Saturday, December 29, 2012

Talking About 2012 In Charlotte

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 12/29/2012 No comments
I taped two interviews yesterday at WCNC (NBC Charlotte); one for a story that ran during the 4 p.m. newscast and one for the 11 p.m. news. For the first story, I was interviewed by Bill McGinty and it focused specifically on New Year's Eve events in Charlotte. I was asked to talk about some of the many NYE parties that are taking place Monday night since I'd put together a list on my Dusk Till Dawn blog for Charlotte magazine.

Sitting at the WCNC news desk preparing to be interviewed for the four o'clock show.

After I wrapped up the segment on NYE parties, Rad Berky interviewed me for a story he was working on that focused on the large, high-profile events Charlotte hosted in 2012--such as the CIAA Tournament and Democratic National Convention--and the economic impact, growth, and exposure those events have had on the city. I commented on it from a nightlife perspective, particularly how there were many restaurants, bars, and nightclubs that opened in Charlotte in 2012. That story aired last night and again this morning on WCNC. It's also available online so I've embedded the video below.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cooking with Chobani in Uptown Charlotte

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 12/20/2012 2 comments
I had the privilege of attending a Chobani holiday cooking event last week. The maker of Greek yogurt invited a group of Charlotte food bloggers, and Andrea brought me along as her guest. Until that event, I didn't know Chobani, which is headquartered in Norwich, New York, had opened a sales office here, located on the 16th floor of the Charlotte Plaza building in Uptown. The Charlotte office opened about six months ago, and it has a large test kitchen, which is where the cooking event was held.

There were about 14 of us in attendance, hosted by two Chobani Charlotte chefs and two coordinators from their New York office (including Andrew Emerson who took the photos you see here). The Chobani team had a layout of recipes ready for us, and we worked in pairs to cook eight dishes that would come together for a compete meal. Each of the dishes featured Chobani yogurt as a main ingredient.

Andrea and I were tasked with cooking the holiday stuffing, which was made of unseasoned cubed bread stuffing, onion, celery, garlic cloves, extra virgin olive oil, low-sodium chicken broth, fresh oregano and thyme, salt, pepper, butter, and two-and-a-half cups of Chobani Low-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt. It took us about 20 minutes to prep and then about 30 minutes for it to bake in the oven. I enjoyed the whole process (which was enhanced by the free-flowing wine).


The rest of the group cooked up Chobani-inspired versions of gorgonzola crostini, salad with honey walnut dressing, steamed asparagus with hollandaise, pumpkin risotto, smashed potatoes with broccoli, roasted butternut squash soup, and an iced gingerbread bundt cake. When it was all done, we sat down and ate the large, yet healthy, meal. It was delicious and has opened my eyes to the many possibilities of cooking with yogurt.


You can find the recipes for what we cooked, along with plenty others, in the recipes section on Chobani's website. Since first hitting store shelves in 2007, Chobani has gone on to become the top-selling yogurt brand in America.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Charlotte Bobcats visited the Los Angeles Lakers last night, carrying with them a league-leading 11-game losing streak (the streak was a topic on yesterday's Pardon the Interruption on ESPN). But the Bobcats usually play the Lakers well and have upset them several times over the years, so I felt going into it that they shouldn't be easily counted out. Last night was a great game, and even though the 'Cats couldn't end their streak, they played hard and lost by only one point, 101-100.

What many sports fans are talking about today, however, is Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson's monstrous dunk over Dwight Howard in the fourth quarter.

See the video below of Gerald's dunk (notice how even a couple of the Lakers players on the bench get excited).

When I saw it, I immediately thought of two things. One was the irony that it was over Dwight because it was similar to Superman's dunk in the NBA All-Star Game in 2008, particularly how he leaped from far away and threw down the ball without actually touching the rim. And secondly, I thought of how fans in the Staples Center are accustomed to seeing these kinds of highlights in person, usually from L.A. Clippers star Blake Griffin (again, another non-hand-touching-rim posterizing dunk).

Next Wednesday, the day after Christmas, the Bobcats play host to the Miami Heat, which should be an exciting game to watch. On my Dusk Till Dawn nightlife blog, read about the team's season-long Wednesday Night Basketball promotion, which includes some cool free stuff with your game ticket.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The shooting yesterday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut is one of the most tragic events in our lifetime. As you know by now, a 20-year-old man shot and killed his mother, then drove to the school and murdered 20 children--all ages six or seven--and six adult staff members, then killed himself. Unlike many major news stories in the past, I've kept myself from being overly consumed with the reports on the 24-hour news networks and websites, largely because I feel many of them and their reporters are exploiting this tragedy. Can we give victims' families some time to grieve and try to understand this horrific event before we try to get "exclusive" interviews? Not to mention the countless inaccurate and erroneous details that were published during the hours immediately following the shooting, as media outlets raced to be the first to report. I've also been turned off by similar exploitation and recklessness by people on social media, particularly on Twitter.

When I was on Twitter this afternoon, however, I learned that The Herald newspaper in Rock Hill had placed an advertisement for a gun store on the same page as a story on the Newtown shooting in today's paper. The half-page ad is for a Christmas special on guns at Nichols Store in Rock Hill, and it ran on an inside page where the Newtown story had continued from the front page.

