Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm running away with George Clooney

Just kidding, I don't have a chance. But I did get to see him with my own two eyes.

Guests at a private screening of “Leatherheads” got a treat Tuesday when the film’s stars made a surprise appearance at Ballantyne Village Theatre.

The film’s writer, director and lead actor George Clooney, along with co-star Renee Zellweger, sneaked in a back door and introduced the film to the audience of VIPs – including Panthers head coach John Fox (it is a football movie after all), wide receiver Steve Smith, Beth Petty of the Charlotte Regional Film Commission and other Charlotte-based cast members.

It was an evening of people-watching as Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme brought the stars on stage. (For the record, he said, “The arm’s great!”) He also got a big laugh when he said he himself has played with a leatherhead. “Vinny Testaverde. Yeah, he was from that era,” he quipped with a straight face.

Delhomme presented Clooney and Zellweger with personalized Panthers jerseys. The A-listers will head north today to make another appearance – this one open to the public – in Salisbury as part of their whistlestop tour promoting the movie, filmed in the Carolinas.

For the record, yes, Clooney is really that good-looking, and Renee really is that tiny.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Turning up the heat

Seemed as though most of Charlotte was still nursing their St. Paddy's day hangover this weekend or couldn't tear themselves away from the upsets of the first round of March Madness (how about that UConn game? or Western Kentucky? Amazing).

My excuse? Mom was in town for Easter so I kept it low key with the Stars show at Neighborhood Theatre on Friday (loved Stars, loved Neighborhood Theatre even more -- I think I've found my new favorite live-music venue) and the Sirens and Shields Red Cross fundraiser Saturday night at Buckhead Saloon.

Sirens and Shields was the first time the Greater Carolinas Red Cross (with help from Wells Fargo) tried a bachelor/bachelorette auction of first-responders, gearing it toward young professionals.

The bids started off low: $25 for some people, $80 for others and then picked up (perhaps as the alcohol set in), with a whopping $400 for one very popular arson detective.

An organizer said the night had some kinks and the group was making notes about how to make it even better next year.

I had a fun time, but I think they needed more publicity in advance (turnout was moderate) and they definitely need to get restaurants to donate the dates, otherwise the Red Cross will never make any money.

I'll post pics (including shirtless firefighters) from the auction on Thursday.

Now, back to the Neighborhood Theatre. I heard from several people that the venue recently did some rearranging and removed a lot of the seating that was in front of the stage. The consensus was that it was a vast improvement. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Inside look at uptown bowling alley

The EpiCentre’s developers want you to know that StrikeCity won’t be a typical down and dirty, smoke-filled bowling alley with plastic seats and grimy floors.

Instead, think a two-level, upscale sports bar, nightclub and restaurant all in one. Then add to that 30 lanes of bowling.

Construction on the first floor of the 30,000-square-foot space is set to start this spring.

The first floor will include 18 bowling lanes, two full-service bars, billiards tables, a dance floor and a DJ booth. Six of the lanes will be in private rooms that can be rented for parties, corporate events and other functions. The second floor will include an additional 12 bowling lanes.

Bob Durkin of Bar Management Group, which is managing the entertainmant/restaurant concepts in the EpiCentre, promises StrikeCity will be a "fun, interactive experience" for people of all ages.

But the party will definitely pick up at night with more of an adult atmosphere, said Rob Pedlow of Landmark Leisure Group.

StrikeCity will also appeal to sports fans with its ultimate video wall, Durkin said. The wall, about 70 feet long, will have about 10-12 jumbo flat screens separated by dozens of smaller TV screens in the 50-inch range. Also running along the wall, a sports ticker offering up-to-the-minute scores on all the big games. And if that’s not enough, settle into one of the plush booths behind each lane and watch the big screens above each set of 10 pins.

StrikeCity is slated for an early fall opening. It may be upscale, but there’s one grimy thing even the nicest bowling alley can’t avoid – those slightly damp shoes.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Green Beer day

No longer is St. Patrick's Day just a one-day celebration.

