run of “The Producers” in Pittsburgh – on top of countless other appearances and hosting commitments.
Yet somewhere in between all of this, Joey Fatone is finding the time to go back to his roots and launch a solo music career. “Radio” is his first single, and the evening before it hit iTunes, the former ‘N Sync member somehow spared 10 minutes to check in to “The Ralphie Radio Show.”
“It’s been a crazy month of May for me,” Fatone said, arguably a rather large understatement. “It’s been unreal, and I count my blessings every day.”
‘N Sync released its debut, self-titled album 12 years ago. From 1998 to 2003, the group sold 56 million albums worldwide – a number that sounds and reads unfathomable in this day and age. After the boy band disbanded – Justin Timberlake and J.C. Chasez pursued separate music careers. Lance Bass unsuccessfully attempted to launch in to space, before revealing he was gay in 2006. Chris Kirkpatrick hosted a morning radio show and appeared in a couple reality TV programs.
And if you were looking for Fatone, you didn’t need to look any further than the closest screen or stage – because the baritone singer decided he’d pursue everything that didn’t involve recording an album and touring.
“I did ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’, and then I went off and did Broadway for a while,” noted Fatone, who appeared in “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Rent.” “And then I was spending time with my wife and my kid, and then I just finally had another kid recently.”
Fatone cites the birth of his second daughter as the reason he backed out of the spotlight – focusing on his family after “Dancing with the Stars” and his various hosting credits, which include the TV Guide Network. Now he’s back on the road – wrapping up his current film, a horror flick in which he stars alongside Robert Englund – the original Freddy Krueger, before the end of the month. Despite the constant activity in his life, Fatone believes the timing is right to return to music. —
Part 1: New movie, Return to “Dancing with the Stars”
Part 2: Solo album plans, possible Justin collab, “The Producers” in Pittsburgh
— “To have all the guys from ‘N Sync come out with an album at the same time, and just where I was, for me to do more Broadway and obviously not come out with an album, I think for me I’m glad it was kinda that way,” revealed Fatone. “You know, you don’t want people to get bombarded and go, ‘Oh look, Justin’s coming out with an album, oh here’s J.C. coming out with an album, here’s Joey coming out with an album, who’s coming out with an album next?’”
So he waited, and eventually recorded a handful of songs over the past couple years – fine-tuning his work until he was satisfied.
“I’m not the biggest writer, Justin and J.C. were really, really great writers… I’d always come up with concepts but never was a writer for that,” he recalled. “I always wanted to, and over the years developed writing and coming up with more ideas and working with a friend of mine, Rob Giles, who wrote ‘Radio’, it just kind of came together.”
Somehow Fatone fit in writing and recording sessions between his litany of other gigs. He’s only worked with Giles in studio thus far, but plans on reaching out this summer to other potential collaborators, including Timberlake. Fatone agreed with my assessment that Justin is more interested in partnering with other artists at the moment than recording his own material, so now may be the time to snag him for a feature.
“I think right now, because he doesn’t want the pressure on himself to have to go on tour and all that stuff,” said Fatone, who mentioned that he already spoke with Timberlake regarding the possibility. “So I think for him, producing and writing with other people is a great outlet for him, and he can stay at home.”
Certainly much has changed, besides the decline in sales, since ‘N Sync ruled the charts. But Fatone has taken note and adapted. He did not commit to any type of music video for “Radio” until he sees the reaction from fans – which these days, is instant thanks to comments and stat reports from iTunes, Amazon MP3, and YouTube.
“It’s like, why not put it out there, see what happens, and if it starts to grow… for me I’d love to do a tour and go out to maybe like, a House of Blues and do a tour like that,” said Fatone, also mentioning that he’d like to keep that intimate setting for his fans.
“My whole thing is, life’s too short, enjoy what you have, enjoy the music, enjoy spending time with your family, and that’s my vibe in general. I’m not trying to save the world by writing a song that’s going to make everyone hold hands and be one together. No, just have a party, have a good time.”