Credit: @DianneG

Paul Osmundson, the editor of The Herald, apologized around midday with a statement posted online, and I assume that same statement will appear in tomorrow's print edition. Below is an excerpt.
"In Saturday's Herald, an advertisement for guns was placed on a page near stories and a photograph about the tragic school shooting in Connecticut. Please be assured that this was neither intentional nor the fault of the advertiser. Advertisements are usually placed days before the newspaper lands on your doorstep. In this case, the advertisement in question was placed Thursday morning. But we at The Herald should have recognized the unfortunate juxtaposition of the advertisement with stories and a photograph about gun violence."
The newspaper apologized and took full responsibility, and I think that should suffice. But what began as an inadvertent placement of an ad, should actually serve as a moment of reflection and introspection for us. That ad, and the fact that it was promoting a special on guns for Christmas, epitomizes just how large a part of American society guns have become. In coming days and weeks, there'll be disagreements over whether this country needs more gun control laws. And regardless of what side of the debate you're on, you can be fairly certain that nothing will be done and we'll, unfortunately, be facing another tragedy all too soon.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Falling asleep with the TV on, as I often do, I learned a few things about Scotty McCreery this morning from programs and commercials that aired while I dozed in and out of consciousness. 

  • Scotty, a native of Garner, North Carolina, stars in a new commercial for Bojangles' that couldn't be more Southern.

  • Plus, Scotty, who's only 19 years old, is currently a student at North Carolina State University, taking classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. He spends the other days of his week touring and meeting the demands of his music career, as he explained this morning on Good Morning America, where he also sang "Let It Snow."

This week has already been a busy one for the young man. He performed at the "Christmas In Washington" event Sunday in front of the First Family and other dignitaries and celebrities. The special was taped and will air Friday, December 21, at 8 p.m. on TNT. Then on Monday night, he appeared at the American Country Awards, which aired live on FOX from Las Vegas. All the while he's been squeezing in time to take his final exams at NCSU.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Chart-topping and recently Grammy-nominated rapper Rick Ross's street cred is taking a beating today. Yesterday afternoon, Live Nation announced that The Maybach Music Group tour concerts, featuring Ross, Meek Mill, Wale, and Machine Gun Kelly, scheduled for Friday, December 7 at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro and Saturday, December 8 at Bojangles’ Coliseum here in Charlotte have been cancelled. Though Live Nation didn't give an explanation, other than to say that tickets would be refunded, media outlets began to link the North Carolina show cancellations to ongoing and recent death threats made against the rapper by a gang known as the Gangster Disciples.

I'm not going to get into what the alleged beef is about (you can watch a couple of the many Gangster Disciples' YouTube video threats against Ross by clicking here and here), but what's interesting is how several leading news/entertainment websites began running the headlines last evening on through today, that are some variation of "Rick Ross Cancels North Carolina Tour Dates After Death Threats." You can find the articles at MTV, Rolling Stone, E!, XXL, Vibe, just to name a few. Most of them took the early reports by NBC Charlotte (WCNC) / The Charlotte Observer and ran with them.

And they're all giving the gang members too much credit.

After the news broke, awesome FOX Charlotte anchor Morgan Fogarty emailed me yesterday and asked if I would comment on Ross cancelling his North Carolina shows, for a story on her 10 p.m. newscast. I met Morgan and her cameraman in Uptown shortly before 6 p.m. to tape the interview (she also interviewed Power 98's Nolimit Larry). Even though I was just learning of the shows' cancellation like everyone else, my experience in covering entertainment led me to doubt that the concerts were being cancelled because of the threats made by gang members.

Are gangs to be taken seriously? Yes. Are the Gangster Disciples scary? Absolutely. But they've been posting those videos threatening Rick Ross since at least back in October. And the concerts in North Carolina didn't get cancelled until this week, a couple days before they were scheduled to take place. Sounds fishy.

When I talked to Morgan last evening, I told her, among other things (this blog allows me to elaborate more than TV soundbites), I believed the promoter cancelled the shows because of low ticket sales. My assumption was that because Ross, Meek, and Wale have been to Charlotte and Greensboro several times in the past year, the concerts that were planned for this weekend probably weren't drawing much interest.

I know about the Charlotte visits particularly well--heck, Ross and Meek performed at Bojangles' in March while the 2012 CIAA Tournament was in town, when Ross also proceeded to host at least four Charlotte parties over three days. Then Ross returned to Charlotte in June, when he headlined the 2012 Dub Show Tour at Charlotte Convention Center, and hosted an after-party at Club 935. So he's saturated this market all by himself. Not to mention, his MMG artist Meek Mill was a part of Drake's Club Paradise Tour that stopped at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in May. Wale also had a concert during CIAA Weekend in March at The Fillmore.

Morgan Fogarty interviewing me.

One other thing. You might recall that last year rapper Waka Flocka Flame had his tour bus shot up while he was in Charlotte. Three months later he was back here performing at the Dub Show Tour and hosting an after-party. That led me to ask, "Why, Waka?"

