LoHud Lowdown

Stalking Lower Hudson Valley Celebrities … So You Don't Have To


Archive for the ‘Ossining’

Kara DioGuardi’s decision to drop law plans paved way for ‘Idol’ gig09.13.08

New Rochelle native Kara DioGuardi had just received a political science degree from Duke University, but she told me that career path burdened her as early as her junior year.
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“I’d always heard melodies in my head, I’d always loved the theatre and I’d loved the arts, but I just didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t know how to break in.”

So although her father, former Congressman Joe DioGuardi, wasn’t thrilled to hear she was singing in an Ossining garage band called Gramma Trips instead of becoming a prosecuting attorney, he offered advice that wound up propelling her career in the music industry:

“You know what you do? You find the place that will help you to learn … tell them you’ll work for them for nothing. They’re probably going to pay you something. But just do it.”

From that moment on, Kara DioGuardi’s singing, songwriting and producing talents transcended the Lower Hudson Valley and Durham, N.C., to reach an international audience. And all that led to her recently being named as “American Idol’s” newest judge.

Find out more about her Westchester County upbringing and her path to stardom in my article appearing in today’s edition of The Journal News.

Posted by: Chris Serico - Posted in Dobbs Ferry, Kara DioGuardi, New Rochelle, Ossining, Scarsdalewith 1 Comment →

EXCLUSIVE: Kara DioGuardi picks favorite ‘Idol’ contestants, performance and judge (sort of)09.09.08

Just before Labor Day weekend, I had the pleasure of chatting up New Rochelle native and Grammy-nominated songwriter/producer Kara DioGuardi, who on Aug. 25 Fox announced as the fourth judge on “American Idol.”

new-idol-panel.jpgA true LoHudder, her connections to the region are seemingly endless. As a child, she attended Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Scarsdale, sang at the Larchmont Shore Club and provided the soundtrack at campaign stops throughout Westchester County for her father, former U.S. Congressman Joe DioGuardi. She later graduated from The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry. Despite graduating from Duke University with a degree in political science, she abandoned law to become a vocalist in an Ossining garage band called Gramma Trips.

After snagging multiple jobs at Billboard magazine for a five-year span, she got signed to a record deal. Although her singing career never took off, her songwriting and producing gigs did. She was partially or completely responsible for writing Gwen Stefani’s “Rich Girl,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Walk Away,” Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Other Man” and dozens of other recent hits. No wonder she was named BMI’s 2006 Pop Songwriter of the Year.

My full story about DioGuardi is slated for the week ahead, but in the meantime, check out 10 questions and answers from my exclusive interview with “Idol’s” newest judge:

kara2.JPGWhat recent song do you most wish you’d written?
“Irreplaceable” by Beyoncé.

As a singer, how far do you think you would advance on “American Idol”?
“I would hope to the top 10.”

How long have you been watching “Idol”?
“Since the beginning.”

You’d said that you thought “Idol” would have hired someone more famous to fill the fourth judge’s chair. Had you heard of any famous names who were being considered?
“They kind of kept me in the dark. I hadn’t really heard anything.”

As of Aug. 28, who was the most famous person outside of the show to congratulate you for the “Idol” hire?
“Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics).”

From the first seven seasons, who have been your three favorite “Idol” alumni?
“I’d say Kelly Clarkson, (Chris) Daughtry and, hmm, I like Katharine McPhee.”

Who’s the most underrated “Idol” contestant of all time?
“Katharine McPhee.”

What’s your favorite “Idol” performance so far?
“I thought that ‘Billie Jean’ performance that David Cook did was ridiculous.” (In the good way.)

The perception among fans is that Simon Cowell’s the bad cop, Paula Abdul’s the good cop and Randy Jackson’s somewhere in between. With which judge have you sided the most through the years?
“Probably Simon. Sometimes he can be hard, but I also think at times he’s doing people a favor.”

For your first day judging “Idol” contestants, you sat between Randy and Paula at the judges’ table. Where would you want to sit?
“You know at this point, I’m pretty much just like, ‘Where do you want me?’ I’m the new kid in school. I’m not going to cause waves right from the beginning.”

(AP Photo of Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson/Jason DeCrow; AP Photo of DioGuardi/Chris Pizzello)

Posted by: Chris Serico - Posted in American Idol, Christina Aguilera, Dobbs Ferry, Exclusive, Gwen Stefani, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Joe DioGuardi, Kara DioGuardi, Kelly Clarkson, Larchmont, New Rochelle, Ossining, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson, Scarsdale, Simon Cowell, The Masters Schoolwith 2 Comments →

‘Mad Men’ gives Westchester its props08.03.08

I might be a little late with this story, about a year to be exact.

So I just started watching the show Mad Men on AMC this past weekend and realized many of the people in the show live in Westchester. In one of the early episodes, you can see the main character Don Draper get off a Metro North train at a station in Ossining. I almost choked on my Capri Sun out of excitement when I saw that.

