The Morning Call from Allentown, Pennsylvania on January 1, 2006 · 41
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The Morning Call from Allentown, Pennsylvania · 41

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Sunday, January 1, 2006
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THE MORNING CALL SUNDAY, JANUARY 1, 2006 E7 CHECKING in L V folks making it in show biz Her solo tour over, Gwen Stefani looks forward to her love angel, music and baby JEFF HOWARD, director of creative affairs for Disney, was responsible for 'Bambi II,' which will be out on DVD in February. He and his brother, Todd, are Lower Macungie Township natives. Contributed photo - i . . six;. i ... t Life's animated for ex-Valley brothers By Jessica Berthold Of The Morning Call If you need a reason to rent "Bambi II" when the flick is released on DVD on Feb. 7, try this: Lower Macungie Township native Jeff Howard oversaw the whole picture. Howard, 36, says the project was his biggest so far at Disney, where he is director of creative affairs in a division that specializes in animated movies. "Some of the things we do are sequels to things that are huge classics and everyone loves them, so it's a big challenge to do something that will live up to the reputation of the first movies," says Howard, a 1987 graduate of Emmaus High School who now lives in Glen-dale, Calif. The parents and kids who attended a test screening of "Bambi II" loved it, he adds. "We're all excited about how it turned out; it went over better than anything I've ever done so far," Howard says. As a kid, Howard was always drawing cartoons and comic strips and showing them to his friends at school, he says. When he went off to Syracuse University, he planned to take animation courses, but they weren't offered while he was there. Instead, he took classes in television and film production at the New-house School of Public Communications. After graduating, Howard worked on productions for the Lehigh Valley's Twin County Cable (now RCN), then did corporate video in Richmond, Va., for a while. He moved to California a decade ago and worked in live-action films, eventually using his experience and contacts to get a job in animation at Disney in 1998. He started in a junior creative executive position, then got promoted a few times to his ' current position. "Basically, I am responsible for coming up with the ideas and stories for animated movies and overseeing production from the first idea to the release of the movie," Howard explains. "I work with writers and directors to develop scripts and oversee all the creative aspects, from story line to art to marketing stuff. It's a lot of fun." The best part of his job? The people and the stories, he says. "In such a creative business you have to put a lot of yourself out there, so. you have to be comfortable with the people you work with," Howard says. "I also love the chance to tell stories and work with such great characters." You can catch a glimpse of Howard in the "Deleted Scenes" section of "Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas," a compilation DVD that came out last year, he says. But wait, there's more Jeffs not the only son making his parents, Priscilla and Ron Howard, proud. His younger brother, Todd Howard, is the executive producer for Bethesda Softworks, which makes computer video games like The Elder Scrolls, a popular computer role-playing game series. Like his brother Jeff, Todd traces his interest in his profession back to his childhood in Lower Macungie. "If you grew up a guy in that time period, you were probably into "Star Wars" and Dungeons and Dragons and "Lord of the Rings" that whole supergeek thing," says Howard, 35. "I remember my brother and I wanting to get our first Apple computer and making some ludicrous guarantee to our parents about clean- a jw .': f 1 7 "" t - j A - - Contributed photo TODD HOWARD is executive producer for Bethesda Softworks, which produces computer games. ing the house every day." Once he got a computer, Howard says, he realized he could make the games himself. In junior high and high school, he bought some books and figured out how to program with his brother and their friends. Once he went off to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., he took computer classes for credit, but decided to major in business, because it seemed easier. "I got away from programming for awhile, but throughout college I started realizing the thing that interested me most in the world was video games. I decided that finance wasn't the exciting career I thought it would be," Howard says. During one Christmas in the Lehigh Valley, Howard got the Wayne Gretsky Hockey Game made by Bethesda Softworks. Bethesda happened to be located along his drive back to, college, so he decided to stop by the company on a whim. "I sort of knocked on the door and said I wanted to work there. It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but someone actually came out and talked to me," Howard says. The tactic worked, and Howard got a job at the company in 1994, shortly after graduation. He worked his way up the ranks, and has had a hand in developing games like Terminator: Future Shock and The Elder Scrolls' Redguard and Morrowind. Currently, he's working on the final touches of the newest game in