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Trolls Rewind: Old School is New School

Troll Dolls
Troll Dolls

Rewind to 1959 and the sixties: Troll Doll, a product of the ‘60s for the baby boomers of the ‘60s became one of the biggest beloved toy crazes in the United States. Yes, that would be the Troll Doll – originally created in 1959 by Danish woodcutter Thomas Dam for his daughter.

Personally, I have several of them. Flash forward 30 years. The dolls popped up again, this time as a toy craze in the ‘90s. So, I was one of those baby boomers who passed on the tradition, and bought new Troll Dolls for my daughter.

Enter 2016. Once again, the beloved Troll Doll has been resurrected, this time as a major motion picture by DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls” accompanied by all the merchandising that goes along with a theatrical release campaign. The musical film release date: November 4, 2016, stars Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Corden, Kunal Nayyar, Gwen Stefani, Russell Brand and Ron Funches.

Troll Barbie Doll commercial, Mattel, Inc.

Unlike Barbie Dolls (1959) which have stayed a current toy for 50 years and that continue to be hotly sought after collector items, the Troll Doll was not known as a must-have keepsake/collectable item throughout time. Yet, when the Doll was resurrected in the ‘90s, even famous Barbie had to get in on the craze.

Old School is New School

Other retro dolls that come to mind that became cult faves and eventually had full-length, theatrically released motion pictures include: Gumby (1950s), Gumby: The Movie (1995); GI Joe (); and Elmo (1979) and The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland (1999).

I could go on and on about other beloved toy dolls that have resurfaced decades later as mega media enterprises with their own film. But, the point is – old school will at some point in time – always be new school.  Simply put, you can’t keep a good thing down for too long.

gumby_mv5bmtq3mtk4otkzm15bml5banbnxkftztgwmtmymzgwmze-_v1_Fast Facts:

Gumby – created in 1950s by Al Cloaker. Short TV films ran on NBC in the 50s, before entering syndication in 1959. 1982 saw a Gumby revival thanks to the now infamous skits with Eddie Murphy and SNL gang. In 1995, Gumby: The Movie was released as an independently released theatrical film by Cloaker’s productin company.

Barbie – created in 1959 by Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler. A live action comedy feature film announced in 2014 is currently in production. Sony…

Elmo – originally designed in 1979 by Carolyn Wilcox. Elmo’s most recognizable portrayer was Kevin Clash (1985-2012). In 1999, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland  was released.


abbe-photo-and-quoteAbbe Sparks is the author of Socially Sparked Blog,which reports on the people, brands, places and things that socially spark our lives in the worlds of entertainment, digital, tech & activism. A social media and digital content diva and activist, Abbe has been writing about entertainment, technology and activism for over 20 years. Her newest hat: enrepreneur. Newest venture: founder/editor of Socially Sparked News (launching soon). @asparks01

Entertainment, Arts & Music Events

World Premiere – All Things Mayfield Revue

SPARKS Highly Recomended Event:

World Premiere – All Things Mayfield Revue

Hosted by Lynn Orman Weiss

WHAT:”All Things Mayfield Revue” , a new production of music by Curtis Mayfield from Reginald Torian, Sr.  The concert is filled with the songs from the Curtis Mayfield songbook as well as fresh new songs and fresh new soul and R&B from award-winner Reginald Torian’s own recordings.


Don’t miss the World Premiere at:

WHERE:The Promontory Chicago

 5311 South Lake Park Ave West, Hyde Park, Chicago

(312) 801 – 2100


WHEN:  JANUARY 31, 2015, 7:30 pm

TICKET PRICES: $50.00, $40.00, $30.00, $20.00
Group Sales are available




Events Latest News

Electrifying Jazz in Chicago Tonight: Miles Davis Tribute by The Frank Russell Band

The Frank Russell Band and Special Guests to Salute Miles Davis: The Electric Years for Jazz Appreciation Month at Mayne Stage, April 27th 8 PM

With Dede Sampaio, Dee Alexander and Corey Wilkes


CHICAGO Jazz it up tonight with The Frank Russell Band and special guests as they salute jazz master impresario Miles Davis in concert: A Tribute to Miles Davis: The Electric Years,

The Frank Russell Band to Salute Miles Davis - The Electric Years For Jazz Appreciation Month at Mayne Stage Saturday, April 27th at 8pm. Tickets:
The Frank Russell Band to Salute Miles Davis – The Electric Years For Jazz Appreciation Month at Mayne Stage Saturday, April 27th at 8pm. Tickets:

Saturday, April 27th, 8:00pm at Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse Ave.  Chicago’s premiere electric bass player Frank Russell and his band pay homage to the jazz master in celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month with a signature song ‘Code M2,” originally penned for Miles Davis by Chicago’s very own Robert Irving and arranged for Frank on his highly acclaimed CD “Circle Without End.”  Joining Frank on stage are Dede Sampaio (Miles Davis Band percussionist), Dee Alexander (jazz vocalist) & young lion trumpeter Corey Wilkes plus surprise guests in what promises to be a memorable performance you won’t want to miss. Opening act: young trumpeter T.L. Williams. Jazz critic Neil Tesser to host; produced by Lynn Orman Weiss, Orman Music Group, sponsored by WDCB Radio, 90.9FM. Tickets are $25 general admission at or 773.381.4554.  Valet parking $5.00.

