They say that a good woman is worth the chase, and it seems the Oxygen network is intent on proving the theory true with their new reality show, “Chasing Maria Menounos,” airing Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. The alliteratively monikered Medford beauty, who’s most recognizable for her work as a correspondent on entertainment news shows like “Access Hollywood” and “Extra,” is allowing us all to take a closer look at her life behind the scenes as she tackles new projects–writing a book, being the grand marshall in a parade, among other adventures, all while enduring the stress of living with her conservative Greek parents, security guard, and 5 dogs. Maria is no stranger to intense pressure situations–to date, she’s the only journalist to interview the entire Obama family, she’s reported from Afghanistan, she’s competed on the WWE, and made it to 4th place on season 14 of “Dancing with the Stars.” We talked to the 35 year-old renaissance woman about what it’s like adjusting to life where the cameras follow you home after being in front of them at work all day.
“Just knowing that work is never really over…it’s especially difficult to know that when you get home to your sanctuary, they’re there. But you become family with the crew and get used to it,” said Menounos.
On this week’s episode, Maria returns to her roots, and comes back to Boston to visit the first “home” she shared with her boyfriend of 16 years, producer Keven Undergaroo.
“It gets really emotional…when we left, it was this unceremonious exit. It was really sad, years ago how everything went down,” said Menounos. “There was a time when I was not speaking with my parents, and I had a really hard time, being so close to them and then them shutting me out because I was dating Keven and he wasn’t Greek. You wouldn’t think this would happen in modern times, but it did.”
Along with their friend and current head of security Joe, the couple shared a basement space with several others in a dormitory-style set-up, with only a mattress on the floor to call their own.
“I remember sitting down there, and we were listening to Howard Stern, and he was talking to a star on there and Keven said ‘you’re going to bigger than her someday, and you’re gonna be on that show’ and I was 19 or 20 I thought ‘what is he talking about?’ I was 40 pounds heavier, then. You don’t think it’s gonna happen, and you work towards it, but you never think it’s gonna happen.”
But for Maria, it did.
“It’s so easy to judge when you see someone; no one ever knows the journey that they go through. The struggles I’ve endured…when you watch this show, you get a taste of it.”
Many years later, Maria and her parents are now on very good terms, as they all share a house together in California, and viewers get to see both the comedy and the conflicts that arise when parents begin to meddle in their adult-children’s lives in regards to marriage and kids.
“I do think that’s a Boston thing, that we’re brought up to be really tight knit with our families and friends,” said Menounos. “People have asked me though about living with my parents and not being married or having kids, but, we take care of my parents, they are like my kids. I couldn’t imagine my life without them, and so many people don’t have theirs. Keven doesn’t have his father, and I will cry when I think about it, and it makes me sad. It’s a really special thing to get to have them around so much.”
What also seems to have been forged in that Boston upbringing is a tireless go-getter whose obvious talents are only surpassed by her fearlessness.
“I think life is ours to grab. If you called me tomorrow and said ‘we want to do a segment about girls coming back to Boston where they parachute off the Pru, I’d say, “let’s go, let’s do it!” I love to live and experience, and I think I have always shown I was willing to sink or swim on camera. Sometimes I’m better at certain things than others. A great quote from a favorite wrestler of mine says ‘you never lose unless you quit.’ I take it one step further and say, you never know unless you try. We’re not all going to be good at everything,” says Menounos. “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
What’s left for a lady that shows no fear and seems to have the world at her fingertips? Something totally out of this world, as it so happens.
“I want to do the first broadcast from the moon.”
Catch the amazing Maria Menounos and her family and friends on all their crazy adventures on “Chasing Maria Menounos,” airing on the Oxygen network, Tuesday nights at 10 p.m.
Earlier this month, successful Dorchester-born author Dennis Lehane visited Brookline to give a talk at the local high school for a an evening event sponsored by the Brookline Public Library. The affable Sox fan, who chastised the group for attending the event rather than stay at home to watch the game, discussed his writing process, experiences growing up in Boston, what first inspired him to become a writer, and his future plans.
“I became a writer for the chicks… for the women. Women have a fatal weakness. Women like men who are sensitive,” Lehane told a crowd of about 80 people who gathered to hear him speak and later get copies of his books signed.
