Friday, April 17, 2009
By Jeremy Lloyd
After a loooooong 6 year wait, the Blazers are finally back in the playoffs. Game 1 of Portland's 7-game series vs. the Houston Rockets is set for this Saturday at 7:30pm at the Rose Garden. The game can be seen on ESPN and KGW. Want tickets? Good luck, they're sold out. If you absolutely must be in the building no matter what the cost, check with craigslist.com, stubhub.com or your friendly neighborhood scalper--but be prepared to open that wallet wide.
Red Hot and Rolling
The Blazers enter the playoffs winners of 10 of their last 11 games, and just about every player on the roster is playing their best ball of the season right now. LaMarcus Aldridge has been an absolute beast in the paint the past three months, Rudy Fernandez has regained his stroke from three-point territory, Travis Outlaw closed out the season with back-to-back 21-point games, vets Joel Przybilla and Steve Blake have been as solid as ever, and Brandon Roy has solidified his status as nothing less than a superstar. Even the much maligned Greg Oden has been finding his rhythm off the bench of late; and against a big and strong Rockets team, he'll be needed in the playoffs more than ever.
The #4 seed Blazers (54-28) were hoping to avoid a first round meeting with the #5 seed Rockets (53-29) for obvious reasons. Portland went 1-2 against Houston during the regular season, their only victory coming on a buzzer beating three-point prayer by Brandon Roy early in the season at the Rose Garden.
What scares the Blazers about the Rockets? Three things. First, 7-foot-6 center Yao Ming is a tough cover for any NBA defender, and if he can get Przybilla and Oden in early foul trouble (which Oden especially is prone to), it'll force Portland to go to a smaller lineup which Houston will most certainly take advantage of with their big men up front. Second, Ron Artest and Shane Battier are exceptional wing defenders, and their combination of size, athleticism and defensive know-how have given Roy fits this season. And as anybody knows, as Roy goes, so go the Blazers. Finally, Houston is a grind-it-out, elbow you in the face, tough team. The Blazers identity of late has been as a controlled running team that plays best when it's getting easy baskets in the open court or secondary fast break. If the Rockets can slow Portland down and make it an ugly game, it won't be to the Blazers' advantage.
Fortunately for the Blazers, the first two of those three points have significant counter arguments. For those worried that Yao will get Oden and Przybilla in foul trouble, consider that generally referees pocket their whistles in the playoffs and let a lot more physical play go, so fouls shouldn't be as much of an issue. And while the Rockets may have found a way to bottle up Roy with Artest and Battier in the regular season, in the postseason teams have much more time to plan for their opponents. Rest assured that coach Nate McMillan and staff have been putting in long hours looking at game film, and already have a plan for how to free up Roy from Houston's smothering defense. The playoffs are all about making adjustments, and the Blazers are sure to come out with a completely different game plan than the regular season. As for the final question--whether the Blazers can play at Houston's sluggish pace--that remains to be seen. The pace of the game always slow down during the postseason, and this series will be no different. It's up to the Blazers to push the tempo whenever they can, but when it's time to grind it out, they'll have to prove they're tough enough--both mentally and physically--to hang with the Rockets if they plan to win this series.
Thanks to a great home court advantage at the Rose Garden (where Portland is a stellar 34-7), the Blazers will likely win all 4 home games and lose all 3 road games. Blazers win it in 7. Next up: Bring on the Lakers!
Monday, April 6, 2009
By Hollyanna McCollom
Last week at Portland Center Stage, things were a bit bittersweet. Just as news leaked out that they had “let go” their entire literary department (including Literary Manager Mead Hunter), Storm Large’s one-woman autobiographical show Crazy Enough was finally premiering in the Ellen Bye Studio. And while many within the Portland theatre scene were worried, angry or frustrated about the former, the latter was an occasion that left many of us feeling like Christmas had come early.
After months of workshops, re-writes and rehearsals, Large took the stage Friday night in a surprisingly stripped-down fashion. No booming announcement, no dress-cut-down-to-there, no drum roll. Just Storm.
Those of us who have watched Large rise from a cult star in the Portland clubs to a household name on reality TV’s Rockstar: Supernova know that she is a consummate entertainer. She’s brassy, sexy, and funny and oh yeah, the girl’s got pipes. The funny thing is, whether she’s playing to a packed house at Dante’s or to a sea of fans standing shoulder to shoulder in a warehouse, she somehow makes you feel as if she is sitting in your lap, tickling your ear with her breath. She’s engaging, yes, but it’s more than just that. Storm is like the opening riff of “Foxy Lady.” She’s the burlesque piano line in David Bowie’s “Time.” She is the bassline in “Come As You Are.” When she’s on the mic, she is everything you want her to be: Vulnerable, flirtatious and unabashed. It’s just that most of us never questioned why.
Crazy Enough is an impressive, funny and sad glimpse into the life that made Large so much larger than life. The songs that are sprinkled throughout the two-act show (co-written by Large and The Balls band member James Beaton) are delivered with the chanteuse’s signature panache. Some of them are bawdy, rock-heavy nods to her career of late; some of them are so heartbreakingly tender, you forget that she’s known for the hits “What The F*ck is Ladylike?” and “Where is My Mind?”.