“Miles Davis is one of my biggest influences as a musician,” says Frank Russell. “To get the blessing and support from the Miles Davis family for this concert, there are no words…but that I am blessed and thankful.”

“Uncle Miles always said the funkiest bass players were from Chicago…Frank Russell proves him right.” — Vince Wilburn Jr., Drummer and Nephew of Miles Davis

Frank met Vince Wilburn Jr., Robert Irving III and Randy Hall at the home of drummer Terry Morrisette. “The Miles Davis album “The Man With The Horn” had just come out and these guys on the album were heroes to me,” explains Frank. “They took me right in when they found out I played with the late Ken Chaney who Vince used to play with and he would still come and sit in with us when he was in town. We are like brothers now!”   It is in large part to Vince’s suggestion that the concept for Frank’s acclaimed CD “Circle Without End” was born.

Lakland Bass guitarist Frank Russell, a native of Chicago, started his music career early playing drums, guitar and sax before switching to bass guitar at the age of 14, and has been playing it ever since.  Along the way working or recording with such diverse artists as The Spaniels, Dee Clark, Dee Dee Warwick, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Freddie Hubbard, Ramsey Lewis, Bobby Irving , Art Porter, Alphonse Mouzon, Red Holt, Mike Wolff, Willie Pickens, Peter Erskine, Ken Chaney, Sugar Blue and many others.  Frank has recorded five CDs with acclaimed guitarist, Henry Johnson, whose first CD “You’re the One” garnered a five star rating in Down Beat Magazine, received number one status in radio airplay across the country & was nominated for a Grammy.  Frank has recorded two CDs under his own name.  The first, “Covering All Basses,” where he plays fretless, four and five string and acoustic bass guitars and the latest, “Circle Without End.” Frank is an endorsee and clinician of Lakland Guitars and Gallien-Krueger. He also endorses GHS Strings.


Latest News

A Revival: Cross-Promotion of Broadway Shows Proving Magical

Cinderella stages marketing magic

Broadway show’s backers are having a ball with all the cross-promotions.


Photo: Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana

Robyn Goodman was immediately interested when approached about producing Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella on Broadway for the first time. Just thinking about the story’s romance and score made her giddy. And then, of course, there were the marketing opportunities.

“Cinderella is a beloved brand,” said Ms. Goodman, who won Tony Awards for producing Avenue Q and In the Heights. “I understood what an advantage that was.”

But like good fairy godmothers, she and her partners sprinkled magic on their baby. A Broadway veteran updated the story to carry a more empowering message for girls. A five-time Tony winner designed the sumptuous costumes. And executives conjured up a marketing campaign with Stuart Weitzman, the New York Palace hotel and Brooks Brothers, among others.

The show even permits Prince Charmings to propose to their beloveds onstage after performances (there’s been one so far—she said yes—and another is expected next month). The production will also arrange princess-themed parties.

The efforts have generated reams of press in outlets ranging fromThe New Yorker to gossipmonger Perez Hilton’s blog.

“The show is singular in how it has taken the brand’s assets and extended them,” said Susan Lee, chief marketing officer at the Nederlander Organization, a theater owner that is not involved in the show.

The marketing appears to be working as the show prepares to open March 3. For the week ended Feb. 17,Cinderella previews were essentially sold out and generated an impressive $1.1 million in ticket sales. However, the spring season is just beginning, and no other new musical has started previews. Competition will intensify in the coming weeks.

Once upon a time, marketing Broadway shows consisted of taking out ads and hiring a press agent. To make a splash now, shows must go beyond that, a trend that has intensified in recent years with the explosion in the number of media outlets. Producers want to promote their plays in nontraditional venues to broaden audiences beyond regular theatergoers. They create buzz for straight plays by casting big movie stars and use tactics like tie-ins for musicals.

This season the breadth of the partnerships is on full display. The producers of Motown: The Musical joined forces with Chrysler for the first-ever national TV ad campaign for a Broadway musical. Meanwhile, the team behind Annie orchestrated a host of cross-promotions with companies ranging from Pedigree Petfoods to Dylan’s Candy Bar. More are on the way.