“In all seriousness–I have about 20 reasons why I became a writer, and the first 10 are all the same…because of libraries,” Lehane later said to the group.
Most well-known for penning such works as Mystic River, Gone, Baby, Gone, and Shutter Island, Lehane has lately been finding himself in demand as a screenwriter. He co-wrote episodes in seasons three, four, and five of “The Wire,” and worked most recently on “Boardwalk Empire” as an executive producer, both for HBO.
In movie news, his 2012 historical novel Live by Night was all set to be adapted by fellow Boston-raised Ben Affleck, but has been put on the back-burner now that Ben has been tapped to be the next Batman.
And, in news that just broke this week, Lehane apparently will be Americanizing the French crime thriller “A Prophet” for producers Neil H. Moritz and Toby Jaffe, while also working on stuff for Fox and Leonardo DiCaprio. Not bad for a guy who admitted he often gets credited with a lot of stuff he didn’t actually have a hand in.
“I get so much fan mail for The Departed, you have no idea,” Lehane told the amused audience. “I also get thanked a lot for Mystic Pizza.”
Earlier this month, one of Boston’s favorite sons, Ben Affleck, was announced as the latest Hollywood stud to be tasked with filling out the rubber suit and cowl. Almost as soon as the casting news was released by Warner Brothers, the interwebs went all a-twitter, with countless fanboys and Batman fanatics crying fowl over the choice, some going so far as to create petitions on both Change.org and the official White House website. That’s right, some people were so upset over the choice, they took the time to put something together that they hoped would catch the attention of the President, and get him to intervene.
As the weeks have passed since the announcement, and other pop culture news has captured the attention spans of entertainment-obsessed America, the die-hard fans out there are still making faces. Affleck has not been immune to it. In a recent appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” the Oscar winner talked about how the studio actually sat down with him to prep him for any potential backlash by showing him how the fine folks on the internet have reacted in the past to questionable casting choices associated with the most recent series of Christopher Nolan films. It was at that point that Affleck decided to try to avoid the internet as much as possible when the news released. Unfortunately, he did click on one article, and scrolled down to the comment section, as he told Jimmy Fallon:
“I looked at the first comment and it says ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!’ And I was done! We’re going to be Luddites for a while.”
Now, with perpetual “Batfleck” memes, including some rather well-done Photoshopped versions of Ben as Batman with his best bud, Matt Damon, as his would-be Boy Wonder, Robin, the world waits with breath that is bated for the schedule July 2015 release date of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, which will also co-star Henry Cavill as Superman.
Snyder’s take on the Batman character is reportedly that of an older, down-trodden, world-weary Batman. Still, the Caped Crusader is one of the most iconic superhero characters ever depicted on the silver screen. With a long history of surprising performances from actors who were cast in the DC Comics roles to much initial dismay by fans, including Michael Keaton as Batman, Heath Ledger as the Joker, and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, the viewing audience will have to wait to see if the director of Argo will win over the fans in the end. Do you think Ben Affleck will be able to pull it off? Let us know in the comments!
Despite it’s success at the box office this summer, and the amount of attention it brought the Boston area when it filmed here last summer, Sandra Bullock says that a sequel to the highly successful The Heat, costarring Melissa McCarthy, is very unlikely.
America’s sweetheart recently told Entertainment Weekly:
“I know they say never say never, but right now, I can’t imagine it. I don’t want to ruin what Melissa and I had. If a miracle happens where shows up that really and truly outdid the first and provided an experience that was better than the first one, then I would look at it. But I’m not there.”
The smash hit comedy follows the story of Bullock as a straight-laced, uptight FBI agent, who is forced to pair-up with a foul-mouthed, plays by her instincts, long-time Boston cop in order to take down a dangerous and difficult to catch drug lord. The film was directed by Paul Feig, of Bridesmaids fame, and was written by screenwriter Katie Dippold. The film was shot primarily in Boston and Danvers, Massachusetts in the early summer months of 2012.
The film has grossed over $130 million at the box office this summer, during what has been a rather up and down movie season. Do you think they should do a sequel to The Heat?