Some might say, Waka came to Charlotte when it was potentially dangerous, but Ross didn't. In hip hop, street credibility is (foolishly) all-too important. The difference here, however, is the money. Low ticket sales led to the cancellation of the North Carolina shows for this weekend, and I don't care how many news headlines claim the contrary. Ross, who was also scheduled to host an after-party this Saturday night at Club 935, is being clowned by many people on social media sites for the cancellations. He hasn't commented on the controversy yet, other than this tweet last night:

Most importantly, as I often say, the hip hop community (primarily, the African-American race) needs to once and for all stop condoning and supporting the violence in hip hop music's lyrics, videos, and culture. I've been a fan of hip hop forever, and always will be. Have I ever bought a Rick Ross album? No. Have I ever bought a Waka Flaka album? No. And I don't plan to. Hip hop isn't the blame for all violence that goes on in the culture, and people are absolutely responsible for their individual actions. But you'd be a fool to ignore the correlations between what goes on in hip hop music and what takes place in the streets.

Because album sales have decreased dramatically over the last six or seven years, artists are hitting the road more and more because concerts are one of the ways they continue to successfully make money. Though the decrease in album sales is largely attributed to Internet piracy and a new generation of fans who, when they decide to pay for music, prefer to buy single songs online (mp3s) as oppose to whole albums, no genre of music has seen its album sales decline as much as hip hop. I'd like to believe that fans--many of whom aren't African-American--are being turned off by all of the ignorant talk, drug references, glorification of violence, and misogyny towards women. And it might finally be also affecting the turnout at concerts.

Waka Flaka was scheduled to perform at The Fillmore just last month, but that show was cancelled too.

By the way, if you don't understand the first part of the headline of this blog post, watch this Rick Ross music video

UPDATE 12/11/12
Rick Ross spoke at-length about the cancelled tour dates and situation with the Gangster Disciples in this interview with 99 Jamz radio station in his hometown of Miami. In summary, he explains that he cancelled the tour dates because of a promoter who wasn't handling business effectively and not because of gang threats. He makes it clear that he isn't scared--he's a bawse, he says repeatedly. "I was just in Chicago a week and a half ago. That's the birthplace of the G.D.s. And if I'll go to Chicago to handle my business like I did, I have no problem going to North Carolina or South Carolina.... I'm certified worldwide. I can put a thousand gangsters in any hood. But that ain't what I'm here for. I'm here to make stars, I'm here to make icons, I'm here to break records. I'm here to be Grammy nominated," he says.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Last week, I saw a headline on The Charlotte Observer's homepage about “Restaurant Impossible coming to Pineville." For some reason, I didn't click on the article's link at the time, and then it slipped my mind. Until this morning I saw a friend on Facebook write on her wall that she was going to the taping of Restaurant Impossible this evening.

If you aren't familiar with the TV show, it's a top-rated series on Food Network, in which Chef Robert Irvine tries to save struggling restaurants around the country. The chosen restaurant is usually on the verge of financial failure to the point that it would have to soon permanently close its doors. Irvine comes in with a crew, shuts down the restaurant for two days, and spends that time and $10,000 trying to revive the business, doing everything from remodeling the place, re-training the staff, updating the menu, helping management work on maintaining budgets, etc. And again, he does all of this in two days, with camera crews taping, so you get to see all of the chaos, drama, and then the final product.

Robert Irvine consults with an owner during a past episode of Restaurant Impossible.

So back to how it had slipped my mind to read that Observer article. I pulled it up this morning, read it, and found out that the Pineville restaurant is Sweet Tea's Restaurant and Catering. I actually attended a wedding last month that Sweet Tea catered. The wedding was at a beautiful, historic mansion, and was well-planned from start to finish, including the delicious food that was served at the reception--it was a Southern-style menu. The wedding reception also had an open bar, staffed by Sweet Tea's. That's how I learned of the restaurant, after I saw the name on the bartender's shirt. I thought Sweet Tea's was an interesting name, so I asked her about it and she told me a little about the restaurant in Pineville and that they cater throughout the Charlotte area.

Today is day two of Restaurant Impossible's work at Sweet Tea's, with the grand re-opening scheduled for this evening at 7 p.m. According to an associate producer for the show who talked to the Observer, this particular episode will air in late February or early March. The series airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Food Network.

I hope the restaurant is able to make a successful recovery, and I hope to visit there soon. There have been a couple of people on Yelp who've said they ate at Sweet Tea's over the last few days simply because they learned it was going to be the focus of Restaurant Impossible, including one reviewer who said he and his wife "wanted to see what the place was all about before it got fixed."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

It was announced last month that Nick Cannon would be reviving his popular sketch comedy TV series, Wild 'N Out, in 2013 for MTV2. The series originally aired from 2005 to 2007 on MTV, and helped propel the careers of comedians Affion Crockett, Kevin Hart, Katt Williams, and others. This time around, in addition to appearances from established funnymen, Nick is looking for a new crop of comedians and improv actors to join the show.

