Women play second fiddle at summer music festivals like Coachella

INDIO, Calif. — Dee Dee Penny, lead singer of the Dum Dum Girls, is no stranger to performing at giant summer musical events. At the first of the two-weekend Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival events last Friday, her retro-rock act played before thousands of ecstatic fans.

She was just one of an eclectic roster of female artists who galvanized Coachella audiences. Teenage provocateur Lorde dazzled amid a howling dust storm in her summer music festival debut. R&B diva Solange got a surprise assist from her superstar sister, Beyoncé Knowles. Alt-torch singer Lana Del Rey turned in a transfixing trip-hop set. And pop-rock sisters Haim were local conquering heroes as they celebrated the success of their 2013 debut, “Days Are Gone,” which embodies the Coachella spirit by contemporizing retro sounds with hipster/hippie chic.

It’s a benchmark year for Coachella. More solo female artists and all-female bands were on the lineup — 16 — than at any other time in the festival’s history.

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Yet that’s just a fraction of the festival’s 166 acts. While the numbers do improve if one includes Coachella’s 19 co-ed acts, which range from celebrator headliners Arcade Fire, dance-pop trio Chvrches and Penny’s Dum Dum Girls, who recently added a male guitarist to its all-girl crew, that still leaves more than 100 male acts to dominate the bill.

“It’s obnoxious when you show up somewhere and you’re like, ‘Cool, I’m one woman here and there are like 900 dudes,’ ” said Penny, who will return for Coachella’s second weekend. “Of course… I don’t know all of the many things that go into who gets to play. I would hope it’s not as obvious as discrimination.”

In an era when Top 40 radio is led by such pop ingénues as Rihanna, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, who similarly rule social media with more than 127 million combined Twitter followers, the independent music world stubbornly clings to its reputation as a kind of boys’ club.

“Being a woman on tour, you’re kind of in a man’s world,” said bluesy alt-rocker ZZ Ward, who returns to Coachella this weekend. “I’m proud of every woman playing this festival.”

The challenge of creating a truly gender diverse lineup at Coachella — an event renowned as an egalitarian oasis of progressive politics, where artists disenfranchised by the mainstream can expect to encounter masses of open-minded listeners — remains considerable. Although the number of women on the roster is up dramatically from 2013, when only 10 female performers or all-women acts carried the bill, to date only a handful of women have headlined the festival.

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Representatives for Goldenvoice, the concert promoter responsible for Coachella, declined to be interviewed for this story. But to hear it from other programmers of North American summer music festivals, when it comes to determining the performance line-up, gender diversity often takes a back seat to other practical concerns.

“It has everything to do with who’s available, who’s on tour, who’s released a new record, where there’s a ton of buzz,” said Ashley Capps, founder of AC Entertainment, which co-produces the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and Kentucky’s Forecastle Festival. “If we feel we’re getting too male-centric, we will try to address that situation. But it’s usually last minute when we look at how this is balancing out. We go for the greatest artists available to play at any given festival.”

One could correctly argue that major festivals, such as Coachella or Bonnaroo, are simply following the market’s lead. The summer festival season, like much of the concert industry, is driven by male performers.

As the Coachella crowd vacates Indio on Monday, Goldenvoice will begin prepping its three-day, country-focused Stagecoach Festival. The top-billed artists include Eric Church, Brantley Gilbert, Jason Aldean, Hunter Hayes, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line — all men.

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And the Electric Daisy Carnival, a multi-day explosion of dance culture that draws a cumulative attendance of more than 320,000 for its three-day festival in Las Vegas, features more than 100 DJs from the electronic music scene. Yet in recent years the number of women performers could be counted on one or two hands.

Meanwhile, only three of 2013’s Top 10 money-making tours were female-fronted acts, according to Pollstar magazine.

“It’s a matter of who the buzz acts are,” said Gary Bongiovanni, Pollstar’s editor in chief. “At Coachella, that’s something they’re looking at, and many of those buzz acts are fronted by women. But I don’t know if they’re going out of their way to book them.”

Public officials in a wired world How much privacy should they get

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New technology often challenges society’s long-standing assumptions and standards, but sometimes courts — and others — lose sight of common sense as they grapple with the changes. That’s the case in a recent decision of California’s 6th Appellate District, which found that text messages and emails between public officials are beyond the reach of the Public Records Act if they are sent on private devices rather than ones owned by public agencies.

The three-judge panel said that electronic communications between council members and the mayor of San Jose, even those regarding city business, should not be considered “public” records if they are not “used” or “retained” by the city government (the language cited comes from California’s Public Records Act, written long before smartphones existed). Accordingly, the 6th Circuit overturned the decision of the trial court judge and ruled that the city need not turn over the communications to interested members of the public, even though both sides conceded that they involved official business.

That decision hews to the narrow language of the act, but it distorts the act’s larger purpose, which is to ensure that the public can scrutinize the actions of its employees when they are doing public work. Indeed, the problem with the ruling should be obvious to all: As soon as a public official realizes that his constituents have no right to look at anything he says on his personal cellphone or laptop, he’ll simply do all of his sensitive or secret communications on those devices. With a flick of the wrist, public officials will exempt themselves from accountability.

Does that mean that every communication, no matter how personal, should be subject to public scrutiny? No.

To decide what is a public record, it’s useful to consider four categories: a public communication by a public official on a public device; a private communication by a public official on a public device; a public communication by a public official on a private device; and a private communication by a public official on a private device.

That’s the spectrum. Here’s how it plays out. Any communication by a public official using a government device or server is a public matter. Period. If that same official uses his own phone or other device to conduct public business, that should be public too. But if the official uses his private device for purely private communications, that ought to be considered exempt. No one needs to review the mayor’s grocery list.

This type of line-drawing wasn’t necessary in an era when communications were written on paper, mailed on city stationery and filed in city offices. It’s more complicated now, but the courts must preserve sound principles: When public officials conduct public business, their constituents get to watch. That’s true no matter the platform.

Garcetti’s budget adds more firefighters overhauls 911 dispatch

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s first proposed budget calls for hiring 140 firefighters and the start of a sweeping overhaul of the city’s 911 dispatch system, part of a bid to speed the response to hundreds of thousands of calls for help each year.

The revamped dispatch operation, outlined Monday by the mayor’s office as it presented an $8.1-billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year, would unify separate police and fire emergency call centers and gradually replace some uniformed firefighters with lower-paid civilian phone operators.

The proposal is the latest effort to address studies finding that the Los Angeles Fire Department has lagged behind national standards for dispatching rescuers to those needing emergency medical aid and suffered from repeated breakdowns of an aging computer system that manages calls. Last month, a city-funded consultant called for a series of management and technology reforms at the department, including some of the changes Garcetti is proposing.

Garcetti said his budget, the first to provide a road map for his “back to basics” agenda, would expand library hours, add building inspectors and provide for a modest increase in road repairs. But he delayed for one year the implementation of his plan for cutting the city’s business tax — a key part of his agenda for improving the economy.

The spending plan signals that, even with better than expected tax revenue and after years of cuts, the city remains on shaky footing. Garcetti acknowledged the financial constraints, saying 2014-15 will be “a transition year” devoted to restructuring city operations.

“We’re making a down payment on our future,” he said. “And so this first year, the gains will be modest.”

The city’s general fund, which pays for basic services, would grow from $4.9 billion this fiscal year to $5.1 billion under the proposed spending year that starts July 1. While tax revenue is increasing as the economy improves, most of the added income is going to cover increases in city employee pay, pension costs and healthcare expenses, said City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, a high-level budget official.

The Fire Department is a major target of the mayor’s restructuring efforts: Garcetti is seeking more than $1 million to upgrade the technology used to handle 911 calls. That step, mayoral aides said, would be the first in a multiyear effort to combine the police and fire dispatch operations — a plan that could face strong opposition from the firefighters union, which has considerable influence with members of the City Council. Lawmakers must approve a final budget.

Currently, 911 calls for fires and medical emergencies are first answered by civilian call takers at an LAPD facility and then passed on to a separate LAFD facility downtown. There, sworn firefighters working round-the-clock shifts — some of them licensed paramedics — interview callers and decide which rescuers to send.

“Seconds matter when people call 911, and eliminating that extra step of a transfer can make a difference,” said Yusef Robb, a spokesman for the mayor. “The ultimate goal is to have cross-trained personnel who can handle a fire call, a police call, a medical emergency or any sort of 911 call.”

The specifics of the staffing changes have to be worked out, Robb said. But the expectation is that some firefighters and paramedics would remain in the consolidated call center to handle the most severe medical emergencies.

New York City struggled with a similar effort to combine dispatch centers. It took eight years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to move police, fire and medical call takers to a single location, only to have a city review conclude that the departments still operated separately and often asked duplicative questions.

Councilman Tom LaBonge questioned whether a consolidation here would “result in the kind of improvement the mayor is looking for.” And Fire Capt. Frank Lima, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, said his union would fight efforts to switch to civilian call takers.

“Bottom line is that when my mom is calling 911 and having a medical emergency, I want her talking with an experienced paramedic,” Lima said

Garcetti’s proposal represents a sharp change in position. During his campaign for mayor, he told The Times he opposed staffing the dispatch center with “civilians who have never been in a firetruck.” On Monday, Robb said the mayor’s office had “taken a harder look” and is ready to pursue at least some hiring of civilian medical dispatchers.

The mayor also has had to postpone plans to cut the city business tax, which he frequently portrays as an impediment to economic growth. That initiative figured prominently in his inaugural address last year and surfaced again in Thursday’s State of the City speech. But the idea has drawn resistance from council members, including the mayor’s allies.

On Monday, Garcetti said the city would not be able to afford any immediate reduction in the tax rate. He called instead for a three-year, $45-million reduction in the tax collections, beginning in 2016.

City officials said the cuts would apply to a group of businesses that include lawyers, financial planners, engineering firms and other professional services. By 2018, such businesses would have a tax rate of $4.25 per $1,000 of gross receipts, down from the current $5.07, according to the proposal.

“Because it’s still a tough budget year, we thought it was the responsible thing” to delay the business tax cuts, Garcetti said.

One advocate for a lower tax rate voiced dismay at the gradual pace of the reductions.

“Are we disappointed there’s no immediate relief? Yes. Are we disappointed about the amount of relief? Yes,” said Lloyd Greif, chairman of the city’s Business Tax Advisory Committee. “This is clearly a step in the right direction, but it’s a baby step. It doesn’t go far enough.”

Garcetti’s budget also provides $20 million to repair broken and buckling city sidewalks. Officials budgeted $10 million for the current fiscal year, but none of it has been spent so far because lawmakers are still weighing how to allocate limited funds while facing a legal challenge over the damaged walkways.

The recommendation to hire 140 firefighters would help offset the effects of attrition in a department that saw its sworn workforce shrink by roughly 300 or nearly 10% in recent years.

Parking fines would remain the same next year, but the mayor’s budget calls for a new $1 entry fee for the city’s swimming pools and a $1 boost in zoo admissions, from $18 to $19 for adults. Those efforts were criticized by the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which said Garcetti should have gone after fees charged by Wall Street banks.

“Instead, the city continues to turn to L.A.’s working families and dwindling middle class to make additional sacrifices, including imposing fees that may rob families of participating in some city recreational activities,” the group said in a statement.

Valerie Harper signs seals delivers another role

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Valerie Harper is positively radiant these days. There’s a sparkle in her eyes and a genuine warmth in her smile. Why

not? She’s defied the odds.

Early last year, Harper was told she had three months to live. Harper, a non-smoker who had a cancerous tumor removed from her lung in 2009, has a rare form of lung cancer that had spread to areas around her brain.