It has turned into a weekend-long party -- and this year, it's a three-day weekend with St. Paddy's landing on a Monday.

I rested up for tonight's official festivities and sent my uptown spies out on the town Saturday.
Despite the strong afternoon storms, my spies tell me the revelers weren't deterred.

The party started Saturday morning with the parade uptown, continued into the afternoon with Rich and Bennett's famous pub crawl and kept on going through last call at 2 a.m.

Best place to watch the partyers stagger home? The balcony from The Attic on Fifth and Tryon streets.

Best place to sleep off the pub crawl? The couches at Madison's. Staff had to keep rousing people and sending them home later in the night.

Adding to the March madness -- ACC alums in town for the tournament, although my spies tell me the Irish revelers far outnumbered the basketball fans.

On Sunday, I decided to check out the "Shamrock Shenanigans" of the Charlotte Roller Girls, who had their second home bout of the season against New River Valley. The ladies were wearing their best St. Patrick's Day garb, including green tights, wigs and T-shirts, and Cricket Arena was serving green beer as fast as the taps could pour them.

It was my first time at the derby. Some observations:
  • It was more of a party than a sporting event, with people mingling in the stands and down on the floor.
  • The more green beer was consumed, the louder the cheers got when a girl took a big hit.
  • The sound system at Cricket is a real clunker (so are the seats for that matter). The roller girls shouldn't even bother having an announcer during the bout since no one can understand a word he is saying over that speaker system. Seriously, it must be from the stone ages.
I'll be back on the St. Patrick's party scene tonight where I'll be hitting Galway Hooker, Tyber Creek Pub and Connolly's. Where do you guys plan on celebrating the luck of the Irish?

Whisky River update

I reported a while back that Whisky River, Dale Jr.'s bar in the new EpiCentre uptown, was set to open Wednesday. That soft opening date has been pushed back a couple of weeks. The grand opening is set for mid-April. I'll keep you updated as it gets closer to opening.

Friday, March 14, 2008

ACC partying off to slow start

The difference between the CIAA and the ACC:

During the CIAA, fans come for the parties, not the basketball.

During the ACC, fans come for the basketball, not the parties.

I found one (just one!) ACC party Thursday night and it. was. dead. By this point during CIAA weekend, I had already hit at least six rockin' parties.

Even the arena was quiet during the first half of the UNC-Florida State game.

So far the hottest spot seems to be the balcony at the top of Bobcats Arena overlooking College Street. That's where I'll be hanging out Saturday afternoon (before Rich and Bennett's bar crawl).

Is there an ACC party that I'm missing? And I'm not talking about sitting and staring at the big screen at Fox & Hound. Where are all the alums celebrating their big wins or mourning their upsets?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I can't hear you

I used the Alice Smith show as an excuse to stop into The Evening Muse on Tuesday night.

Alice sounded great and had a devoted following who sang along with her throughout her hour-long set. I was inspired to download some of her songs on iTunes when I got home.

But what really stood out to me was the sound quality at the Muse. It's a small space and Alice had a big voice, but it didn't overpower the place.

But that got me thinking about how rare that is to find. At most of the bars/nightclubs/music venues around Charlotte, it's not often that I don't have to shout to be heard. And, I'll be honest:
I hate that.

I go out to socialize, meet new people, talk to my friends. I don't go out just to stand around and stare at people, but that's what ends up happening because I don't have the energy to have a conversation that goes something like this:

Partygoer: HEY!
Me: Hey.
Partygoer: What's your name?
Me: Sarah.
Partygoer: WHAT?
Me: Sarah!
Partygoer: TARA?
Me: I work for the Observer.
Partygoer: THE WHAT?
Me: The Observer, the newspaper.
Partygoer: WACHOVIA?

You get the picture.