“You want to get your brand off just the theater pages,” said Betsy Bernstein, president of BDB Marketing, which promotes Annie.

That’s easier for well-known shows with organic tie-in potential, like Cinderella and shoes. The producers ofMatilda, a mega-hit in London being imported to Broadway, have no co-promotion deals yet. That’s because American audiences aren’t very familiar with the Roald Dahl novel on which the musical is based. Matilda‘s advance sales are a result of traditional marketing and chatter by theater aficionados.

Matilda is essentially unknown here,” said Andre Ptaszynski, one of the producers. “That’s not a good basis for a co-promotion.”

In contrast, Cinderella is perhaps the most famous fairy tale of all. Plus, it has built-in Broadway credentials because Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote the original book, music and lyrics. The duo created it for CBS, which aired the live, one-time performance featuring Julie Andrews in 1957. It was an instant hit, and two TV movie versions followed, although the pair never realized their dream of bringing it to Broadway.

The combination of a treasured tale told with Broadway legends’ music drew in partners.

“I don’t see any downside when you are talking about Cinderella by Rogers and Hammerstein,” said Susan Duffy, chief marketing officer of Stuart Weitzman.

A partnership between a shoe company and Cinderella was practically preordained. Mr. Weitzman personally co-designed the show’s glass slipper and created a line of Cinderella-inspired footwear. Promotions emailed to customers and used on Stuart Weitzman’s website have included the show’s tagline, “Glass slippers are so back,” as well as “Cinderella is proof that a shoe can change your life.”

“This was a perfect collaboration,” said Ms. Duffy.

The shoes were introduced only a few weeks ago, so it is too soon to judge their sales potential. However, the New York Palace has seen a tangible benefit from its partnership with Cinderella, its first promotion with a Broadway show, said Brian Honan, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing. He said the property has sold about 200 Cinderella weekend packages, which include a chocolate shoe and themed cocktails.

Wine line

“If the show’s a hit, we could do this for the next five years,” said Mr. Honan.

That would delight Ms. Goodman and her colleagues, who are continuing to work on new promotions forCinderella. A partnership with a new line of wines by Diageo is expected to be announced soon, for example.

They haven’t figured out how much of its sales have been generated by its various tie-ins, but, Ms. Goodman said, “obviously they are working, because we are doing well.”

The show certainly has the makings of a fairy-tale ending: a famous story, beautiful music, a Tony-nominated star in Laura Osnes, a Tony-nominated writer in Douglas Carter Beane and costumes by famed designer William Ivey Long.

Still, there is the potential for evil stepsisters in the form of bad reviews and damaging word-of-mouth to crush all the hard work. For musicals like Cinderella, the latter is more of a threat, but Ms. Goodman said so far audiences have been largely enchanted.

“I don’t think bad reviews would kill us,” she said. “I think we’re getting it out how magical it is.”

A version of this article appears in the February 25, 2013, print issue of Crain’s New York Business as “Cinderella stages marketing magic”.


Entertainment, Arts & Music Latest News

Showbiz Chicago Podcasts with the ‘Scrooge & Marley’ Cast

Showbiz Chicago Gets Up Close and Personal with ‘Scrooge & Marley’ star Tim Kazurinsky (Marley’s ghost) and co-producer Tracy Baim

Posted on 06 December 2012 by Michael Roberts

Podcast with Tracy Baim

Podcast with Tracy Baim from Michael Roberts (click here)

Producer and Founder/Editor in Chief of WINDY CITY TIMES discusses the new film SCROOGE & MARLEY.
Tracy Baim was executive producer of the award-winning and critically acclaimed lesbian feature film Hannah Free starring Sharon Gless. She was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1994 and was named a Crain’s Chicago Business 40 Under 40 leader in 1995. Baim is publisher and executive editor at Windy City Media Group, which produces Windy City Times, Nightspots, and other gay media in Chicago. She co-founded Windy City Times in 1985. She has won numerous gay community and journalism honors, including the Community Media Workshop’s Studs Terkel Award in 2005. Baim is the author of Obama and the Gays: A Political Marriage. She is also the co- author and editor of Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City’s Gay Community and author of Where the World Meets, a book about Gay Games VII in Chicago. Her recent books are The Half Life of Sgt. Jen Hunter, about lesbians in the military prior to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the biographies Leatherman: The Legend of Chuck Renslow and Jim Flint: The Boy From Peoria.