“I was supposed to be dead a year ago,” said Harper, 74. “We are all terminal, let’s face it.  I did the shock and grief. My husband, Tony, took it terribly. He said, ‘That’s not true. I don’t accept that.’ ”

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Despite the devastating prognosis, “I kept going,” said Harper, who became a TV icon in her Emmy Award-winning turn as the endearing window dresser Rhoda Morgenstern from 1970-78 on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and her spinoff series, “Rhoda.” “I thought it was important.”

And she thought it was important for her fans, whom she calls her “extended” family, to know about what was happening. “People write me letters — not just about this — that are so loving and supportive, for years,” she said. “I know there are a whole bunch of Rhoda rooters out there.”

Harper has kept an extraordinary pace since her diagnosis. She reunited with “MTM” stars Moore, Betty White, Georgia Engel and Cloris Leachman for the finale of TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland” last fall. She did “Dancing With the Stars” last season — Harper and her partner, Tristan McManus, were voted off after their fourth dance — and has a quirky guest starring role in Martha Williamson’s (“Touched by an Angel,” “Promised Land”) new series “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” which premieres Easter evening on the Hallmark Channel.

“The message of all of this is don’t give up on your life worrying about death,” Harper said, during a recent interview at the Hallmark Channel offices in Studio City.

Earlier this week, Harper took to the media to clarify a magazine article that quoted her saying, “I’m absolutely cancer free.” Harper isn’t “absolutely” cancer free. But she has responded well to the medicine she has taken for the last year.

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“Every subsequent brain scan is less and less and now my brain scan looks normal,” she said. “It’s great that it’s cleared up in my brain scan, but it could be anywhere the spinal fluid is.”

Long before she was cast as Rhoda, Harper was a professional dancer who appeared in the corps de ballet at the Radio City Music Hall as a teenager as well as in the chorus of such early 1960s musicals as “Wildcat” with Lucille Ball and “Take Me Along” with Jackie Gleason and Robert Morse.

But it had been along time since she danced when she joined “Dancing With the Stars” last fall. “I turned it down many times,” she said. When the series approached Harper after her diagnosis, she told her husband, ‘Why should I do it? I have cancer.’ He said, ‘That’s why you should do it. Think of the people you will inspire.’”

She got letters of thanks, including one from a woman who wrote her, “My mom has cancer and I can’t get her off the couch. But she saw ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and went to dance class the next day.”

Harper and McManus have remained close and even meet for an occasional dinner. “I had such a great time working with Valerie,” said McManus. “I didn’t know much about her beforehand. Generally with the show I try to get to know my partners. I was really surprised at how interested Valerie was in me as well. There was an honesty about it. It was like we were building a relationship as well as a partnership.”

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“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” revolves around four civil servants who become an elite team of lost-mail detectives determined to deliver the undeliverable. The uplifting family show reunites Harper with Williamson, who has been a good friend since the actress did her first “Touched by Angel” episode, as well as series star Eric Mabius (“Ugly Betty”), who worked with Harper in a 2001 TV movie, “Dancing on the Harvest Moon.”

Harper’s Theresa is the group’s new, slightly eccentric supervisor. A legend in the postal service, all she really wants to do is act. Harper performs the life-affirming “No Time at All” from “Pippin” in the first episode and in the second offers sage advice to her staff on not wasting a moment of life as Glinda in an amateur production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

The role was tailored for Harper. “Valerie is somebody who would take a challenge like this and turn it into an opportunity to encourage other people,” Williamson noted. “The first thing she and Tony said to me when I told them about the show was we want to use this show as an opportunity to encourage other people.”

Harper also encourages everyone on the set. “Actors are usually terribly neurotic and worried about what people are thinking of them,” said Mabius. “It’s a breath of fresh air to be around Valerie, who wants everyone around her to succeed. She’s constantly pushing people to be better than they think they can be and making sure everyone has fun.”

Harper plans to keep working as long as she can. She’s mulling two plays “heading toward Broadway — maybe,” said, smiling.  “There is one I really love. We’ll see.”