So tell me, am I the only one who feels this way? Am I being an old fuddy duddy, as my mother would say? Is there a place around town where you know you can carry on a conversation without straining your voice? Or do you guys prefer thumping bass that gets you out on the dance floor?

Nonstop parties this weekend

Rich and Bennett's bar crawl
Come be part of the biggest pub crawl in the United States. Rich and Bennett are hosting their 8th Annual St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl and every year the group of crawlers gets bigger. This year they’re expecting between 2,500 and 3,200 people. If you register Thursday at Buckhead Saloon (6-8 p.m.), it’s only $20, otherwise it’s $25 online (www.bandtastic.com) and $30 the day of. The crawl starts at Dixie's Tavern for a 1-2:45 p.m. registration. 301 E. 7th St. http://www.rockhouseevents.com/. Want to win tickets? Check out my Paid to Party column Friday online and in the Observer to see how.

Galway Hooker Irish Pub

The Hook is THE place to party on St. Patrick's Day. This year, the bar is opening at 8 a.m. Monday with "Guinness Breakfast" and will stay open the rest of the day serving lunch and drink specials ($5 cover). Irish dancers and bagpipes will also be on hand. If you're a serious partyer, buy a ticket ($75) to the VIP party upstairs. The party starts at 4 p.m. and features an open bar and all-you-can-eat buffet. And just when you think you can't eat anymore, the breakfast buffet starts at midnight. For tickets, call Kelly Martin at 704-995-2742. http://www.galwayhookerpub.com/.

Irish flu bar crawl

Cough, cough. I think I'm coming down with something. Hey boss? I'm gonna need to take Monday off, I have the Irish flu.

Are you suffering the same symptoms? Take a half-day at work and come get your flu shot on the Irish Flu Bar Crawl on Monday. The party starts at 3 p.m. at Stool Pigeons. It's free for the ladies and only $5 for the guys. http://www.rockhouseevents.com/ or http://www.lazyday.com/.

Ri Ra Irish Pub

Ri Ra will open early Saturday at 9 a.m. Come party before or after the parade uptown. Brunch will be served until 11:30. The bar will also have Irish dancers, bagpipers and live music. Starting at 10:30 p.m., Crash Box will play.

Connolly's Irish Pub

Connolly's is hosting its annual parking lot party. Celebrate with the Irish under a heated tent with a live band, food and drink specials. Doors open at 9 a.m. Saturday and Monday. http://www.connollysirishpub.com/.

Dixie's Sham Rock 'n' Roll

It's the first stop on Rich and Bennett's crawl, but the party will keep going long after the crawlers have moved on to the next bar. Doors open at noon. US2, a U2 tribute band, will perform. The bar will also have games, giveaways and of course, green beer. Advance tickets available at http://www.dixiescharlotte.com/.

NV Lounge

Don't be green with Envy, come be "GREEN @ NV." DJ Supa Dave will be playing all of today's top 40 hits in the main room, and DJ Chris Bond will be spinning in SideBar accepting requests. Doors open at 9 p.m. Ladies in free before 11. http://www.nvlounge.net/.

Table Restaurant

Looking for something more upscale? Try the Irish Beer Dinner at Table Restaurant in Ballantyne. Executive chef Gene Briggs will prepare a five-course meal paired with fine Irish beers. Tickets to the 6:30 p.m. dinner on March 20 are $59 a person. http://www.tablecharlotte.com/.

What am I missing? Send me an e-mail or post your event below.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Amazing Race comes to Charlotte

My friends over at Eye decided it might be fun to enter a team into The Amazing Race bar crawl over the weekend, and being the resident party girl, I couldn't say no.

I'll admit I was a jaded party girl going into it. I mean, you've been on one bar crawl, you've been on them all, am I right?

But once we walked into Brixx uptown Saturday afternoon, it was hard not to get into it.