He's holding auditions this Monday, December 3 in Charlotte. Not a whole lot of details are available, but if you want to find out more info you should probably listen to Power 98 (97.9 FM). On the radio station's website, it says to "send a video showing your funny for casting to: Videos should be no longer than 3 minutes. If your video is chosen, we’ll send you the address and location info to meet with Nick Cannon for an in person audition."

You should also follow Nick on Twitter @NickCannon. He shared on Twitter and Instagram this evening that he was leaving Atlanta, where he held auditions today, and was on his way to Charlotte.

Wild 'N Out was a funny show and it also featured great musical performances (and sexy Wild 'N Out Girls) each episode. I think the reruns still air, and it'll be good to see new episodes return next year. Nick, as you know, is also host of America's Got Talent on NBC.

He's also coming to town to do charitable deeds. He's scheduled to make appearances in Charlotte on Monday, including Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte, Levine Children's Hospital, and Buffalo Wild Wings at NASCAR Hall of Fame, for the Second Annual Celebrity Charity Wishes “Bears for Buddies" event, an initiative that raises money for terminally ill children and provides them with the essential needs of everyday living. Nick will be joined by DJ Drama, Grammy Award-winning producer Bruce Irvine, singer/songwriter Tocarra Hamilton, and Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon as they distribute hundreds of new teddy bears and gift bags to children.

Great Burger at Queen City Q

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 12/02/2012 No comments
Whenever I blog about food on here, about half the time I'm writing about some great burger I had. What can I say--I'm a burger man. Last night, after attending the Fourth Annual Red Pump/Red Tie Affair at Levine Museum of the New South (put on by The Red Pump Project-Charlotte in recognition of World AIDS Day), I was hungry, it was about 10 p.m., and I had a little time to spare before I was going to walk around the corner to the after-party at Re:Public nightclub. Also within that block, the area around Seventh Street Station, is Queen City Q, so I popped into the restaurant for some quick eats.

Open since February, Queen City Q has quickly become one of Charlotte's top barbecue restaurants. I've enjoyed the barbecue there a few times and whenever out-of-towners ask me where they should go to get some good BBQ in Charlotte, the Q is one of the places I recommend. But last night, barbecue would've been too heavy on the stomach in the middle of a night out. So I opted for a burger, and I made the right choice.

Camera phone pic.

I ordered the All-American Burger, comprised of a grind of beef brisket, porterhouse, and chuck; topped with provolone cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomato (I asked them to hold the onion); along with a side of sweet potato fries ($10). It was juicy, tender, and flavorful--just the way I like my burgers--and proves that Queen City Q does more than cook good barbecue.

Queen City Q, 225 E. Sixth St., Suite A, 704-334-TheQ (8437),; parking is validated for the Seventh Street Station parking deck.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Check out this week's issue of Creative Loafing for the feature I wrote, titled "Rodney King and the Twilight zone." It's about On Q Productions' presentation of Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, on stage through December 8 at Duke Energy Theater at Spirit Square. The Tony Award-nominated play by Anna Deavere Smith tells the story of the infamous Rodney King beating by LAPD officers, their trial, acquittal, and the subsequent riots by citizens of L.A. that lasted six days, leaving nearly 1,600 buildings damaged or destroyed and 53 people killed.

I was in middle school when the riots happened in 1992. I remember vividly watching the round-the-clock news coverage, the racial tension it caused even where I lived in South Carolina, and the disbelief that all of this was even going on. Up until that point, I think my generation believed that the days of mass racial violence in this country had ended with the Civil Rights Movement, and that it was something we only experienced in history books and documentaries. In the article I wrote for CL, not only did I interview the directors of the play for On Q, but I also talked to a law school professor who helped put the whole juxtaposition of race and the justice system into perspective.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cam Knows

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 11/28/2012 No comments
What do Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and rappers Wiz Khalifa and Cam'ron have in common? They're all named Cameron (Cameron Newton, Cameron Thomaz, and Cameron Giles, respectively). Wiz just released the video for his new song "The Bluff," featuring Cam'ron. In his verse, Cam'ron says: "Put up y'all like we gambling. Next time we out here scrambling. / I'm Killa, he Wiz, but all our checks say Cameron."

Also in the video, Cam'ron takes advantage of his football namesake by wearing a "Cam Knows" Carolina Panthers Nike T-shirt. As for the football Cam, perhaps people are beginning to believe again that he does know, after a great performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in the nationally televised game Monday night. This morning, the NFL named Cam Newton NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The popularity of South Korean pop star PSY's "Gangnam Style" song and dance doesn't seem to be slowing down. His video on YouTube has gained more than 750 million views in four months, and you probably saw PSY perform a special mash-up with MC Hammer at the American Music Awards Sunday night. Now there's another genre-blending performance of it.

Olympic gold medal-winning gymnasts Gabrielle Douglas, Aly Raisman, and Jordyn Wieber were in Charlotte last week for a taping of Kaleidoscope, a nationally televised event that brings together a star-studded cast of musicians and champion athletes in a tribute to cancer survivors. Kaleidoscope, which is presented nationally by Carolinas HealthCare System's Levine Cancer Institute, will air on CBS this Sunday, November 25 at 5 p.m. (directly following the NFL game).