Much of the show focuses on Large’s troubled relationship with her mentally ill mother, like the moment when she recalls her five-year-old fear of having a caused a relapse in her mother’s psychiatric health by being “too loud,” and makes a pact to be as silent as possible. Always more of a shrieking violet than a shrinking one, Large was a kid who probably thrived on noise and kinetic energy. So, your heart breaks when she then recalls driving her mother to tears and sobs of, “Stormy hates me!” because instead of greeting her with the usual flurry of screams and excitement, she twitches quietly in the corner, wanting to cry out, but terrified of crashing through her mother’s tenuous moments of sanity.
Little by little, you begin to understand how little Stormy grew into what she is today. She is never maudlin as she explains how pain, heartache and fear were pushed aside for sex, drugs, gallows humor and (eventually) rock and roll. The show never feels heavy handed or preachy, despite the fact that the message of survival is clear.
In one of the songs most popular (and infectious) songs, “8 Miles Wide,” she sings, “I am enormous. Get used to it. Everyone tells me I’m too much. Maybe its just you’re not enough.”
Large has knocked it out of the park here, finally crushing any post-TV whispers of her being just a flash-in-the-pan. With all the bawdiness, talent and charisma of a young Bette Midler and a personality that is both unapologetic and endearing, Large proves that she is destined to be one of the most electrifying performers of her time.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
By Hollyanna McCollom
If you are new to Portland (or have perhaps been living under a rock) you may not know about the annual Red Dress Party, an event that is arguably one of the most fun (and well-attended) fundraisers in town. Call it a rave (it’s not); call it a block party (that’s closer), or call it “My Big Fat Gay Prom,” Red Dress is the event where Portlanders of all walks kick up their pretty red heels and party all night long in support of local charities.
Last year’s bash saw nearly 2,000 revelers and raised $35,000 for Esther's Pantry, SHARE and Outside In. Partygoers sipped hosted cocktails in the “Red Sea” themed warehouse while dancing and listening to a performance by Storm and the Balls. Midway through the evening, whispers skittered up through the crowd. “Chelsea Clinton is here,” screamed a pretty boy in a bright red Mad Men-style skirt suit, “Omigod! I just saw her!” “Really, darling?” sighed a sequin-speckled drag queen languishing on the couches, “Was she wearing a red dress?” Sadly, she was not.
While Red Dress is a party not to be missed, there is one very simple, but very strict rule. Everyone (and they mean everyone except Chelsea Clinton) must wear a red dress to gain admittance. Manly men who felt threatened by the idea of donning a red frock have tried in vain to wear kilts, culottes and shorts only to be turned away by the divas at the door (usually the perfectly turned out Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence).
This year, they are hoping to raise even more for charitable organizations that support gay youth and those that support the many folks living with HIV/AIDS and other serious diseases. The theme, “Red Eye,” will feature “in-flight entertainment” from Poison Waters, VJ Dantronix, DJ Harmonix, DJ Tronic, and Peach the Fire Spinner, as well as Storm and the Balls. Those lucky enough to snap up some First-Class tickets have the advantage of early admittance, premium cocktails and a performance by Tahoe Jackson.
Tickets get snapped up quickly for this event, but those red dresses go even quicker. At thrift stores, vintage shops and Goodwills across the city, shopping for a dress in the last two weeks before the party is a bit like trying to find a date at your grandmother’s church (i.e. all the good ones are taken and the ones that are left reek of cabbage and baby powder).
Fortunately, there are still a few viable options. On Wednesday, April 8, Zaytoon Bar (2235 NE Alberta Street, 284-1168) will host a Red Dress Exchange party wherein guests can bring an old frock and exchange it for something new and fabulous. On the 16th, there will be a fashion show and fundraiser entitled “Red Threads for Model Citizens” featuring many local celebs (like Sam Adams, Marc Acito and Byron Beck) strutting their stuff in red dresses from local boutiques. Tickets for the event are $75 and include drinks at the New Deal Vodka Bar, food and swag bags.
If you miss those events, you won’t want to miss bingo with the aforementioned Sisters. Every second Sunday of the month, the sisters are pulling balls for cash at the Portland Police Athletic Association Hall (618 SE Alder, portlandsisters.net). But on Sunday, April 19, they will also host a dress exchange in anticipation of the big affair. Doors open at 4pm.
If all that fails you, get creative. Embrace your inner ballerina and make a no-sew tutu. Head to Office Depot for supplies and then whip together a fabulous paper dress. Grab an old t-shirt and make a rocker-chic halter. Or, if nothing else, find a fun cotton dress or lightweight slip and discover the wonders of Rit Dye #5.
That being said, with almost a month until the event, there is still time to hit up those second hand stores. Red Light Clothing Exchange (3590 SE Hawthorne Blvd) has an entire rack of dresses pulled aside just for this shindig. Goodwill (1943 SE Sixth Avenue) and Buffalo Exchange (1036 SW Burnside) both offer a great opportunity to find that one-of-a-kind treasure; and Lord knows Portland has a plethora of great vintage stores to choose from like Magpie (520 SW 9th), Hattie’s (729 E Burnside St # 101).
One last tip: If you decide to shop vintage, do yourself a favor and measure your waist, chest and hips before going in. Those frocks are older than you, baby and chances are, the girls were built just a little bit different back then.
For more information on the Red Dress Party, go to www.reddresspdx.com.
UPDATE: Red Threads for Model Citizens has been canceled due to low ticket sales. Boo! Make sure you don't miss the big event!