John Diaz (21) walks into the café with his usual swagger. The 6-foot-2, 150 pounds actor looks like Ichabod Crane – a lanky beanstalk but way better-looking. In Five Star, Diaz plays a young man who struggles with his identity – should he, like his deceased father, go down the path of gang life? The movie, which will be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, blends fiction and reality. It is a coming-of-age story where Diaz discovers the meaning of manhood.
Born and raised in New York, Diaz lives with his mother and older sister in Lower East Side. He had not always wanted to be an actor. In middle school, his dream was to play for the Yankees. But after listening to Diana Ross’ daughter speaking about how fun it was to act, Diaz decided that he would become an actor. Because an actor gets to live a different life every time he walks on set. He took theater classes in high school and studied performance art at Nazareth College. He dropped out after eight credits. Six months after his return home, he was casted for Five Star.
Part Puerto Rican, part white and black, Diaz raps and models on the side. The young star shares what it was like working with Keith Miller for the past two years. Continue reading
James ‘Primo’ Grant (29), a general in the East New York Bloods, commands the room the moment he walks in the café. Wearing a leather-sleeved sweater with a red-eyed lion print, the burly, bearded man exudes solid strength. Speaking calmly, he points out the persons around us. See that guy? He’s into that girl. See how his knees turn toward her? A bouncer at Sugar Hill, a disco club in Brooklyn, Grant has predatory eyes like a hawk. He sees everything.
Primo shares a moment with his son, Sincere Grant. (Credit: Alex Mallis)
Grant is the star of Keith Miller’s newest feature film, Five Star. In it, he plays a leader of the Bloods. He is a father, husband, gang leader, friend and mentor. To John, a fatherless young man who is trying to decide if gang life is for him, Primo represents tough love. Mixing fiction and reality, the film is based closely on Grant’s real life. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he is the son of a Domnican mother and a Costa Rican father. He is the fourth of eight children, four sisters and three brothers. He joined the Bloods when he was 12 and is still active. The film touches upon issues like gang life, drugs and violence. However, it is more than your typical Hollywood gangster film. Instead, it highlights human struggle as both Primo and John wrestle with what it means – what choices one has to make – to be a man.
Grant lives in New Jersey with his fiancé and four children. Continue reading
Keith Miller’s newest feature film, Five Star, is one of the 12 films selected for the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. The story, which looks into what it means to be a man, blurs the distinction between on- and off-screen reality. James ‘Primo‘ Grant (29), who joined the Bloods when he was 12, plays Primo, a five-star general in the East New York Bloods. His co-star John Diaz (21) plays John, a 15-year-old trying to decide if he should pursue gang life. After discovering how his father had died, John must make a choice – will he be his father, Primo or a man of his own? Based closely on elements of Grant’s life, the film is a coming-of-age story for both Primo and John.
With a background in abstract art, Miller compares his method of directing to the act of seeing through art. To him, his film is like American modernist artist Jasper John’s Flag (1955). The artwork, which consists of a painted flag that looks exactly like the American flag, raises the question: Is this a painting or is this a flag? Is this a representation or is this a flag?
“It looks like an American flag,” Miller says. “But it is not a printed flag, it is painted. In a symbolic way, there’s context, history, depth and texture to America.”
Read more about the film, published via Bedford & Bowery In Five Star, Keith Miller’s Leading Man is a General in the East New York Bloods
Read Q&A with James ‘Primo’ Grant
Read Q&A with John Diaz
Primo (left) and John (right) talk business on the court; James ‘Primo’ Grant (left) and John Diaz (right)
Image Credit: Nathan Fitch
Stepping into Tom Clark’s apartment is like entering into a museum of music memorabilia. An Exposicion de la Habana ’68 poster, printed in art nouveau style, hangs on the wall. A large bookshelf holds his impressive record (thousands) collection. Displayed on the bookshelf are four thumb-high Beatles figurines, a 1954 Roy Roger & Dale Evans Double R Bar Ranch lunchbox, Hank Williams record (Luke the Drifter), Pan Am toy airplane and a Remo drumhead autographed by the rock ‘n’ roll band, The Crickets. He owns over a hundred guitars (six on display in the living room, 30 in his bedroom closet and the rest in storage) and 67 vintage cowboy shirts.
That is a heap load of stuff. Clark (48), a musician with his own band Tom Clark and the High Action Boys, attributes this tendency to his father, who was an antique toy collector and salesman. To his friends, Tom is known as the Clark-ivist, like the archivist. An archivist is not a collector — someone who accumulates things. An archivist is someone who preserves, organizes and curates his collection. Continue reading
There was a time when people lived without smartphones. That was also the time that people would look around and gasp in surprise, “Oh, what a cool shop. I think I will check it out.”
Archangel Antiques, co-owned by Gail (75) and her partner, Richard, is one of those shops. Tucked in the corner of 9th Street and 1st/2nd Ave in East Village, the 2-in-1 store will be closing this June. The piece is picked up by Bedford&Bowery, but you can read the original here.
Richard helping a customer
Tall, lanky and thin as a pencil, Antonio “Sunny” Balzano is the beloved owner of Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Dating back to 1850s, the bar passed from his great grandfather to his grandfather to his father to his uncle and then Sunny. After taking over in 1994, Sunny unintentionally transformed the tiny bar into something trendy.
How? He and his friends — artists, musicians — simply hung out at the bar, drinking and having a grand time.
Grand, is one of Sunny’s favorite phrases.
Gentle and sweet, Sunny speaks with an Irish accent (even though he is Italian). “I love it” sounded like “I lurve it.” He attributes his accent to his early days as an aspiring actor and love for theatricality.
Photo Credit: smallbiztrends.com
Living in the city can be stressful (Stress with a capital “S“). According to Forbes, New York has “the least affordable housing, the most extreme population density and the highest cost of living.” The Global City Competitiveness Index declared New York to be the most competitive city in the world.
Read further on:
Sweet and Stress-free, Let Them Eat Black Sesame
Unhealthy sources of carbohydrates include white bread, pastries, soda and other highly processed or refined food. Can a girl eat her dessert and stay healthy at the same time? Most definitely, check out the best black sesame desserts in NYC.
Don’t Hug, Cuddle. Yours Truly, Cuddle Party Facilitator
Cuddle Party? For most of us who have never attended a cuddle party, it sounds like group orgy. But it is not. Jamie Garde, a 61-year-old certified Cuddle Party facilitator, participates in this Q&A to share her thoughts on touch. Continue reading
Alex Gabriel McKanze is not your typical tour guide. Born and raised in the Paris suburbs, he identifies himself as Italian American with French culture (the American side, since it does really exist, is German, British and Cherokee). He speaks five languages fluently, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, as well as a little Portuguese and Latin.
As a freelance tour guide for Great New York Tours, he’s a walking encyclopedia. Even with a hangover, he can tell you that Henry Hudson discovered the Hudson River in 1609 (adding snidely, “Because the Native Americans obviously never saw it before”).
A 22-year-old with great ambition, McKanze speaks of his love for the “rhythm” of the city. To him, New York is work work work, and he loves it. He doesn’t know where his music will take him, but he is more than okay with that. He just wants to play.
I love it [Jazz]. It’s always new and it’s endless combination. And it’s also because you catch a moment that’s unique. Every time it’s different. I do not play the same song twice.
You can read the Q&A here or on Bedford & Bowery (This French-Born NYC Tour Guide Will Serenade You With Gypsy Jazz Tonight)
Alex McKanzie, NYC tour guide and Gypsy jazz musician