While Gabby, Aly, and Jordyn were in Charlotte, they made a few stops around the city, including the Levine Cancer Institute, Ten Park Lanes, and Cheer Extreme Charlotte, and they also ventured out across the state to North Carolina State University. The Kaleidoscope organizers decided to have the Olympic darlings dance to "Gangnam Style" or, as they're calling it, #Gymnamstyle, with the backing of groups at the different locations. The video was released yesterday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

When news broke a week and a half ago that General David Petraeus had resigned as director of the CIA, citing an extramarital affair, it came as a surprise to most of us, even though we're used to seeing the careers of men in powerful positions come crashing down because of their philandering ways. Petraeus's resignation was announced on the afternoon of Friday, November 9, leaving journalists, politicians, and everyone else with a lot of questions. I actually said to a couple of people that day that "I bet we'll never find out who he had an affair with." Silly me. Shouldn't I know these things always come out?

A few hours later, that Friday evening, I was kicked back, watching TV, while also surfing Twitter on my phone. I wasn't looking for anything in particular when I saw "Paula Broadwell" was a trending topic. I was like no way! Before even clicking on any of the tweets to see what the buzz was about, I knew it had to mean that she had been identified as the mistress of General Petraeus, because I remembered her quite vividly from when I blogged about her in January, about how she was a Charlotte resident who'd just written a biography on Petraeus titled, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, and that she had this impressive career and life.

"Paula Broadwell Is Awesome" is what I titled that blog post back in January, where I recounted her military and education credentials, and quickly ran down some of the many media appearances she was making at the time during a publicity tour for her book.

Petraeus and Broadwell during happier, less-suspecting times. Credit:

On the evening and night of November 9, as people feverishly Googled to find out more about who Paula Broadwell is, my nine-and-a-half month-old blog post spiked in traffic, garnering nearly 25,000 page views in the span of about six hours. The high traffic continued through that weekend.

As the Petraeus-Broadwell affair and scandal took one unexpected twist after the next last week, I had several ideas about different things I would potentially blog about. Unfortunately, I didn't have the time since I was busy with other assignments for print publications. Then two days ago, on Sunday evening, I received a call from a managing editor at a New York-based media outlet asking me if I would be a stringer to assist with their coverage of the Broadwell story. Paula and her husband Scott had just returned to their Charlotte home for the first time after being away for more than a week, while all of the embarrassing details of her affair were unfolding. The editor asked if I would, basically, post up outside her home for a few hours Sunday night and for a few hours Monday morning. This was different from the kind of journalism and reporting I'm used to doing, but I figured what the heck, these kinds of opportunities/national-interest stories don't come around too often in Charlotte.

More than a dozen reporters, photographers, and news cameramen gathered outside of Paula Broadwell's home in Dilworth on Monday morning (Nov. 19). Credit: Jarvis Holliday

When I arrived outside the Broadwell home Sunday night about 8:30, all five local news trucks (with crews) were positioned along the streets near her house in Dilworth: WBTV, WCNC, WSOC, FOX Charlotte, and News 14 Carolina, along with a reporter from The Charlotte Observer. When I returned early Monday morning, there was even more media, including several photographers and a few more print media reporters. They all had the same goal: hope that the Broadwells would make their first public statement, which hasn't happened yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if it came this week.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Music and fashion mogul Russell Simmons is making a special appearance at Belk at SouthPark Mall (4400 Sharon Road) this Saturday, 2-4 p.m. to celebrate the launch of his Argyleculture collection at the Charlotte-based department store chain. Spend at least $100 on Argyleculture merchandise and you'll get in the VIP line and receive a photo with Russell. You can also register for a chance to win a $500 Argyleculture wardrobe.

Russell Simmons at a recent launch party for Argyleculture. Credit:

As the legendary co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, Russell (@UncleRush) has now been involved in fashion for just about as long as he ran the storied record label. I started wearing Phat Farm in high school, and I'm sure you used to rock it too. Argyleculture, which was founded in 2007, represents his continued foray into more mature, sophisticated styles. He relaunched the brand this year with a new partner, fashion designer Joseph Abboud.

Argyleculture fall 2012 collection.

This is Russell's second stop in Charlotte in the last few weeks--he made a recent visit on behalf of President Obama's campaign.

Monday, November 5, 2012

I meet young professionals in this city all the time who are doing great things--advancing in their careers while creating opportunities for others, giving back to their community, creating avenues for people to be entertained and get to know each other, and helping make Charlotte an all-around more vibrant city. Charlotte regularly ranks near the top of national studies of cities that appeal to young professionals, including last year's fourth-place ranking on the Forbes list of Happiest Cities for Young Professionals.

Now, there's a new way for some of these deserving local people to be recognized.

Engage Charlotte, the Charlotte Chamber’s young professionals’ initiative, is planning its inaugural awards gala: the Engage Charlotte Young Professional Awards (The YPs). The awards will honor Charlotte-area professionals between the ages of 21 and 39 who exemplify excellence in business, leadership, and community service. More details about the gala itself are to come, and Engage Charlotte is currently accepting nominations for four distinguished awards:
  • Young Professional Newcomer of the Year
  • Young Professional Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Young Professional Non-Profit Leader of the Year
  • Young Professional Business Leader of the Year

Attendees at a recent Engage Charlotte event. Credit: Facebook

“As Charlotte’s premier business organization, the Chamber’s YPs is an important step in elevating the profile of young professionals within the Charlotte business community,” says Rod Garvin, director of member engagement for the Charlotte Chamber.

"The Charlotte Chamber Young Professional Awards stands to recognize the very best YPs in our community for their outstanding achievements," adds Ollie Chandhok, chair of Engage Charlotte and a business development consultant for Charlotte Business Journal. "We are excited to host this inaugural event and create a benchmark for success in Charlotte."

The deadline for nominations is November 9. Visit for more details.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

There have been so many new openings lately in Charlotte's dining and nightlife that it's almost hard to keep up. But who doesn't like a big grand opening event, right? Pizza Fusion is holding its grand opening this Saturday, November 3 and they're giving away a bunch of cool stuff.

Based in Boca Raton, Florida, Pizza Fusion has opened its first North Carolina location at the Metropolitan here in Charlotte, at 1055 Metropolitan Avenue, suite 140, The franchise touts itself as "an organic, socially responsible pizza restaurant," and it is a welcomed addition to Charlotte's rapidly expanding restaurant scene (several restaurants have opened at the Metropolitan this year alone).  

Pizza Fusion's new location at the Metropolitan. Credit:

Saturday's grand opening event, taking place 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., features some of the biggest giveaways I've seen. Pizza Fusion Charlotte will host a drawing to randomly select 50 guests from those in attendance at its grand opening and 10 Facebook entrants (click on the Free Pizza tab) to win free pizza for a year. Plus, one lucky guest in attendance will be selected at random to receive free pizza for life. Sign me up!

The event will also feature free pizza and drinks, including organic beer and wine, and entertainment for kids and adults. Drex and Maney, hosts of the morning show on KISS 95.1 FM, will broadcast live, playing the latest top-40 hits while giving away free concert tickets and other prizes. Guests will also receive free Pizza Fusion T-shirts, souvenir BPA-free eco-cups, eco-wristbands, stickers, and other prizes from local businesses. The grand opening will also feature a charity raffle for two bicycles, courtesy of Queen City Bicycles, with all proceeds from the raffle going to Camp CARE (Cancer Ain't Really the End), which provides a camp and other year-round activities for children affected by cancer and their families in the Charlotte area.

Pizza Fusion serves an organic and all-natural menu of pizza, sandwiches, salads, and desserts, as well as local craft beer and sustainable wine selections. The restaurant also serves an assortment of vegan and gluten-free menu items. Its ownership says Pizza Fusion is the number one green franchise in North America. Founded in 2006, there are now locations in Florida, Colorado, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, and, most recently, North Carolina. Coincidentally, all but one of these are swing states, but, thankfully, there doesn't seem to be any politics going on here. Just organic pizza and booze.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

When you're a kid, as far as holidays go, in the order of importance (and excitement) there's Christmas, then Halloween. The older you get and as you become an adult, Christmas is still great but it changes significantly because you no longer receive a pile of gifts (or two weeks off, for that matter). But Halloween, strangely enough, is that magical holiday that actually becomes more fun once you become an adult. Sure, trick-or-treating is gone, but it's been replaced with parties serving cocktails. And many adults actually take dressing up in costumes very seriously—guys tend to be creative, while ladies tend to be, well, sexy (check out photos from the weekend's Grave Diggers Ball, for example).

Halloween is tomorrow and some of you will be dressing up for the occasion at work (if you have a fun boss) and, most importantly, at play when you hit the parties tomorrow night (check out the list of parties I compiled on my Dusk Till Dawn blog).

There are some people who wear costumes or uniforms year-round, however, because of their professions. I talked to three Charlotteans about their costume-like work lives.

Photo credit: Autostock/
Joey Logano
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver
Uniform: Driver suit, made of fire-retardant material, along with racing helmet.
“Some drivers carry some superstitious stuff in their cars. I just have the bare minimum—all that other stuff adds weight. I have a big water bottle in there and that’s about all I need. Wearing this suit makes you want to put shorts on because it gets really hot. It’s usually about 30 degrees hotter inside the car than the outside temperature. You sweat so much that you don’t need to go to the bathroom during the race.”

Phil Carter
Executive Chef at Cantina 1511 (Dilworth location)
Uniform: Black chef pants and coat.
“I oversee the operations at an authentic Mexican restaurant, as far as ordering, receiving, food quality, food standards, and health standards. I’m a self-taught chef with over 22 years' experience. In the kitchen on a typical busy Friday or Saturday night there’s a lot of communication—not like what you see on these [reality TV] shows as far as yelling and screaming and stuff like that. It’s more of a controlled chaos, as we like to call it.”

Angela Lopez (Real name: Carlos Capps)
Drag Queen, Dancer, Performer
Costume: Dresses like a woman, complete with body pads, a body shaper, six layers of tights, stage makeup, wig, and high heels.
“It takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to get dressed—I’m used to it because I’ve been doing it for awhile. I also glue my eyebrows down with a glue stick and cover them up with makeup so you can’t see them. Then I draw them on. I wear seven inch heels—nothing less—because I’m only 5’4”. They’re actually not bad, but sometimes after wearing them for 14 hours it kind of hurts.”

