I really feel bad for this young lady. I rather doubt she and her handlers would be stupid enough to go to a foreign country to try to pass her off as the actual Toni Braxton. Sounds like they all got conned. RNRH Entertainment was reportedly the local booker. Maybe the con was just too slick, but, maybe the due diligence on this Suriname promoter wasn't all that great here.
Now there all these angry emails flying around, people demanding that our State Department and legislators get actively involved without delay to "enforce her civil rights." e.g.:
"No one will stand for this outrage and unjust treatment of an American citizen being detained and stripped of her civil liberties on foreign soil!"I got news for the naive: your constitutional civil rights end at our borders. When I read that stuff, I was reminded of several films depicting the plights of Americans caught up in foreign legal systems: "Midnight Express" (based on a true story), "Return to Paradise," and "Brokedown Palace." Bringing loudly indignant, adamant pressure to bear on foreign governments can backfire; it just confirms the view of Americans as "arrogant" and presumptuous.
I found this comment (below) particularly moronic:
Yeah, bro', I'm just sure the Suriname diplomatic authorities are peein' their collective britches over those glandular all-caps threats. You ain't helpin' the situation, dude."suriname" WILL BECOME A NO-NAME!!! RELEASE NOTIFICATION 2009
THE U.S. FRAUD SWAT TEAM ARE HUNTING DOWN Promoter Angel Ventura of Events 4 Surinam.. SHE IS HIDING FROM THE FRAUD CLAIMS AGAINST OUR BELOVED AMERICAN IMPERSONATOR Celebrity impersonator Trina Johnson-Finn who has been held by authorities since the beginning of March (09)... WHEN OUR U.S. TEAM FINDS ANGEL VENTURA AKA (WITHHELD INFORMATION AT THIS TIME) WILL RECEIVE A MAXIMUM SENTENCE OF 25 YEARS TO LIFE FOR THIS ACT AGAINST U.S. RESIDENT TRINA JOHNSON-FINN.. IF THE SURINAM COURTS AND LEGAL TEAM DO NOT RELEASE U.S. RESIDENT TRINA JOHNSON-FINN WITHIN 4/10/09 OF FRIDAY 12:00 P.M.; ALL U.S. TRADES WILL CEASE; ALL U.S. FOOD AID WILL CEASE; ALL U.S. MILITARY PROTECTION AGAINST TERRORIST WILL ALSO CEASE.. MAY GOD HELP YOU TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT DECISION.SHAWN Z. WILLIAMS
"THE U.S. FRAUD SWAT TEAM"?
I hope this gets cleared up, and she gets released forthwith. If you're taking a gig overseas, do your advance homework, all of it.
The latest news (published April 3rd):
Toni Braxton Impersonator For Suriname Appeals Hearing TodayAnd, this, from KTNV:
CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. April 3, 2009: The promoter of a Toni Braxton show in Suriname in February remains on the lam while the singer hired to do a celebrity impersonation remains jailed. Family members and the husband of American celebrity impersonator, Trina Johnson-Finn, are, however, hoping she will be freed today when her appeal gets heard by another examining judge.
Raymond Finn, Johnson-Finn`s husband, told CWNN last night that he is hoping their inaugural trip to Suriname that became their worst nightmare, ends for his wife today. Johnson-Finn, a back-up singer who has toured with M.C. Hammer and Barbara Streisand, has been jailed in Suriname since February 29th.
Her attorneys have another appeal hearing today before a Suriname judge as they continue to insist that prosecutors are making a huge mistake and the real culprits of the February promotion are still at large.
`Trina is being used as a convenient scapegoat,` said Finn last night. `She is the arrogant American … no one knows her and it’s easy to blame her as opposed to blaming the local participants in this.`
The nightmare for the Finn`s began on February 27th, when a private party Johnson-Finn was booked to appear at turned awry.
Finn says his wife was booked by an agency in Las Vegas to impersonate Toni Braxton at a private party for `a rich South American.` The party was for Angel Ventura, who is still at large and has yet to be caught or questioned by police since he walked out of the concert venue on February 27th.
`Trina`s contract clearly states it was an impersonation,` said Finn. A copy obtained by CWNN shows clearly that the contract was for Trina to appear at a `private party` as an impersonator of Toni Braxton at a cost of $3,600 plus hotel, dinner, air fare and a cell phone.
He revealed that they were flown to Suriname on Feb. 25th and arrived in Suriname on Thursday 26th at 1:30 a.m.
There they were met by Ventura of Events 4 Suriname and his girlfriend, a Ms. Sampson, along with a television camera person and interviewer.
Finn said they became concerned then since the contract had clearly stated no promotions. But he said Ventura claimed the interview was merely to run on a screen in the club.
Finn said he and Johnson-Finn were then taken by limo to a Best Western Hotel. The next morning, he said they were further concerned upon seeing a poster on a local store with a photograph of Toni Braxton that promoted the concert in Dutch.
A call to Ventura to ask for an explanation, said Finn, was met by reassurances that the language on the poster clearly stated it was an impersonation show.
Since neither Finn nor his wife speaks Dutch, Finn said he accepted the explanation. He said on the night of the show, they were picked up early and taken to an apartment where Ventura lived before being taken to the venue, the Anthony Nesty Sports Hall in Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname. Finn said while Johnson-Finn got ready in a dressing room that was hastily cleared of boxes of liquor, he went out into the hall and noticed over 1,500 people packed into the venue.
Finn says he relayed his concerns to his wife who brushed them aside saying she was not afraid of a crowd. But Finn says that confidence was soon shaken when half-way through her first song, the crowd began to boo and call for Toni Braxton.
And by the beginning of her second song, several rushed the stage while some began pelting bottles. Finn said he and other security guards rushed to protect Johnson-Finn.
He said they were then urged to take Johnson-Finn away quickly as the crowd began to riot and loot. He said they rush her out to a limo with two armed guards even as several audience members began to rock the limo.
Once back at their hotel, Finn says Johnson-Finn began packing for their flight the next morning at 6:30 a.m. while he paid the guards $200 to take him back to the venue.
He said on his arrival back he was met by cops and two of Ventura’s staffers and immediately cleared up with the police that Johnson-Finn was only hired as an impersonator of Braxton.
Finn said the cops then asked if both he and his wife would submit to an interview so they returned to their hotel and try to check out. However, they soon discovered that the promoter who had booked their room had also not paid the bill so Finn says he was forced to settle that bill before they were taken to a local police station for questioning.
Finn says after some three hours of questions, with Johnson Finn presenting the contract, they were let go but failed to make their 6:30 a.m. flight.
As a result, the couple was forced to stay in Suriname for another night. As they tried to leave on March 1, they were, however, stopped at immigration and told they were wanted for further questioning on the concert incident.
After hours of further questioning, this time at police headquarters, they were both arrested on fraud and swindling charges. Finn was jailed for two weeks on apparent claims by prosecutors that a witness heard him ask for the house lights to be turned down.
He says he shared a 8 x 10 jail cell with 11 other men. There was only one latrine, one urinal, and no soap or toilet paper, he said. And the only meals were tea and bread for breakfast, a small cup of rice and meat for lunch and flavored water for dinner.
Johnson-Finn was jailed for fraud and remains in jail.
Two appeals have so far been denied and Finn is now hoping the intervention of the U.S. government and a push to tell the `real story` will help bring his wife home.
`She is dehydrated, lost a lot of weight and is sharing a jail cell with five other girls who smoke,` said Finn, who spoke to his wife for the first time since his release on Thursday.
Today, he will be praying the nightmare of Suriname could be a thing of the past for both him and his wife. `I just want to bring my wife home,` he says.
But Finn still questions why it’s `possible that only the two individuals arrested from the event were two U.S. citizens who had never set foot on Suriname or South America. But Ventura could walk out of a stadium with proceeds and not be seen since?.`
Police spokesman Humphrey Naarden has insisted, `This is a clear cut case of fraud.`
But so far, no arrest has been made of the promoter or his team and Ventura, allegedly from the US Virgin Islands, and his assistant Signet Samson, disappeared after the concert, without paying even Johnson-Finn, several local sponsors, organizations, stage managers and other artistes who performed support acts.
KTNV Action 13 News - Reporter Steve Ryan- Raymond Finn interviewed, said that Action News has obtained a copy of the signed contract indicating Trina Johnson's gig as being that of a tribute artist and performing as Toni Braxton.Like I said, I hope she is released straight away. Here's a link to an early news story on what they dubbed "The Phony Toni Show."
Quotes from contract - 1) "Purchaser agrees that there will not be any advertisements or promotions, whatsoever, listing the performer as literally being Toni Braxton." 2) "The performer shall not reveal her true identity, however the performer shall not claim to be Toni Braxton if directly asked so."
Raymond: (and what I've been saying) "The only thing I can possibly imagine is that they're not familiar with the impersonation industry here in the United States, so by de facto, by simply impersonating someone, they're saying she committed a crime. Trina was a victim, just like the people of Suriname who bought the tickets."
The U.S. State Department is looking into this as Trina finishes her first month in a foreign jail.
NEW YORKER CARTOON
I loves my New Yorker magazine. If BobbyG was a Wild West Gunslinger...
Things that go up, things that go down. Some random graphs of miscellaneous data I track and dump into Excel when I'm not obsessing over Santa Fe. First, the official national unemployment rate is at 8.5% for March 2009. Reporting of states' rates lags by a month. My NV trend line indicates that we'll be at about maybe 10.8% for March. Ugly.
Next: Lake Mead annual July water levels since the 1983 historical high water mark. Sometimes I feel like I'm livin' in the next Anasazi ruin.
Dudes, that's a 121 vertical foot drop, i.e., the 12th floor of a high-rise casino or condo or office building. Multiply that by the total estimated surface area at, say, corrected for 60 feet down (maybe 245 sq. miles), and convert to gallons (1 cubic foot = 7.48051948 US gallons). You'll run out of room for zeros.
The lake is reportedly now at about 47% of capacity, btw.
Below, the U.S. Dollar vs the Euro since 2001. The Euro has crashed back down a good lick against the dollar lately in the wake of the global economic meltdown. (The red line is simply the reciprocal of the blue line, the latter of which tells how many dollars you gotta fork over to buy a Euro. It peaked at about a buck fifty-six. Cheryl and I had to give about $1.21 when we were over in the UK and France in 2004.)
Finally, back on topic, our monthly blog traffic. We continue to grow, slowly but relatively steadily.
R.I.P. BUD SHANK
As reported in the L.A. Times:
Bud Shank, the alto saxophonist who was a key figure in the West Coast jazz scene of the 1950s, has died. He was 82.Rest in peace, gentle brother.
Shank died Thursday night at his home in Tucson of pulmonary failure, friends said.
A versatile musician with an adventurous nature, Shank also played flute and -- during a productive period of studio work -- had pivotal solos on the popular 1960s pop tunes "California Dreamin' " by the Mamas and the Papas and "Windy" by the Association. He had an early interest in music without borders, playing and recording with Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida several years before the Bossa Nova craze. In 1962, he recorded an album with Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar.
For many, however, he is best known for his work in Los Angeles with Stan Kenton starting in the late 1940s, followed by his association with Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars at the fabled Lighthouse Cafe jazz club in Hermosa Beach...