NEWS FLASH! -- "More cheese, less rats," laughs Huey Lewis, explaining why he loves to hang out on his Montana ranch between tours. "Montana is directly below Edmonton and we're in a valley with mountains all around us," says the 63-year-old-singer, who fronts Huey Lewis & the News. The band does about 75 dates a year now, with two in Winnipeg on Monday and Tuesday at Club Regent Casino. The Transcona casino is celebrating the opening of its new 1,400-seat entertainment bowl. Lewis is just as handsome as ever and he's a fireball on stage. The group is known for mega-hits such as The Power of Love, I Want a New Drug, Stuck With You and Hip to be Square.
Most people don't know this, but Lewis is a brainiac. He skipped Grade 2, finished school at 16 and was accepted at Ivy League-school Cornell University in engineering. His dad advised him to take time off and see the world. So the lanky teenager packed his harmonica and went to Europe in the late 1960s. By the time he was in Morocco, he had a guitar for busking, as he needed to earn money to eat and travel. "One night I was walking down the street, and this guy slammed into me and tried to take my guitar. He didn't get it!" Would he advise his kid to go travelling at 16 like that? "Never. It's a different world now." When he came back to the U.S., Lewis went to Cornell, but he was already deep into music and likes to tell people, "I spent five minutes over two years in Cornell." Years later, he used his large brain to win $125,000 for his favourite charity, Bread and Roses, on the TV show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Like everybody else his age, Lewis has family to attend to as well as a career. "My mother is in an old-age home and my brother has throat cancer. I had some heart stuff, but I'm fine now." Although his marriage ended 10 years ago, he says of his ex-wife, "We're still pals." His kids -- now 28 and 30 -- are doing well. "My son, Austin Cregg, (the family's real last name) does the social media for the Jimmy Kimmel Show and my daughter, Kelly, lives between London and Sonoma, Calif., where she's a horse trainer." How does he feel about singing old hits the crowds demand, such as The Power of Love, from Back to the Future, that earned him an Oscar nomination? "Well we don't perform every night, and it's not like singing A One-Eyed, One-Eared, Flying Purple People Eater. If I haven't sung The Power of Love for two or three weeks, it's great!"
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FORMAL COUNTRY? -- So how did people manage to obey the dress code "formal" for the Grand Ole Country theme at Variety, the Children's Charity gala? Canadian country star Brett Kissel (hits: Started with a Song, Raise Your Glass), who recently won a Juno for Breakthrough Artist 2014, was the feature act at the sold-out Delta Winnipeg bash last Saturday. Gold sequins la Dolly Parton, tuxedos and a scattering of cowboy hats and jeans turned out to be the answer. The ballroom held 440 happy souls and the dancing started in earnest with Canadian Idol competitor Jeremy Koz fronting the All-Star Band.
Variety Manitoba's new CEO Jerry Maslowsky, who was the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' VP of marketing for 15 years, surprised the crowd by agreeing to sing for his dinner to help raise more money. Who knew? The man belted out The Lady is a Tramp and the Beatles hit, Yesterday, like a pro. "We got close to a $1,000. I should have done three songs... maybe a set," he said. Seems Maslowsky has been hiding his musical talent in recent years. "My original career was as a performer and entertainer. I did Hollow Mug shows at the International Inn, starting at 17, and Rainbow Stage shows as well. I helped produce and direct a variety series called Wish Upon a Star with my sister, Debbie Maslowsky, on CKY-TV."
Maslowsky replaces Wayne Rogers, who retired after 15 years as head honcho at Variety. "I'm truly honoured to be part of the Variety family, a game-changer in the lives of children. I'm extremely excited and passionate toward this cause. I want to go back to the roots of what Variety is. (Variety originated as a charity peopled by entertainers.) I want to reunite a lot of people who have touched Variety in 35 years and reconnect with families and events." Maslowsky hints broadly there'll be more of an "under the big top" entertainment feel in future events.
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