Teams that had started earlier in the day filled booths and lined the bar, awaiting race results updated regularly on TV screens. Teams that just started were running out the door with their first clue in hand.

My Eye teammates and I clearly looked like rookies compared to the teams who had coordinated outfits right down to the sweatbands and sunglasses.

We were thrown right into the race at the door as we were handed a "passport" and lined up Family Feud style for our first of seven challenges.

As we completed the challenge, we were given a clue to the next bar and this continued through: Coyote Ugly (where we failed miserably at Sudoku), Corner Pub, Cans, Hom, Therapy, Alley Cat and back to Brixx.

My favorite challenge? Doing my best (PG-rated) Pee-Wee Herman imitation at Cans.

(These girls kicked our butts.)

(An action shot of Team Eye.)

It turned into a really fun day and Team Eye will be back with a vengeance next year. Our only complaint (and I realize the bars have to make money, too) was that each team member was required to have an alcoholic drink before participating in each challenge. What about people who don't drink? And for people who do, that's asking to have seven drinks in less than two hours. Not exactly safe.

The crawl, in its fourth year, benefitted the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network and the turnout was a huge success. Nearly 60 teams (mostly teams of five) showed up and RAIN raised about $7,500, according to organizer Nathan Smith.

Did you know? AIDS is the second leading cause of death for adults ages 25-42 in Mecklenburg County.
For more pics, go here.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Where to party for St. Pat's

Ah, St. Patrick's Day: the only time it's excusable to wear clover antlers, goofy glasses, and "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" T-shirts.

It's no longer just a one-day celebration, but one that lasts the whole weekend.

Rich and Bennett are expecting around 3,000 people for their annual pub crawl March 15, and the partying should continue until the wee hours of Tuesday morning with the Irish Flu bar crawl that starts the afternoon of the 17th.

I'm compiling a list of parties tied to St. Patty's Day weekend. Want your event to be listed? E-mail me with the details.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Uptown bar closes its doors

Daddy's American Bar and Grill became the latest casualty of the cursed corner of Fifth and Church streets.

The bar, part of Stefan Latorre's restaurant chain, closed its doors Monday.

Count it among the string of failed restaurants in the location: City Tavern, Twist, Palladian Bistro Lounge, etc.

Despite its great burgers and the opening of the condo tower next door, the place just never became a hot spot (maybe because they blasted the music so loud you couldn't converse with your other dinner guests, but I digress).

I want to know: Why is that corner location such a failure? Only the corner of Scott Avenue and East Boulevard rivals its bad luck. What should go there next? What could make it successful? Post your comments below.

I relived the 80s Tuesday night.

I was invited to attend the opening night of "The Wedding Singer" on Tuesday, and, as a musical geek, I eagerly accepted.

I wasn't sure what to expect. I grew up with the traditional musicals: "Guys and Dolls," "My Fair Lady," "Oklahoma," and "The Sound of Music."

But I found the stage adaptation of the hit Adam Sandler movie to be harmless entertainment with an energetic cast (if just a little too long).

The audience skewed older -- the first four rows looked to be in their 60s, and I didn't know how they would react to the sexual content, pop music references and winks from keyboard player George. But they were the ones to start the standing ovation.

After the show, my friends and I checked out Club Blume's opening night party at -- appropriately enough -- The Breakfast Club. Club Blume started a little over a year ago to bring together young people in their 20s and 30s who enjoy performing arts. It's part of a growing trend of arts-affiliated youth groups -- e.g. the Young Affiliates of the Mint and the Opening Night Insiders.

The party had a great food spread and cast members (looking unrecognizable without their 80s wigs) mingled with club members.

Best part about Club Blume? It's free. Check out more info here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Celebrity no-shows?

I was warned before I set out to cover the CIAA party scene: "You know the celebrities only show up for five minutes, right?"

But what about the no-shows, for whom people paid upwards of $60 to see?

R. Kelly was one of them, according to my colleague Kelvin. Apparently so was Tank, whose party was thrown by the same promoter as R. Kelly.