Podcast with Tim Kazurinsky

Podcast with Tim Kazurinsky click here

Posted on 04 December 2012 by Michael Roberts

Tim Kazurinsky discusses his role in the film Scrooge & Marley as well as his recent roles in Hairspray, The Odd Couple and his remarkable career spanning from Second City to SNL. For more information on the film please visit   Related: Showbiz Chicago The Odd Couple Review
Tim Kazurinsky kicked off his show-biz career at Chicago’s famed Second City Theatre. Movie appearances include Neighbors, Somewhere in Time, and three Police Academy films. A former cast member of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, Tim returned home to Chicago to co-write such screenplays as My Bodyguard, About Last Night, The Cherokee Kid and For Keeps. He was nominated for a Writers’ Guild Award for his screenplay for Strange Relations, starring Paul Reiser, Julie Walters and George Wendt. Tim still enjoys performing and has done guest star roles on “You’re your Enthusiasm, Still Standing, According to Jim, and in Jeff Garlin’s I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With. Tim lives in Evanston, Ill., with his wife, Marcia, their two kids, and way too many pets.

Entertainment, Arts & Music Latest News Nonprofit Events

Giordano Dance Chicago’s Popular Dancing With The Giordano Stars Returns to Park West September 27!

CHICAGO — Giordano Dance Chicago (GDC) hosts their 7th Annual “Dancing with the Giordano Stars” competition benefit, patterned after the hit ABC series “Dancing with the Stars,” at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave., Thursday, Sept 27 from 6-10 p.m.

GDC Executive Director Michael McStraw will emcee this popular fundraiser which partners men and women from Chicago’s business and social scene with professional GDC dancers in an entertaining, no-holds-barred dance competition to benefit GDC and its outreach programs.

The evening will begin at 6 p.m. with spirits and light fare, followed by the competition from 7 – 8 p.m. During the competition, there will be a special guest performance by 2007 “Dancing with the Giordano Stars” winner Gorman Cook with GDC’s Katie Rafferty before the awards are presented to the Best Male and Best Female contestant.

Open dancing for all completes the evening. Tickets are $100-$200, plus a special rate of $50 for young professionals (age 21-30). To order tickets or for more information visit or call the Giordano Dance Chicago office at 312-922-1332.

“The contestants see this event as a fun and unique way to help support GDC and our programs, but it requires an impressive commitment of time and effort to train and prepare,” says Nan Giordano, GDC Artistic Director. “Each contestant must dare to step out of their comfort zone, but the feeling of personal achievement they take away makes the whole experience hugely rewarding for them and their GDC Star partners.”

Stars competing this year include Chicago’s Randall Dunn, Head of School, Latin School of Chicago; Chicago’s Cassandra J. Francis, Principal, Kariatid, LLC; Chicago’s Clint Francis, Professor, Northwestern University School of Law; the South Loop’s own Lakeisha Holmes, Sr. Marketing & Sales Manager, AMB Parking Services; Oak Park’s Jimmy Korshak, Personal Shopper; Glenview’s Lynn Orlebeke, Director of New Business Development, Gerson Lehrman Group; Palos Park’s Joe
Neverauskas, Senior VP, BPG Properties; Highland Park’s Abbe Sparks, President
and Founder, Abbe Sparks Media Relations, LLC; Naperville’s Rick Tucker, VP Sales & Marketing, Doculabs; and Chicago’s Sally L. Venverloh, Senior Vice President and Wealth Strategist, U.S Trust.

The Stars were selected earlier this summer and have been training for the past several months with dance professionals Devin Buchanan, Joshua Blake Carter, Lindsey Leduc, Zachary Heller, Lindsey LaFountain, Maeghan McHale, Ashley Rockwood, Sean Rozanski, Meredith Schultz and Martin Ortiz Tapia.

As part of the competition, each couple will compete in a compulsory Foxtrot dance and then perform a dance of their choice such as Cha Cha, Disco, Jive, Rumba, Salsa, or Tango. A panel of judges will critique dancers on style, execution and audience engagement and select the top male and female winners.

The 7th Annual “Dancing with the Giordano Stars” competition benefit is a precursor to GDC’s Fall Engagement at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Dr., Chicago, Oct. 26 & 27 at 8 p.m. The program will feature world premieres by choreographer Christopher Huggins, creator of GDC’s popular “Pyrokinesis” and by GDC Artistic Associate Autumn Eckman, plus selections from the company’s exciting repertoire. For tickets call 312-334-7777 or visit

Giordano Dance Chicago celebrates its 50th Anniversary during its 2012-2013 season. Currently under the leadership of Artistic Director Nan Giordano and Executive Director Michael McStraw, GDC is a world-class dance company and a driving force in Chicago’s thriving performing arts community. The company’s new works continually expand the boundaries of jazz and contemporary dance. The company also has an active outreach and education program in three Chicago Public Schools, teaching more than 300 classes a year. For more information call 312-922-1332 or visit

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For tickets, to sponsor a contestant or more information: