|Enlarge||By Matt Sayles, AP|
|Elton John and Billie Jean King will team up in Washington, D.C., next week for the 18th annual Smash Hits, a chairty event featuring a star-studded cast of tennis players, including Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Anna Kournkova.|
By Rachel Leven, USA TODAY
Thirty-nine-time Grand Slam champion, winner of the epic 1973 Battle of the Sexes, World TeamTennis co-founder and social justice activist Billie Jean King is 10 days shy of 67 years old and still going strong.
Despite double-knee replacement surgery, King is still bouncing around the country to champion her cherished causes, including tennis.
"It's a good feeling to use something that God gave you, you know, to have the excellence in a sport like this and to be one of the few that can make a living out of it, to give back," King says.
Promoting causes is nothing new to King, who made a statement for women in 1973 when she beat Bobby Riggs in a tennis match, spearheaded the launch of the women's tennis tour and founded the Women's Sports Foundation, among other accomplishments.
On Monday in Washington, D.C., two of King's causes come together at the 18th WTT Smash Hits. Event co-founder and longtime King friend Sir Elton John will play matches with a handful of tennis greats at American University's Bender Arena to raise awareness and money for AIDS research and prevention. The cast is star-studded.
Following a celebrity match, featuring John and Martina Navratilova against Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi, will be a WTT-style competition between Team Elton (Agassi, Graf, Anna Kournikova, Jan-Michael Gambill) and Team Billie Jean (Navratilova, Mark Philippoussis, Mark Knowles, Rennae Stubbs). The competition includes one set each of men's singles, men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles.
Smash Hits is set in a different city each year, and each year the Elton John AIDS Foundation selects a local AIDS organization to split the funds raised through ticket sales and auction profits. This year the Washington AIDS Partnership will participate.
"Thirty-five percent of all new HIV infections in the United States are young people ages 13-29," King said in a WTT blog post. "It's a shocking number, but it is a reality we must face and a challenge we must attack."
HIV/AIDS is not a random charity cause in the tennis community. Tennis legend Arthur Ashe, who died in 1993, contracted HIV from a blood transfusion given during surgery. Ashe's memory helps connect the older players to the cause.
The younger players are taught the history, King said.
"I think when they're younger they come on board, maybe they don't have the history and all that, but we tell them," King said. "The more you know about history, the more you know about yourself."
King and John began looking for a way to put music and sports, specifically tennis, together way back in 1973. Almost 20 years later John started the Elton John AIDS Foundation and, with a push from WTT CEO Ilana Kloss, the two created Smash Hits.
Since the event's commencement 17 years ago, Smash Hits has raised approximately $9.6 million. King hopes to hit the $10 million mark this year.
Washington, D.C., has the highest HIV infection rate in the country, making it a prime location to raise funds and awareness, Washington AIDS Partnership Executive Director Channing Wickham said.
"Having Elton and Billie Jean support our work â€¦ is an amazing opportunity to bring attention to our work and to the AIDS epidemic," Washington AIDS Partnership Executive Director Chase Wickham said.
Proceeds from ticket sales and the auction will go toward educating the public and heightening awareness locally to internationally, according to Wickham and Elton John AIDS Foundation Executive Director Scott Campbell.
"EJAF and (National AIDS Foundation) have a long-standing relationship in which EJAF provides support (ranging from $1.3 million to over $2 million annually) to the NAF Community Partnership Network through a challenge grant agreement, whereby the local agencies receiving EJAF funding are required to raise an additional $2 locally for every $1 received from EJAF," Campbell said in an e-mail to USA TODAY.
In return for a ticket, fans can expect quality tennis.
"One thing that Elton and I don't like is celebrity tennis because the players aren't very good," King said. "(Our) players talk to the crowd a little bit and they have fun with the crowd, but they play so that people can see their skill level. We think it's very important to highlight their skill â€¦ because these are really amazing players."
The stars enjoy the evening, not only because they get to catch-up with each other but because of their interactions with the audience â€” hitting balls into the crowd and chattering with fans from the court.
King is unlikely to play this year because of the knee surgery, but she's not about to slow down.
When asked which accomplishments the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient is most proud of, King simply answers, "Don't rush me. I'm not done yet."