the Elder Scrolls series, Oblivion, which should be out in the spring. "I spend a lot of time playing the game, writing down things that need to be fixed or the parts that work well, what to add and remove," Howard says. He knows of at least one fan who'll evaluate the game with an eagle eye when it's released: Jeff Howard. "My brother loves the Elder Scrolls games, and he's really looking forward to Oblivion," says Todd. "The funny thing is that my son, Luke, who is almost three, is addicted to my brother's Disney movies. He watches 'Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas' twice a day." Jessica.berthold a mcall.com 610-820-6783 By Geoff Boucher Special to The Morning Call SUNRISE, Ha. According to the almanac, Dec. 21 was the winter solstice the shortest day of the year but for Gwen Stefani it was a long, melancholy slog spent in an anonymous arena in this bland suburb of Fort Lauderdale. On the closing night of her first solo tour, which she describes as an uneven affair, Stefani found herself short of breath by the third song and staring out at a surprisingly listless crowd. She exhorted the fans at the Bank Atlantic Center to make some noise, and the crowd of mostly daughters and mothers stirred a bit. Then she tried it again with a different approach: "I want you to do this so loud the baby hears you!" The crowd went wild. Just like that the week's worst-kept celebrity secret was officially surrendered, and Stefani, who has been struggling through fatigue and distraction for weeks, pushed herself through the rest of the show like a marathon runner on finish-line fumes. By the time she donned her famous majorette uniform (which was recently altered for her changing figure) and yelped through the "Hollaback Girl" finale, the show was as much about spirit and sentiment as it was about sound. Afterward, backstage, her husband, rock singer Gavin Rossdale, videotaped the tearful scene as Stefani said goodbye to the tour's backup dancers and musicians: "I'm so sad, but I'm so glad it's over. I'm so glad." The tour was never supposed to happen; Stefani was, of course, famous as the lead singer of No Doubt, a pop powerhouse in the late 1990s. The Police and Madness were the music models in those early days, but last year Stefani wanted to get in touch with the urban pop hits she grew up singing to her bedroom mirror in Anaheim, Calif., in the 1980s. She also wanted to play dress up. The result was a solo project, "Love.Angel.Music.Baby.," that she describes as a lark, a chance to work with Dr. Dre (as well as Pharrell Williams, Andre 3000, Linda Perry and others) and make videos like Madonna. The album dips into hip-hop, R&B, disco and pure pop. That dilettante approach is fitting for Stefani; she recently has made her debut as a film actress (she was Jean Harlow in "The Aviator"), fashion show organizer (to promote L.A.M.B., her successful line of clothing and purses) and, oddly, a gizmo designer (she lent her name to a turquoise digital camera sold by Hewlett-Packard). . Some of that may be dismissed as pop-culture overkill, but that "lark" musical project has led to five Grammy nominations, including one for album of the year. Before taking the stage at the Sunrise show, Stefani shook her head when asked about competing with U2 and Paul McCartney for the music industry's top accolade. "I still don't believe," she said solemnly. "I really don't." The album was one of the 10 bestsellers of 2005, with 2.4 million sold in the United States alone. It has also made Stefani a heroine to the Barbie set. Once upon a time, Stefani ' looked out on No Doubt crowds and saw tattoos and Dr. Martens now she sees tiaras and braces. That fact and impending -J ? - ) .. SINGER AND DESIGNER Gwen Stefani is expecting the birth of her baby in June. Stuart Ramson Associated Press motherhood raise a natural question: Is No Doubt still living up to its name, or is Stefani, like her hero Sting, destined to be a pop blond in a solo spotlight? "No, I don't think so. But I have always known what was coming next, until now," Stefani said backstage before the South Florida show. The plan now is to return to her London home with Rossdale and "eat pizza" and avoid interviews. Then, in February, she plans to attend the Grammys in Los Angeles but will not perform. "I will be, what, 9'i months pregnant by then, and wearing the band uniform? I don't think so." The crowd that sang along with Stefani on a Wednesday night earlier this month was the type she has seen throughout the road run: young, fe- male and adoring. Stefani said the tour had its share of clunker nights ("Some nights I felt like I should say 'I'm sorry' ") but that the fans didn't seem to care. Looking out on an audience in Verona, N.Y., she was struck by the sight of a cluster of girls, all about 8 or 9, wearing makeup and bedazzled expressions. "It was a Disney show for me, you know? It's so different than it used to be. They were desperately singing back every lyric. The look on their faces was like: 'Look, that's Cinderella up on stage." And they make me feel like it." This is all fine and good, but fans of No Doubt might be ready for Stefani to quit playing princess. And no matter what Stefani says now, there's cause to wonder whether motherhood and hip-hop beats will change the rhythm of