Monday, October 22, 2012

In early August, Craftsman announced its House United program, in which half of a house was going to be built during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, and the other half would be built during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, with plans to donate the completed house to a deserving military veteran. I wrote about it at the time on The DNC In The CLT blog for Charlotte magazine. Then last Wednesday, Ty Pennington and crew relatively quietly came into Charlotte to present the house--I say it was relatively quiet because it didn't receive much local news coverage. I learned of the event a few days later when coming across the press release in my email inbox. CNN covered the story the day it was presented to the family (October 17).

Craftsman, Ty Pennington, Rebuilding Together, Sears Heroes at Home, NextGen Home, and Bank of America, along with members of the Republican and Democratic parties all came together to make this project possible. The recipient of the new home, which is located in the Belmont community, is John Jones II, a U.S. Army veteran, and his wife Tanisha and their three children.

Ty Pennington with John and Tanisha Jones. Credit:

After completing his military service, which included two tours of duty in the Middle East, John and his family relocated from Goldsboro, North Carolina to Charlotte where they initially found themselves homeless, according to a press release. With assistance from the American Legion, the Jones family was able to secure rental housing and assistance from the state. John is currently unable to work because of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but is receiving treatment to be able to someday return to work. "Support our troops" is often used in rhetoric, so it's great to see it actually happening.

Click here to see photos of the project on NextGen's Facebook page.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Early voting has begun in North Carolina, kicking off today (October 18) and running through November 3. So you don't have to wait until Election Day (Tuesday, November 6) to vote. If you have already decided which candidates/political parties you're voting for, then hop to it. If you're still undecided (I hope you're not waiting on the final presidential debate next week), then educate yourself.

Earn this sticker.

Whether it's through my work as a journalist or blogger, or my involvement in the community--such as when I helped coordinate three nonpartisan voter registration events last month in Charlotte (here, here, and here) through the Hip Hop Caucus and its Respect My Vote! campaign--you'll never hear/read me telling you who to vote for (my only goal is to help you become more informed and more involved). I leave the persuasion up to the billion dollars that's being spent on television and radio ads by the political parties, to the tens of thousands of volunteers across the country who are going door to door for the campaigns, and to whichever partisan cable news station you watch--FOX News or MSNBC.

Actually, I hope you're cutting through all that clutter and not only deciding to vote, but understanding who and what you're voting for. Every four years, the presidential election becomes the hot topic that dominates far too many facets of our lives (my example in 2008), but when you show up to the polls, aside from going in to vote for either Obama or Romney, you'll also see races for state senators and representatives, local judges, county commissioners, and other important elections on the ballot. Some of the races are non-partisan, so even if you vote straight-party ticket, there will be other candidates you'll need to decide between. Don't go in there guessing.

Below are a few online resources that can help you become more informed before you vote:
If you aren't registered to vote, even though the voter registration deadline has passed in North Carolina, in this state you can still vote at what's known as a One-Stop Voting Site, where you can register to vote and cast your vote the same day during the early voting period. So you can do that now through November 3 (but not on Election Day unless you're already registered). Click here for more details and here to search for the nearest One-Stop Voting Site in your county.

Watch this BET video of the making of a Respect My Vote! PSA, featuring Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. (president of the Hip Hop Caucus) and hip hop artists 2 Chainz and Travis Porter. (FYI: Ads that run before the video are because of BET and not the nonpartisan Respect My Vote! campaign.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pat McCrory was mayor of Charlotte from 1995 to 2009, holding office for a city-record seven terms. In my opinion, he was an effective mayor and should be credited for spearheading and championing a lot of the successful growth Charlotte experienced during the last decade. His successor, Mayor Anthony Foxx, has done a good job as well and has helped lead the city out of the recession. See what I just did? I complimented two political leaders, one who's a Republican (McCrory) and one who's a Democrat (Foxx). I wish more of you what push your partisan views (and hate) aside and give credit where it's due. But on to my point.

McCrory is in the homestretch of his second run for governor of North Carolina. He lost to Bev Perdue in 2008. This time around, McCrory is facing Walter Dalton, the Democratic nominee and current lieutenant governor of the state. McCrory has a sizable lead in the polls I've seen, but the 2012 NC gubernatorial race will probably end up being closer, influenced by voter turnout and the majority of people voting straight-party. McCrory appears to be outspending Dalton, at least that's how it seems regarding the number of TV ads by him I've been seeing lately, which led to something else I noticed.

Does Pat McCrory have a problem saying "Charlotte"? Check out two of his recent commercials (here and here, or watch below), where he touts his tenure as mayor but doesn't name the city.

It seems odd to me that McCrory doesn't say Charlotte in those ads, which are two of the last three TV ads he's released. In the other one, Charlotte is mentioned, but by someone else, in that not-intended-to-be-funny-but-kinda-is-ad featuring former Wilson, NC Sheriff Wayne Gay, who says McCrory "did great as mayor of Charlotte. He'll do great with our state, or I'll hunt him down."

