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Dont mess with us: Seattle?
One of Americas toughest cities? In whose bizarro world? Well, that would be the world of Maxim magazine, whose current issue ranks the Emerald City sixth for toughness, while New York didnt even make the list. Among the magazines criteria was the number of martial arts studios an area has Seattle has one for every 64,000 residents, Maxim reports. Seattle also got points for suffering heartache whenever their sports teams take the field. Alas, the magazine proved it has no idea what its talking about when it said of Seattle: Its a town so tough even the sun is afraid to show up every summer. Maxims top five toughies: Chicago, L.A., Detroit, Baltimore and Houston.

Stylin with a cause: In
celebration of Filipina American History Month, the sisterhood of Pi Nu Iota is sponsoring a fund-raising fashion show Friday, Liwayway: Every Morning Is a New Beginning. Local designers such as Kiki Corona and Greysunz will show off their work, while musicians such as Fraggle Rock and Christine Alba will perform. Proceeds benefit literacy-driven events held by Pi Nu Iota. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The show begins at 7 at The Vera Project, Seattle Center. For information: visit For tickets ($10 advance, $15 at the door), call 206-902-6130 or e-mail

Imagine a world that mandates cosmetic surgery for 16-year-olds and bases status on "face rank." For fans of the bestselling "Uglies" series, its all too plausible. FRIDAY




Ned Flanders

Dr. Hibbert

Derek Smalls from This Is Spinal Tap

Harry Shearer lends his voice to countless projects and causes

Kent Brockman
P-I reporter

You might know Harry Shearer as the zucchini-smuggling bassist from This Is Spinal Tap. Maybe you caught him in For Your Consideration or A Mighty Wind a pair of mockumentaries written by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy. Or theres the Saturday Night Live skits (he played an uncanny President Reagan), his supporting turns in blockbusters such as The Right Stuff and The Truman Show, or his childhood appearances on The Jack Benny Program. Hell, he even showed up on Waynes World 2. These are the roles that helped make Shearers career. But, for many of you, theres a single word thats made Shearer famous excellent.
Are your fingers tented? Eyes menacing? Shoulders riding a little high? Did you hold on to that x, hissing your way into the rest of the word? Thats Shearer youre imitating. Hes the man behind C. Montgomery Burns, the scoundrel of Springfield and Homer Simpsons boss. In the 18 years since The Simpsons began, Shearer has given voice to at least 41 denizens of Springfield. Hes Principal Skinner and Rev. Lovejoy. Hes Otto the bus driver, Ned Flanders and Bill Cosby-esque Dr. Hibbert. Its fun. Basically, long before The Simpsons was a hit, it was satisfying for

Victor Allan Miller from For Your Consideration

HARRY SHEARER WHAT: Renaissance comedian WHERE: The Moore Theatre WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday TICKETS: $25-$50 through Ticketmaster, 206-628-0888 ADDITIONAL APPEARANCE: The Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 S. Main St., Saturday at 7:30 pm, reading from his novel Not Enough Indians Otto, the bus driver

Waylon Smithers

Mark Shubb from A Mighty Wind

Viva Laughlin is a crap shoot double entendre intended


Freud and loneliness lurk in Sondheims Woods

Special to the P-I

INTO THE WOODS WHAT: Musical theater by Stephen Sondheim WHERE: 5th Avenue Theatre WHEN: Oct. 19-Nov. 10; 7:30 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday matinees TICKETS: $20-$77 by calling 206-625-1900, or


THERES NOT ENOUGH down time in a day to waste on network televisions dumbest ideas. But its not every day that a mediocrity like Viva Laughlin comes along a show that presumes well be interested WATCH IT in the story of a Viva Laughlin, 10 visionary entrepreneur who p.m. Thursday; has his heart set on regular time slot 8 opening a casino in p.m. Sunday, CBS a town 129 miles (KIRO/7) outside Las Vegas. Since Viva Laughlin is on CBS a new and buzzworthy CBS, mind you it also has a mystery woven through it as well as karaoke interludes to Blondies One Way or Another and Elvis Viva Las Vegas. Some of that singing comes courtesy of Melanie Griffith, whose


Casino rivals Nicky (Hugh Jackman, left) and Ripley (Lloyd Owen).