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By the way, Mad Men is an amazing show if you haven’t seen it already.

The show really does a good job capturing the whole vibe from the late 50s/early 60s. Kinda makes me wish I grew up during that period, well except for the fact that I’d probably be limited to the number of water fountains I could drink from 🙂

Season 2 just started, but you can play catch up by watching them for free on demand if you have a cable box.

(AP Photo/AMC)

Posted by: Aman Ali - Posted in Mad Men, Ossiningwith 3 Comments →

Suburbarazzi Week in Review on RNN: Oscar wrap-up edition02.27.08

Download:

At the end of the video and after the break is the answer to this week’s quiz: In winning the Oscar for Short Subject Documentary, Croton native Cynthia Wade actually beat out another Lower Hudson Valley product. “Salim Babaâ€? director Francisco Bello graduated in 1998 from which local institution?

A. Hendrick Hudson High School
B. Ossining High School
C. Scarsdale High School

(more…)

Posted by: Chris Serico - Posted in Alan Menken, Croton, Cynthia Wade, Francisco Bello, New Rochelle, North Salem, Ossining, RNN, Ruby Dee, Suburbarazzi Week in Reviewwith 1 Comment →

LoHud scorecard: Doc rocks, but Ruby Dee and Alan Menken miss out02.25.08

oscar21.jpgThere were mixed results from last night’s Oscars as far as local representation was concerned.

North Salem resident and New Rochelle native Alan Menken’s Oscar drought continues. Although he received three Best Song nominations for his contributions to “Enchanted,� it’s likely his supporters split votes, allowing for a song from the movie “Once� to win the trophy. Although he hasn’t won an Oscar since 1996, don’t feel too bad for Menken. He’s won eight total.

New Rochelle resident Ruby Dee also lost out on an Academy Award this Sunday. The “American Gangster� actress lost the Best Supporting Actress award to Tilda Swinson, who won for her role in “Michael Clayton.� And not for her dress.

The Lower Hudson Valley wasn’t completely shut out, however, as Croton native Cynthia Wade not only won the Short Subject Documentary Oscar for “Freeheld,� but also was presented the trophy by two-time Oscar-winner Tom Hanks. In doing so, Wade beat out another LoHud product. “Salim Baba� director Francisco Bello, who graduated in 1998 from Ossining High School.

Posted by: Chris Serico - Posted in Alan Menken, Croton, Cynthia Wade, Francisco Bello, New Rochelle, North Salem, Oscars, Ossining, Ruby Deewith 1 Comment →

Oscars, Suburbarazzi-style: Local nominees and recent winners02.19.08

oscar2.jpgThis Friday at 7:30 p.m. EST, Ted Mann and I will join TV reporter Karen DePodwin for a live RNN segment about Sunday’s Academy Awards. I’ll be wearing my tux for only the third time since my senior year in college, so the comedic value of that alone might be worth the tune-in. Here’s a preview of one of the topics slated for discussion.

Stars with a connection to the Lower Hudson Valley have done very well for themselves at the Oscars over the years, and 2008 is no exception.

Eight-time Oscar-winner Alan Menken, a New Rochelle native and North Salem resident, has been nominated three times for his songs from the Disney movie “Enchanted.” He took home his first two trophies for Best Song and Best Score for “The Little Mermaid,â€? and his most recent ones were in the same categories for songs from “Pocahontas.â€? In total, he’s been nominated for a whopping 18 Oscars, but hasn’t won one since 1996.

First-time nominee and sentimental favorite Ruby Dee, a New Rochelle resident, is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her part in “American Gangster,” starring Mount Vernon native Denzel Washington and former Nyack dweller Russell Crowe — both of whom are Oscar-winners themselves.

LoHud also has at least two representatives in the Best Documentary/Short Subject category, including Ossining High School alumnus Francisco Bello (for “Salim Baba”) and former Croton-on-Hudson resident Cynthia Wade (for “Freeheld”).

After the break, check out a list of some other prominent current and former residents of the Lower Hudson Valley who have won or have been nominated for an Oscar in the last 30 years. (more…)

Posted by: Chris Serico - Posted in Al Pacino, Alan Menken, Ang Lee, Angelina Jolie, Barbara Kopple, Bedford, Bill Murray, Croton-on-Hudson, Cynthia Wade, Dan Futterman, Debra Winger, Denzel Washington, Francisco Bello, Garrison, Glenn Close, Irvington, Jonathan Demme, Kevin Kline, Larchmont, Lasse Hollstrom, Mamaroneck, Matt Dillon, Mel Gibson, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, North Salem, Nyack, Oscars, Ossining, Peekskill, Piermont, Pound Ridge, RNN, Ruby Dee, Russell Crowe, Scarsdale, Sneden's Landing, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Verplanck, William Hurtwith Comments Off on Oscars, Suburbarazzi-style: Local nominees and recent winners