Last Wednesday, the Maine International Film Festival featured a performance by vocalist and jazz legend, Annie Ross. The much-anticipated concert drew a large crowd to the Waterville Opera House, where folks got to listen to a medley of hits by the 83 years-young star.
As part of the Celebrating Altman portion of the festival, the tribute included screenings of several of his films, such as Kansas City, A Prairie Home Companion, and Short Cuts, as well as special guest appearances by Kathryn Altman and Michael Murphy. Ms. Ross’s performance was seen as the culmination of that portion of the festival, and she went on to perform for the crowd for nearly an hour, despite her advanced age and recent bout of pneumonia.
“I haven’t worked in months,” the colorfully dressed star admitted to the crowd, “but I’m very happy to be here with all you tonight in this gorgeous theater. And I’ve seen a lot of theaters, let me tell you,” she said, eliciting cheers and applause from the enthusiastic crowd.
As a star of Shortcuts, one of Altman’s films, herself, she shared some insight on what it was like to work with the famous director, admitting that she had a conversation with him before filming.
“I told him that I like to work out the songs in front of a live audience, because I am a performer and not so much an actor. The next day, he told me I would be performing the songs for the entire cast and crew!” Ross told the crowd.
The biggest reactions the feisty crooner drew from the crowd were upon performing one of her greatest hits, “Twisted,” a song she wrote and was later covered by Joni Mitchell and Better Midler.
Accompanied only by piano, Ross demonstrated why she became known as a master of what is known as “vocalese,” Ms. Ross is known for her ability to perform original lyrics set to instrumental jazz solos.
Upon the conclusion of the concert, which included one encore, a party was held, also in celebration of Altman, at the restaurant 18 Below, just down the street from the opera house.
Last week, the town of Waterville, Maine played host to the 16th Annual Maine International Film Festival. The event, which kicked off on July 12th and lasted till the 21st, brought dozens of folks from around the area interested in the variety of films, shorts, and documentaries covering a vast array of subject matter.
With the majority of screenings being held in the Railroad Square Cinema, some of the films featured older features, such as Secretary, starring James Spader, Transamerica, starring Felicity Huffman, and A Prairie Home Companion, starring Meryl Streep. These films were selected for their boldness and ability to shed light on prominent subcultures in American society in way that both enlightens and engages. Documentaries that were featured include the topical After Tiller, which paints a portrait of the the four remaining doctors in the United States who perform third-term abortions.
Another documentary, Sofia’s Last Ambulance, is a powerful, thought-provoking film that takes us to the capital of Bulgaria, where there is only one ambulance to cover all emergency calls. Using in-your-face, front-dash cameras for much of its scenes, follow the first-responders as they have to choose which calls they can tend to as they pile up, night after night. Bear witness to the frustrated agony of citizens who call the ambulance only to have it arrive more than 4 hours later, after it is far too late. One of many international films with English subtitles that were screened as part of the fest, this stirring picture presents a stark contrast to the current thoughts held by many Americans regarding how much we should be spending on healthcare. Filmed last year ons-ite in Bulgaria, this film, without any sort of narration or voice-over to guide the way, tells the startling reality of what it means to live in an area of the world that is not so fortunate as ours through a simply-shot, lightly edited documentary that is above all, brutally honest, just as all good documentaries should be.
Theater-goers were eager to attend the events, as the brutal July heat made air-conditioned accommodations even more attractive. While many of the attendees seemed to skew towards a slightly older audience, many attendees could be heard eagerly discussing their thoughts on the screenings they had attended, and all guests who had viewed at least three films were encouraged to take an official ballot in order to vote on their favorites.
Other events that took place during the week-long festival included celebratory parties, including one dedicated to appreciating the work of director Robert Altman, as well as opening and closing night parties, that were held at various venues around town. Midway through the week, a concert was also held in the Waterville Opera House, and featured 83 years young vocalist and jazz legend, Annie Ross.