numerous plastic surgeries create the worlds scariest close-up. To recap: An off-Vegas prime-time musical murder mystery with tight shots focused on a woman who is a walking cautionary tale for plastic surgery. Since it has been well-established that audiences dont flock to original

musicals in primetime (shouldnt need to bring up Cop Rock, but there you have it) CBS is referring to Viva Laughlin as a mystery drama with music. Others could think of it as the misery Jericho will soon replace. Still others unfortunate

The story features fairy-tale characters, a cow mannequin and the lyric Dwarfs are very upsetting. But Stephen Sondheims 1987 musical Into the Woods, onstage from Oct. 19 to Nov. 10 at the 5th Avenue Theatre, more likely will remind audiences of Freud than Disney. In the first act, a baker and his wife go into the woods to break the spell that keeps them childless. There, they encounter familiar characters Sondheims faithfully grotesque adaptations of the Brothers Grimm figures: Red Riding Hood, dressed in wolf skin and brandishing a knife, sings about having been excited and scared by the lusty predator. Ambivalent about Prince Charmings pursuit, Cinderella bemoans the difficulty of recognizing ones own wants. And, after plundering the castle atop the beanstalk, Jack reminisces about a sky-dwelling lady giant and regrets he cant live between the worlds of sky and home. Act 2 returns the characters to the woods to face consequences of the damage they caused, wittingly or not, in Act 1. The journey into the woods is both rite of passage and risk of death. In the woods, princes double as wolves, mothers protect and destroy, narrators get punished for their sideline roles, and

happily ever after is postscripted, I wish. In the woods, right and wrong grow ambiguous and naivete yields heavily to knowledge. I saw Into the Woods during its original New York run. A lonely teenager with bad haircuts and good grades, Id joined Sondheims cult of personality years before, around the time I first discovered that some kids were popular and I was not. Though Sondheim wrote about adults, his characters experiences resonated with me. Unlike other Broadway composers song-and-dance ingenues, Sondheims creations experienced life as a humiliating, lonesome struggle filled with compromise and loss. I knew Sondheim the way other



Heres an American Band

Fox hopes its televised battle of the bands appeals to viewers like Idol does
The Associated Press

Perahia returns in first-rate form

P-I music critic


LOS ANGELES Theres sheer bravado in the title of Foxs The Next Great American Band. But the network that gave us American Idol is primly cautious about whether it has found another hit talent show. Debuting at 8 p.m. Friday (KCTS/13), American Band boasts an impressive group of finalists ranging from heavy metal to soul to bluegrass, and its from the same producers behind American Idol. But are audiences ready for what Johnny Rzeznik, Goo Goo Dolls lead singer and a judge on the show, describes as basically like a big battle of the bands? You just have to cross your fingers, said Mike Darnell, Foxs president for alternative entertainment. The No. 1 status of Idol, he said, doesnt necessarily translate to the band show. . . . You cant compare anything to American Idol. Nigel Lythgoe, an executive producer for both series, just wants viewers to give American Band a fair shot. Hes willing, even eager, to say that Idol contestants suffer by comparison to the band hopefuls. I can pick out five bands that I can go, Wow, these guys are tremendous. You cant do that with the top 12 Idols, Lythgoe said. Were saying to the public, Look at this talent and say you dont appreciate it. Rzeznik, who joined the show after being assured he could be a fully independent judge, pronounced himself blown away by the skill and spirit of the best contestants. He also appreciated that the contest goes against the grain of todays music industry. People are tired of seeing really manufactured artists, who are very beautiful and can sing but dont have their own body of work, he said. This is a cool process, not put together by a marketing team, a record company. The artists just get up there


Rocket get it? played in Lake Las Vegas, Nev., for the new TV show The Next Great American Band. By the way, the band members wore those skin-baring outfits because of the 100-degree heat.

and do their thing. If the audience likes it, they like it. If not, boom, youre gone, Rzeznik said. Joining Rzeznik on the judging panel are Sheila E. and British-born TV host Ian Dickson, whom viewers will quickly learn answers to the nickname Dicko and comes from the Simon Cowell school of barbed commentary. The shows format is akin to American Idol but with a few tweaks. Instead of nationwide tryouts, bands submitted tapes online and about 60 good, bad and ugly were invited to audition at Lake Las Vegas, Nev., in what turned out to be 100-plus-degree summer heat. Those contenders are pared to 12 finalists on Fridays debut episode. Thereafter, two bands per week will be voted off by viewers but without an additional results episode a la Idol. The audience will have to wait a week for the outcome.