Stefani's career for good. She points out, though, that the absence of No Doubt songs from her solo tour's set list is a reminder that the band's hits belong to the group, not to her. "This tour is cheesy and girly and I love it," she said. "This is its own thing." If there was a defining moment in the public life of No Doubt it may have been the music video for "Don't Speak," the plaintive 1996 hit that put the band's internal pressures on display. The video showed the young band re-enacting moments of tension that were pretty close to reality. One of the scenes shows the other members of the band bassist Tony Kanal, drummer Adrian Young and guitarist Tom Dumont fuming as Stefani becomes the focal point of media attention. "It haunted us," Stefani said. "It was a really honest video, but we had to sit on a couch together for a year and half and answer the same questions every night and every interview." Kanal was a producer on Stefani's solo project, and the two (who were romantically involved years ago another subplot to the No Doubt saga) keep in touch. Stefani said she did fret that Young and Dumont would watch her current solo success and worry about what it meant for the band. "Going on tour without them, I felt like I was cheating," said Stefani, who made it clear that No Doubt is not over. "We've been a band for 18 years. None of this was expected. Just like the pregnancy, too. I'm sure everybody's wondering how this is all going to turn out." With that in mind, Stefani carefully weighed her options in announcing her big news. "I'm really horrible with secrets," Stefani said. "It's amazing we kept it quiet as long as we did, I suppose." In the end, the news that Stefani, 36, was with child was reported by Us Weekly. "They called my father-in-law in England. He's a retired doctor and just the sweetest man. And they said something like, 'Congratulations, it's confirmed, everybody knows ... . And he was like, 'Uh, well, we're delighted.' Oops. Then it was like a wildfire." Stefani has enjoyed a relatively low-key life in London No Doubt made her a star here, but it was not until this pop album that she really reached an intense celebrity level in London. She used to get asked for autographs by people who thought she was Madonna now she's anxious that her new strata of recognition will draw the paparazzi to her doorstep. "We'll see how it goes," she said. "There's so many things that are going to change, you know? And I don't know what my passion will be when the baby comes. I don't know anything." She does know one thing: After the show, leaning against a wall and rolling her eyes, she put her hand on her stomach and smiled. "I don't ever have to wear those clothes agaia" Geoff Boucher is a writer for The Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. Scene will not appear this week BIRTHS LEHIGH VALLEY HOSPITAL SON Dec, 8 - Jose Gonzalez and Wanda del'Valle, Allentown. DAUGHTERS Dec. 11 Matthew and Kristin Hlay, Schnecksville. Nov. 16 - Christopher and Elizabeth Dubs, Whitehall Township SACRED HEART HOSPITAL SONS Dec. 23 Janine Tancredi, Allentown. Dec. 22 - Robert S. Yankowy and Dana I. Somich, Allentown. Mr. and Mrs. Neville Plnnock, Bethlehem. Eric and Lisa Siegfried, Bethlehem. Dec. 21 Troy and Renee Guzenski, Whitehall Township. DAUGHTERS Dec. 20 Vivian Signorelli, Allentown. Dec. 19 Edwin Nieves and Yulissa Troncoso, Allentown. , ST. LUKE'S HOSPITAL ALLENTOWN CAMPUS SONS Dec. 17 Greg and Amy Miller, Allentown. Jason and Mary Banonis, Bethlehem. Shaun Davidson and Amanda Brotosky, Catasauqua. Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Maaserrepp, Slatington. Dec. 13 Greg Gilley, Quakertown, and Elisa Rodriquez, Allentown. ST. LUKE'S HOSPITAL FOUNTAIN HILL SONS Dec. 23 Mr. and Mrs. Steven Kuder, Easton. Omar and Marianeca Garcia, Easton. Dec. 22 - Angel Vasquez and Marshalena Rivera, Allentown. Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Arkans, Quakertown. Edwin Malaver and Lydia Gutierrez, Nazareth. Dec. 20 Mr. and Mrs. Luciano Burriesci, Nazareth. Joshua and Dennisse Rosado, Bethlehem. Chris and Amy Grainda, Easton. Dec. 19 - Jonathan Asayag and Naomi Monjes, Bethlehem. DAUGHTERS Dec. 23 William Cuadrado and Gisela Gonzalez, Bethlehem. Andrew Heywood and Dina Partor, Northampton. Franklin Figueroa and Stephanie Laudenslader, Emmaus. Dec. 22 Alex Twombly and Theresa Sokoloski, Bethlehem. Jonathan Drake and Krystal Knighton, Easton. Kevin and llze Gallich, Freemansburg. Dec. 21 David and Nikkl Alderfer, Coopersburg. Mr. and Mrs. James Grell, Northampton. Mr. and Mrs. Cory Marsteller, Nazareth. Mr. and Mrs. Robert Pursell Sr., LVH BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENTS Parents who have had babies at Lehigh Valley Hospital may place an announcement in The Morning Call by providing a copy of the "Record of Birth" certificate issued by the hospital. Mail to Birth Announcements, The Morning Call, P.O. Box 1260, Allentown, PA 18105 or fax to Birth Announcements, 610-820-6693. Hellertown. Joseph and Christine Sexton, Bethlehem. Dec. 20 Mr. and Mrs. Enoch Whipple, Bethlehem. Jack and Sarah Waltz, Catasauqua. John James and Joyce Hoffstadt, Bethlehem. Michael and Ashley Thomas, Milford, N.J. Dec. 18 Juan Diaz and Kathy Concepcion, Bethlehem.

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