Perhaps McCrory is concerned about any perceived Charlotte stigma negatively affecting his appeal to voters across this large, diverse state of ours. Plus, former Charlotte mayors don't have a good track record of seeking higher office, such as Harvey Gantt's (D) two failed runs for U.S. Senate (1990 and 1996), Sue Myrick's (R) unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate in 1992 (though she would be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994 and hold that seat until she announced her retirement in 2012), Richard Vinroot's (R) three failed attempts to become NC governor (1996, 2000, and 2004) and McCrory's own unsuccessful 2008 run.

Still, c'mon Pat, represent for the Queen City!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Can't Knock the Hustle—Man

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 10/12/2012 No comments
Before Tracy Morgan became the huge comedian and TV star he is today, he first came onto our radar in the 1990s as Hustle Man on Martin. Well, this morning, I met a real-life Hustle Man. I stopped at a gas station and saw a minivan flanked by more than a dozen different sports flags and several President Obama posters. I just had to go over and meet whomever was driving this peculiar vehicle.

The Hustle Man goes by the name of D.C., and I'm assuming that's why he was donning a Washington Redskins hat. He opened up his van and showed a variety of things he has for sale. In addition to the sports flags for several NFL and college football teams, he also has tote bags, hubcaps, and calendars and books by several African-American politicians and other public figures. D.C. is definitely a showman, and was happy to pose for my camera phone pics. And curiously enough, he says he's the assistant director of King's Funeral Home on Beatties Ford Road. He said for you all to come see him—to buy merchandise; I hope you won't be in need of funeral services anytime soon.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Paul C. Brunson emphatically believes that dating and finding love in 2012 (and 2013 and beyond) doesn’t have to be complicated. He’s gaining national acclaim as a leading relationship coach and matchmaker, and some lady named Oprah—you might’ve heard of her—handpicked him to co-host a show on OWN called Lovetown, USA.

Paul has made countless television appearances, has successfully helped hundreds of clients improve their relationships or find love, and he’s releasing his first book this week (October 11), It’s Complicated: But It Doesn’t Have To Be. As if his first book wasn’t already highly anticipated, he’s embarked on a cross-country tour to promote it, meet his fans, and, as he says, to inform and entertain you.

The tour, It’s Complicated Live!” stops in Charlotte on Wednesday, October 17 at 6 p.m. at the Charlotte Chamber Belk Action Center. Tickets range from $35 to $50 and include a copy of his book. Click here for more details and to purchase tickets.

Relationship expert, TV personality, and author Paul C. Brunson. Credit:

I talked to Paul by phone last week, while he waited in an airport in route to the next city for his tour. In the interview below, you’ll learn more about his book and upcoming event, why you should analyze relationship data you read, and why he has such a positive outlook on love.

Tell me about your tour.
The whole idea with the tour is to create awareness around the book (It’s Complicated: But It Doesn’t Have To Be), to create awareness around the TV show, Lovetown, and also to create an environment to educate. It’s an interactive discussion with live music, and it’s really a good time. We’ve done six or seven cities so far. We’ve had really good reviews. It’s a good balance of information and entertainment.

The content is for anyone that’s interested in strengthening their relationship, whether that’s romantic or platonic—and anyone who likes to have a good time. If you want both of the above, this is the perfect event for you.

The title of matchmaker gets used a lot these days. How would you describe what you do?
You get those titles as relationship expert or matchmaker, but I always look at why I started doing this. And the reason I started this was really about family, about community, and it was about how there’s a direct tie between a strong community, coming from their being a strong family. And the key piece is strong families having two parents in the household. So I look at this as almost community activism work. That’s how I perceive my work, more as community work.

What made the timing right for you to write your first book?
The book came about because whenever I would prepare for coaching or prepare for a seminar, I noticed I was always pulling from different resources. I’d pull from my favorite book on psychology or biology or digital-age dating, or pickup artistry because I think there’s some value in that about body language. So there were always six or seven books that I would go to. When I started writing my column for Essence, I started realizing there’s a way to combine all of that information and frame it in a way that’s entertaining. Once I was able to do that with the Essence column, I realized that I really do have a unique voice and that’s when I decided to write the book.

We hear a lot about people getting married later in life, and that divorce rates are really high. How do you address that?
I think the first thing to consider is where we’re getting this information and data from. For example, the notion that divorce rates are really high. What’s interesting is over the last 20 years, divorce rates are actually slightly lower, so the trend is that they’re lowering. Also, when you look at—and I address this in the first chapter of my book—people getting married later in life, a lot of it has to do with societal changes that have basically allowed us to live longer. So we’re living longer which means our marriages are just as long. So even though we’re getting married later, that’s not indicative of anything bad, per se. So a lot of the book and a lot of what I like to do is have us examine this information we’re getting from media and analyze to see if this is a good thing or a bad thing, is it trending one way or another way. When you look at the number of people in this country who believe that there’s value in marriage, that percentage, which is in the 90th percentile, is stronger than it’s ever been. Now, views on marriage have decreased, yes, but those who see value in it is higher than ever before. So I think there are a lot of positive data points.

Continue reading interview after the jump.
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