Celebrity chef Tiffani Faison was spotted last Thursday night dining al fresco on the gorgeous inset patio of the Met Bar and Grill on Newbury Street. The talented redhead who first appeared on season 1 of Bravo’s Emmy winning “Top Chef” series, and then returned to compete on their “All Stars” edition, opened her first restaurant in the Fenway area about a year and a half ago. Sweet Cheeks, a full-on barbecue and beer destination for the casual Boston set, features tables fashioned from old church doors and bowling alley lanes, sweet tea served in recycled Mason jars, and of course, every kind of tender-roasted hunk of meat you can think of, alongside a generous selection of brewery libations.
Thursday night, however, Ms. Faison was actually enjoying someone else’s cooking for once, sitting down with a female friend around 7 p.m. and enjoying a glass of white wine as she waited for her entree to appear. Even as the sun set, the Top Chef All Star lingered to enjoy the Beantown night air, wearing a light striped hoodie and a “Boston Back Bay” baseball cap, which helped keep her lovely red locks tucked out of her face.
Faison was spotted most recently giving back to Boston at the Fenway Bites Back event to benefit the One Fund.
Want to know why you should never, ever feel guilty about eating chocolate? Because earlier this month, celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels was spotted at Hotel Chocolat on Newbury Street buying about $50 worth of chocolate!
The super-buff star walked into the shop a little after three in the afternoon with her partner Heidi Rhoades and their adopted three-year-old daughter, Lukensia, from Haiti, who has been with them since May 2012. Lukensia was wearing leggings, a t-shirt, and a tiny leather bomber jacket. Michaels showed off her guns in a sleeveless t-shirt and jeans, and wore her hair tucked under a baseball cap, with dark sunglasses on her face in order to keep a low profile. The star picked out a variety of chocolates for her and her partner, including some salted caramels and a selection of cheesecake truffles. Lukensia tried a salted caramel in-store, as mama Michaels plunked down her black AMEX card and California license for verification at the register.
Michaels was in town for her current “Maximize Your Life Tour,” which made a stop in Lowell last night at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.
The fitness guru hails from Los Angeles, California, and is best known for her appearances on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” and “Losing It with Jillian.”
Last Friday night, Tracey Noonan and Dani Desroches, the mother daughter team and co-owners of the Wicked Good Cupcakes appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and got the alias “Mr. Wonderful,” Kevin O’Leary, to invest $75,000 in their little business based out of Cohasset, MA. This, however, was not the first time the company has made waves. In early 2012, “Cupcakegate” created a national commotion, after a woman got stopped by TSA while trying to take her cupcake in a jar through airport security. The resulting press helped increase sales on this clever company’s take on cupcakes, which puts layers on frosting and cake inside mason jars that can last up to 10 days without refrigeration.
Tomorrow, Wicked Good Cupcakes opens its second location, its first in Boston, in an area that receives more yearly visitors than Disney World–Quincy Market! The new addition to the plethora of cupcake shops that already inhabit the Hub brings with it their own creative spin and lots of buzz thanks to their recent appearance on primetime.
This is also not the first time that a New England company has appeared on the Friday night reality show. Last season, Barbara Corcoran invested $55,000 for a 15% stake in Cousins Maine Lobster, which helps bring succulent lobsters and lobster dishes to folks across the country, including lobster mac and cheese, lobster pot pie, and lobster rolls.
One of Boston’s favorite sons, Matt Damon will be in town today, visiting his alma mater in Cambridge. The Academy award-winning actor is visiting Harvard University in order to receive the 2013 Harvard Arts Medal. Damon attended the school from 1988 to 1992, but never actually graduated, though he later went on to pen the movie that would eventually launch his career about a young man’s struggles to improve his education at a different famed Cambridge school, when he won the Oscar for Good Will Hunting.
The award will be presented by the Office for the Arts at Harvard and the Board of Overseers, and will feature a ceremony and a discussion on Damon’s life and career. The event will be hosted by fellow actor and Harvard alum John Lithgow of “3rd Rock from the Sun” fame.
The Harvard Arts Medal honors “a distinguished Harvard or Radcliffe graduate or faculty member who has achieved excellence in the arts and has made contribution through the arts to education or the public good.”
Today’s event also marks the official opening of Arts First, which will be an annual festival spotlighting students in the creative arts. The ceremony begins at 4 p.m. at Sanders Theatre on Quincy Street. A live stream of the day’s events will also be available for viewing online through the school’s website.
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