November 15, 2010 · 12:01 AM
Exclusive: Sir Elton John to return to Caesars Palace next yearhttp://www.lasvegasweekly.com/blogs/luxe-life/2010/nov/15/exclusive-sir-elton-john-return-caesars-palace-nex/
By Robin Leach
Twice last month when Sir Elton John performed here in Las Vegas for Andre Agassi and Justin Timberlake at separate charity events on The Strip, I reported rumors from highly reliable sources that talks were underway for the British superstar entertainer to return to Caesars Palace.
Now I can confirm that heâ€™ll be back at The Colosseum next year, two years after his residency ended there. Elton will resume his shows after Celine Dionâ€™s initial run of 70 performances a year for two years that premieres March 15. The legendary singer, pianist and showman returns to his theater home where he had alternated in a residency with Celine, Cher and Bette Midler beginning Feb. 13, 2004.
I was reliably told over the weekend that the 63-year-old award-winning singer-songwriter will be back for a regular run of shows. â€œYouâ€™re going to see him here again at Caesars next year for sure,â€ a top executive confirmed to me.
Sir Elton John sparks new residency rumors in second visit in two weeks
By Robin Leach
For the second time in just two weeks, superstar Sir Elton John is back in Las Vegas -- for charity. But Iâ€™m hearing solid rumors that the legendary entertainer has begun seriously thinking of a return residency here.
Just 14 days ago, the pianist and singer-songwriter wowed Andre Agassiâ€™s guests at the 15th Annual Grand Slam at the Wynn. Now this weekend, heâ€™s set to dazzle again as the headliner of an all-star lineup for Justin Timberlakeâ€™s Shriners Hospitals for Children.
In recent years, Elton didnâ€™t have too many complimentary things to say about Las Vegas, but times have changed and as the years ticked on -- heâ€™s often said favorable things about Sin City nowadays. Maybe heâ€™d like to cut back on his traveling and settle here?
Thatâ€™s the word Iâ€™m hearing, and his business folks have talked with Las Vegas entertainment directors about a possible return here next fall -- 2011 or spring 2012. It would be far less scheduled than he had during the three-year contract he signed with AEG at The Colosseum in Caesars Palace. It would be a guaranteed number of weeks or long weekends similar to Garth Brooksâ€™ deal with Steve Wynn -- and this time it might be at another property.
Itâ€™s definitely a story to watch, and Elton might be here again in another two weeks to check out fellow British star Rod Stewart, who begins his own testing of the waters. Rod has said his engagement starting Nov. 7 will be looked at to see if he would agree to regular concerts here.
Meantime, Elton is joined by an all-star lineup at Planet Hollywoodâ€™s Theater for the Performing Arts tomorrow. Grammy and Emmy Award winner Justin lured Elton to perform alongside Christina Aguilera, whoâ€™s making one of her first public appearances since her split from husband Jordan Bratman two weeks ago.
Tomorrowâ€™s concert is the highlight of several events this weekend in conjunction with the PGA and celebrity golf events at TPC Summerlin to benefit Shriners. Justin is the 14th celebrity over the years to host a PGA tournament for Shriners. The PGA finals and awards are set for Sunday, however late Elton and the stars play.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the worldâ€™s premier platinum playground.
Monday, Nov. 15, 2010
Get Off the Couch: 10,500 fans ready for Elton John showhttp://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2010/nov/15/10500-fans-ready-for-elton-john-show/?entertainmentlifeentertainment
LISA DENTON: So Barry, are you among the lucky 10,500 with tickets to Elton John's sold-out show at McKenzie Arena Friday night?
BARRY COURTER: No, but I have a friend who has a friend who knows somebody in Atlanta who knows a guy who makes Elton's costumes. This show sold out almost as fast as the Garth Brooks shows in Nashville. Fans bought up 140,000 tickets for those nine shows in December to raise money for flood relief up there. Amazing. Still, Elton selling that many tickets here in less than two hours is remarkable. By the way, I heard the other day that Elton's stage middle name is Hercules. Doesn't really butch him up, does it?
LISA: No, but it does put one of his lyrics in my head: "The fever's gonna catch you when the butch gets back." OK, that's not exactly how it goes, but we can't say the other word in a family newspaper. I imagine that's one of the songs fans can expect to hear, as the show promises all hits all night.