Lil' Kim showed up though, I hear. As did Yung Joc and MC Lyte.

Morris Chestnut, Idris Elba and Keith Sweat made blink-and-you'll-miss-them appearances.

I went to check out the Floyd Mayweather day party Friday only to find it shut down a couple of hours early.

Were you one of the CIAA fans who didn't get their money's worth at celebrity hosted parties? I want to hear from you. Send me an e-mail at saarthun@charlotteobserver.com.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Kanye coming, Van Halen postponed

So Kanye's coming to Charlotte after all.

Just days after Live Nation said that the rapper wouldn't be bringing his Glow in the Dark tour to Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre as had been rumored, Charlotte Bobcats Arena said Monday that West will be stopping there May 8 instead.

Tickets start at $50 and go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. at the Bobcats Arena box office, all Ticketmaster locations, charge by phone or online at Ticketmaster.com.

And (it was inevitable wasn't it?) Van Halen has postponed four stops on the band’s nationwide tour, including Raleigh, its last stop in the Carolinas. Eddie Van Halen is currently undergoing undisclosed medical tests, according to Live Nation (Perez Hilton points to whispers about Eddie's sobriety). The band opened its tour in Charlotte in September and was scheduled to return to North Carolina on Friday.

Update: The Raleigh concert has been rescheduled for April 13. Keep your tickets -- Live Nation said they will be honored at the rescheduled concert.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Partying in the mid-day

The music from an uptown block party woke me from my party-induced slumbers.

No matter that people were partying until the wee hours the night before, it was a new day and there was a new set of places to see and be seen.

I decided to start at the block party at Rustic Martini and work my way south on Tryon and College streets.

Beyonce’s "Upgrade You" greeted me as I walked past a display of giant, shiny rims and a candy-apple red tricked-out convertible, courtesy of EW Customs.

I also caught the tail end of a fashion show featuring five lovely ladies in cocktail dresses, snapped a few photos and continued southward.

I found a mass of people at College and Trade streets, mingling and creating their own day party after the others at Buckhead Saloon and Blue restaurant had already let out.

I carefully picked my way through the crowd and found myself at the "3 in 1" day party at Madison’s and The Attic. Most people were hanging out on the Attic side of the complex, jamming in the middle of the day to DJ MC, champagne flutes in their hands.

If there’s one thing I learned this week, the party never ends.

CIAA Friday

The CIAA fans definitely know how to throw a good party.

At the Biz Markie and Friends party at Hom on Friday, the Smirnoff liquor was flowing freely and bottles of champagne were being carried around like Bud Lights.

If you didn’t have tickets, you were out of luck if you wanted to get in. The will-call line stretched from the door on 5th Street almost to Tryon Street, and people who weren’t on the coveted list were turned away at the door.

Biz Markie was spinning upstairs at Play, Hom’s nightclub, but if you didn’t get there when the party got started at 9, you missed your opportunity to see him. Play was so packed that Mike Kitchen, one of the party’s organizers, had to be escorted by security just to get to the DJ booth.

Downstairs at Liv, Hom’s lounge, the scene was a little less hectic. Partygoers grooved with room to spare to a mix of old and new school hip-hop, or chatted with friends at VIP tables filled with premium drinks.

And the style? Impeccable. This was not your plain button-downed crowd. For the guys, it was stylish blazers with lapel detailing, cashmere sweaters, chains and shades. For the ladies, sleek hairstyles, big jewelry and short, sexy, metallic dresses.

One last thing: I've got to hand it to the guys working the doors at Hom. They were dealing with a huge crowd of people who were anxious to get inside and get their money's worth (none of these parties were cheap this week). They handled things with patience, moved the line along quickly all while apologizing for the inconvenience. The security detail, the club's managers and the doormen were definitely going against the stereotype of pushy bouncers on a power trip. Well done, guys.