Also unlike Idol, which has showcased pop singers from Gwen Stefani to Barry Manilow, there will be no guest acts on American Band, produced by 19 Entertainment and FremantleMedia North America. This really is about the talent, Lythgoe said. Bands also will perform their own songs as well as cover versions of records. Given the immense success of American Idol, which Fox safeguards with just one cycle per year, why the delay in trying a band version? Idol averaged more than 30 million viewers for its performance episodes and, even in year six, remained the bulwark of Foxs schedule. No one thought of it, said a rueful-sounding Lythgoe. It was only last season that I was talking to (fellow executive producer) Cecile Frot-Coutaz and we said, Why have we never done a band show? . . . This is a perfect fit for Idol.

Singers have the spotlight on Idol and hoofers are center stage in Foxs So You Think You Can Dance and ABCs Dancing with the Stars, but bands have been left in the shadows by TV and by the music industry, said Foxs Darnell. Hes not entirely accurate. The cable channel Fuse TV recently concluded the Bodog Music Battle of the Bands, a competition for a million-dollar recording contract that was won by the Seattle-based group, Fall From Grace. Still, mainstream TV has not been a big promoter of bands. Its a little harder to get your arms around a group of people, Darnell acknowledged. Our job is to individualize as much as we can. In the Dec. 21 finale, three bands will vie for a record contract and, just maybe, an instant career like the ones handed to American Idol winners.

Pianist Murray Perahia has played in Seattle on a regular basis for so long that audiences have taken him a little bit to their hearts. They packed the venue for a long time Meany Hall, then Benaroya Hall and paid attention to the difficulties he has had with a finger injury that put his career on hold for five years in the 1990s. Last year, the injury flared up again, and he canceled a 10-city tour, including a scheduled performance at Meany Hall. It was a return to the nightmare and without any guarantee that it was ever going to get right, said Perahia in an interview published this month in the English magazine Gramophone. However, the 60-year-old pianist resumed his career with concerts in the United States and Europe, where he lives. He also made recordings of Bach and Beethoven due to be released next year, his first CDs since 2004. He opened the Seattle Symphonys Distinguished Artists Series on Tuesday night at Benaroya Hall. Perahia has never strayed far from the classical repertory. Thus there was Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, topped off by a set of Chopin. The pianist freely admits he is more interested in the past than the present. There are those who undoubtedly object to his tastes, but when a musician plays with Perahias kind of insight and intelligence, who can argue? This is what matters to him. Bachs Fourth Partita opened the recital. It is a work of noble proportions and outward expressive restraint. In his years away from performing, Perahia devoted a lot of time to the study of Bach, and this shows in his approach to the master of the Baroque. His performance was majestic and aristocratic, even in the emotionally probing Allemande. It was all about clarity. Some of

Bachs keyboard works rush across the footlights with their engaging manner, but the Fourth Partita is not among them. Perahia made no apologies and attempted no conversions. One cavil: The playing was rather loud. If the Bach is imposing in design, Beethovens Pastoral Sonata is unpretentious. They worked well as a first-half combination. Perahias reading was large-scaled, vigorous and full of forward motion. It seemed bigger than it is. Nevertheless, Perahia did not neglect the charm and wit of the piece, giving the whole a feeling of a generous landscape. Brahms wrote all sorts of short piano pieces, complied in the various opus numbers. Perahia played the Op. 118, which includes a quartet of intermezzos, a ballade and a romance. This set of miniatures was free and graceful, the sound caressed in a pleasurable way. There were different moods, but not extravagantly so, the contrasts made part of a single entity. Perahia could be lavish but he also could be subdued, sometimes within a single phrase. Whats important is that he could float with the moment. The Chopin was familiar ground: two etudes (Op. 25, No. 1; Op. 10, No. 4) and the Third Ballade. Perahia was airy and delicate in the first etude and spun like the wind in the second, while the ballade played itself, or so it seemed. Perahia rewarded the standing, loudly cheering audience with more familiar music by Schubert, then Schumann.
P-I music critic R.M. Campbell can be reached at 206-448-8396 or