BARRY: We should do a contest about butchered EJ lyrics. Phoebe Buffay from "Friends" is the hands-down winner for her "Tiny Dancer/Tony Danza" mangler, so everyone would technically be playing for second place, but it could be fun. The show will be fun also. Leon Russell is opening, which is cool all by itself.
LISA: Except for their piano-playing, they seem like an unlikely pair to me. But John has called Russell his "idol, mentor and everything [he] wanted to be as a songwriter." And they've earned universal praise for their T Bone Burnett-produced album, "The Union," and their subsequent concerts together. And adding Russell to the lineup makes those $37 to $137 tickets look like a bargain. Not that it matters. John alone has more than 50 Top 40 hits. It's gonna be a fun night.
Concert review: Elton John, Leon Russell prove they're still superstars at Fort Worth Convention Center
02:37 PM CST on Sunday, November 14, 2010http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/ent/stories/111510dngdelton.229294f.html
FORT WORTH â€“ Anyone who thinks baby boomers have passed the age of "party till you drop" wasn't at Fort Worth Convention Center Arena on Saturday night. Sixty-three-year-old Elton John and 68-year-old Leon Russell played a 33-number-set that went past three hours and included 11 songs from their current Top 10 CD, The Union.
The mostly middle-age and older audience boogied till the last note. To be fair, we did spot a couple of teenagers decked out in huge, glittery glasses and "I Love EJ" T-shirts, but I'm pretty sure they were time travelers from 40 years ago. The entire concert, in fact, had a '70s feel to it; guitarist Davey Johnstone even wore a paisley shirt and leather pants. Then there was the venue, which is rarely used for superstar concerts these days, and John's set list: "Burn Down the Mission," "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," "Bennie and the Jets," "I'm Still Standing," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," "Rocket Man."
We haven't seen that much piano-fueled rock (from both John and Russell) since the heyday of ... well, Elton John. As my husband noted, the show had everything you'd expect from a mid-'70s gig except for the scent of marijuana wafting about. Instead, as the evening wore on, we started smelling coffee. We can rock out, mind you, but we need caffeine once it's past 10 p.m.
John, still the ultimate showman, came out first, clad relatively demurely (for him) in red shades and a black tux embroidered with "Love" down one sleeve, as well as hearts, flowers and a pistol on the back. He introduced Russell as his longtime idol, and talked a bit about the bromance that formed during the making of The Union with Fort Worth-raised producer T-Bone Burnett.
Russell, distinguished in his dark glasses, flowing white hair and beard, and white cowboy hat, played five songs solo, including an incendiary "Delta Lady" and a soulful "A Song For You." He didn't say much, uttering little more than "Mercy!" after some extended applause and "Thank you" as he left the stage. Russell can keep an audience riveted without lifting more than his 10 fingers. His piano virtuosity still stuns.
Then came John for a solo run of seven songs, and he ended the show with another 10. In between came the evening's highlight, as the two stars sat at grand pianos on opposite sides of the stage and gifted us with nearly the entirety of The Union. The rocker from Middlesex, England, and the country boy from Tulsa, Okla., sound as if they were made to sing together, John's smooth baritone meshing gorgeously with Russell's growly higher range.
The music roamed through several genres and moods, from the mournful Civil War ballad "Gone to Shiloh" to the irresistible "Jimmie Rodgers' Dream," which, if there is any justice, will soon be atop the country charts. The emotional highlight was Leon's solo "In the Hands of Angels," a sweetly soaring tribute to John and their mutual manager. "Johnny and the governor came and brought me to my senses," Russell sang. "They made me feel just like a king ... I was in the hands of angels until this very day."
Those of us at the arena on Saturday night felt the same way.
Photo exhibition one to rememberhttp://www.niagarafallsreview.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2844585
By ROBIN ROBINSON, QMI AGENCY
Posted 2 days ago
Music lovers won't want to miss Taking Aim: Unforgettable Rock 'N' Roll Photographs Selected by Graham Nash, a new exhibition at George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y.Guest curator Nash -- of Crosby, Stills and Nash --selected the 98 images in the exhibit, which cover six decades and include iconic performance shots and portraits of rock's biggest stars -- Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin, Elton John, John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, The Beatles, Nirvana and more.
The show, which was organized by Seattle's Experience Music Project, continues through Jan. 30. George Eastman House is at 900 East Ave. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays.
Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $6 for students, $4 for children 5-12, and free for children 4 and under.