SHEARER: Next up: J. Edgar Hoover

me because it was an opportunity to do multiple voices, Shearer said. And thats what I like to do. Shearers larger longing, though, is to entertain, and he does so with rare range. The animated work hides his physicality, which is one of his great gifts. He can effortlessly slide into whacked-out roles using his affable eyes and elastic face to transform himself. Where wig and wardrobe would turn Spinal Taps Derek Smalls or A Mighty Winds Mark Shubb into half-alive caricatures, Shearers earnestness grounds the characters and keeps them endearingly human. He has made his mark playing pathetic personae and filling them with sadly comic warmth recall his turn in Waynes World 2 as Handsome Dan, the skinny, badly balding radioman. This spring at a London theater, Shearer plans to train his talents on one of the 20th centurys great tragic figures, J. Edgar Hoover. The production J. Edgar! The Musical has been an offand-on project for Shearer and writing partner Tom Leopold for nearly a decade. Shearer said he has been intrigued by the challenge of finding humor in the story of the hard-boiled cross-dresser who headed the FBI. Hes a funny character a homophobic homosexual, Shearer said. He was the center of an awful lot of the craziness that was 20th-century America. Shearer, 63, will be at the Moore Theatre on Friday showcasing his varied talents. The evening starts at 8 with Shearer offering his take on politics and pop culture. He rounds out the performance with what he calls a show business flourish. For Shearer, the show is a chance to connect with his fans. I love the immediacy of talking with an audience, he said. Every time you do that, youre sort of calibrating your performance based on how they respond. umentary This Is Spinal Tap cemented his place in popular culture. Recently, Shearer has sought other outlets for his Harry Shearer: satirical silactor, activist, writer, radio host liness. In 2006, ... he released his first novel, Not Enough Indians, the tongue-in-cheek tale of residents of a bankrupt small town who decide to form a tribe. Writing the novel, he said, fulfilled a dream one shared by anyone who has considered himself a writer. Shearer followed the book this year with the album Songs Pointed & Pointless, his third collection of music. Many of the songs which are sometimes witty, sometimes biting had their genesis on his syndicated National Public Radio program, Le Show (which plays at 3 p.m. Sundays on KXOT-FM 91.7 in Tacoma. His work also appears online at The songs all sort of have their first life on my radio show, which was sort of a demo version of them, he said. Its something thats kind of fallen out of fashion, which is comedy songs that arent parody. One song Waterboardin U.S.A. pushes satire, setting lyrics about the infamous torture technique to a Beach Boys-style tune. Its a pleasure so rare, seeing captives gulp air, sings Shearer, sporting a leathery tan and a floral-print shirt for the songs video (available at Lets go waterboardin U.S.A. Shearer said he wrote the song after hearing bland denials from the U.S. government about the treatment of Guantanamo prisoners. Spinal Tap alums Guest and Michael McKean join Shearer on the album, as does his wife, Welsh singer Judith Owen, and several musicians from New Orleans, the couples adopted home.
P-I reporter Levi Pulkkinen can be reached at 206-448-8348 or

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Big Easy before and after

For 11 years, Shearer has been splitting his time between Los Angeles and New Orleans. He said hes still struggling to find the humor in Hurricane Katrina. Hes written about it, and hes talked about it in his shows. But, he said, most Americans dont know enough about the disaster to get the joke. Asked about the hurricane, Shearer is quick to point out that failures of preparation and engineering particularly the ill-designed floodways and levees caused the city to flood. Rebuilding, he said, is happening, but its painful work. I love that city deeply, Shearer said. Anybody who has any kind of resources is working their ass off. Its a city of bootstraps wherever you look.


Do You Experience Heavy Menstrual Bleeding On 2 To 5 Days Of Your Regular Menstrual Period? Does Heavy Menstrual Bleeding Keep You From Your Normal Social And Work Activities? If you answered yes to these questions, you may qualify for a research study of an investigational drug for heavy menstrual bleeding. This investigational drug is not a hormone.
You must: Be a generally healthy woman between the ages of 18 and 49 Have regular menstrual cycles with heavy bleeding Not have any other bleeding disorder If you qualify you will receive study drug and study related procedures including physical exams, electrocardiograms, eye exams and laboratory tests at no cost. You will also receive compensation for your time and travel.

From Hitchcock to Harvard

Born in Los Angeles, Shearer got an early start in Hollywood. After the Jack Benny show, he appeared on Alfred Hitchcock Presents as a teen, then became an editor at a college humor magazine while completing a political science degree at UCLA. After an abortive stint at Harvard, he was hired to cover the Watts riots as a freelancer for Newsweek. Shearer later joined a satirical news team at an L.A. radio station. Shearer already had joined the cast of Saturday Night Live when, in 1984, the faux rock doc-

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