Smooth’s Podium Picks – 2021 World Team Trophy

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The 2021 figure skating season comes to an end with the team event taking place in Osaka, Japan. The competition is taking place under very strict COVID-19 protocols under the guidance of the Government of Japan, the Japan Sports Agency, Osaka Prefecture, and the city of Osaka. There will be some spectators, and the arena will be filled to 50% percent capacity, with each seat vacant in the front, back, left and right adjacent to each other. There will be six countries represented, with two single skaters in men’s & ladies (Italy only has one men’s skater) and one team in pairs and ice dance.  Russia collected 9847 points towards qualifying,  followed by the United States (8001 points), Japan (6441 points), Canada (5580) and Italy (4021).  China qualified with 4537 points but elected not to send a team, allowing France (3905 points) to compete instead.

screenshot2021-02-03at4.12.54pmMen: The battle between the two top skaters in the world continues, as American Nathan Chen and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu square off. Chen captured the men’s World title this season with a come-from-behind victory over Hanyu in Stockholm, Sweden three weeks ago. But with the competition taking place in Osaka, Japan; Hanyu may have the home ice advantage over Chen this weekend. Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada looks to bounce back after a 5th place finish at worlds, while France’s Kevin Aymoz also looks to rebound after placing ninth at Worlds.

Skaters to Watch: Shoma Uno will be the skater for Japan to rely on extra points in the team event. He missed the podium at worlds coming in 4th where Japanese skaters dominated. American Jason Brown will also look for points his team. He finished 7th at worlds. Canadian men will have Nam Nguyen and Roman Sadovsky skating in the team event, it’s their first international event of the season. Other skaters looking to help their teams are Adam Siao Him Fa of France, Daniel Grassl of Italy and Evgeni Semenenko of Russia.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
2. Nathan Chen (USA)
3. Shoma Uno (JPN)

dsc_8161Ladies: This weekend looks more competitive, as there won’t be a Russian sweep of the podium. But the top two skaters are from that country. Anna Shcherbakova looks to continue her dominance after winning her first ladies World title last month. Teammate Liza Tuktamesheva continues her comeback after placing 2nd on the podium at worlds. American Karen Chen also had a comeback of her own, missing the podium, but securing a third Ladies position at next year’s Olympics and Worlds Championships. Bradie Tennell’s 9th place finish also helped the United States in that category.

Skaters to Watch: Japan’s Rika Kihira and Kaori Sakamoto are poised to help their team with high marks this weekend. Kihira finished a disappointing 7th at worlds last month, while Sakamoto finished one place higher in 6th. Canadian ladies will have Gabby Daleman returning to international competition this weekend. She helped the country secure a gold medal in the team event at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Teammate Alison Schumacher makes only her third appearance in senior international competition. Other skaters include Maia Mazzara & Lea Serna of France and Lara Naki Gutmann & Ginervra Lavina Negrello of Italy.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Anna Shcherbakova (RUS)
2. Rika Kihira (JPN)
3. Liza Tuktamesheva (RUS)

gettyimages-1308953360-e1616706632589Pairs: Russia’s Anastasia Mishina and Alexandr Galliamov pulled off the upset at last month’s world championships, knocking fellow teammates and established Chinese pairs teams, giving the country their first world pairs championship in nine years. They’re also the youngest pairs champions since legendary Russians Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergey Grinkov, who won four titles from 1986-90.  They get another chance to prove their victory wasn’t a fluke, but with most of the top pairs teams not participating, they’ll have to wait to make that challenge. Two teams stand out in the field. One is from Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise of Italy. They last made the podium in 2018, when they placed 2nd twice (Rostelecom Cup and Helsinki). The other is from Americans, Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier. The reigning US National champs shocked the skating world with a top 10 finish at Worlds in only their third competition as a team.

Teams to Watch: Keep your eyes on Canadians Lori-Ann Matte and Thierry Ferland. They placed 5th at Canadian Nationals in 2020 and look to gain valuable international experience. Other teams participating are Cleo Hamon & Denys Strekalin of France and Riku Miura & Ryuichi Kihara of Japan, who are coached by former pairs and Olympic silver medalist, Meagan Duhamel.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Anastasia Mishina and Alexandr Galliamov (RUS)
2. Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise (ITA)
3. Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier (USA)

image-assetIce Dance: Russia’s Victoria Sinisina & Nikita Katsalapov won the country’s first world Ice Dance title since 2009. They’re the favorites to win the event this weekend, but there a few teams that will challenge them. One is Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker (shown right) of the United States. They won in Japan at the NHK Trophy as well as the Four Continents Championships, both in 2018. They finished 9th in Stockholm last month. Another team is Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri of Italy. They finished 10th at last month’s championships and also had a 3rd place finish at Europeans in 2019.

Teams to Watch: Japan’s Misato Komatsubara & Tim Koleto won their first Grand Prix title, albeit a regional version of the NHK Trophy last November. They look to improve on their international standing this weekend. Other teams looking to score points are Adelina Galyavieva & Louis Thauron of France and Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus of Canada.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Victoria Sinisina & Nikita Katsalapov (RUS)
2. Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker (USA)
3. Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri (ITA)

Final Standing Predictions

1. Russia
2. Japan
3. USA

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, Skating | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A “Sneak-Peek” Of My New Book, “HOLLYWOOD HOUSE”

Me on the turntables in 1979. The book, "HOLLYWOOD HOUSE" is based on my experiences in DeeJaying during the early days of Hip-Hop.

Me on the turntables in 1979. The book, “HOLLYWOOD HOUSE” is based on my experiences in DeeJaying during the early days of Hip-Hop in the late 1970’s.

During the Winter of 1977, my parents were anxious to leave the Lafayette Gardens housing projects and move into a proper home for my two brothers and I. Apartment living was wasn’t in the cards for us after 15 years. Our good friends, the Jones’ had already set up shop in Hempstead, a New York City suburb on Long Island. (Both dads were New York City Police Officers.)

718 Macon PlaceWe moved into 718 Macon Place in Uniondale, Long Island (Shown left, circa 1978) on Valentine’s Day that year. My recollections of moving day were the number of boxes we had packed in the middle of the living room. I never realized how much stuff we had after 14 years of apartment living. It must have taken us at least a week before we finally settled in.

I met my first friend on the block named Ray. He lived about four houses down the street from us. He was a cool dude. Dressed to the nines and enjoyed R&B music like myself. He would help me ease into my new life at Turtle Hook Junior High School, including parties after school. The DJ group in charge of putting out the music was called Hollywood House. A year later, I would become friends with a few other guys in the neighborhood and we would combine to create an off-shoot of the group called, “The Black Knights of Hollywood”.

Fast forward nearly 45 years later, when I looked at the calendar and was shocked…shocked I tell ya to find out how long it’s been since my foray into an underground movement that would be later known as “HIP-HOP”.

I decided to write a book entitled “HOLLYWOOD HOUSE”.  It was originally written as a screenplay 16 years ago.  After my break-up last year, I decided to look at the project again and convert it into a book form.  

This sneak peek into my book talks about the lead characters and the first experiences in the Parker own home.  The story was inspired by my experiences growing up on Long Island and in Brooklyn.

This is ‘Chapter 1 – Moving In’.

◆◆◆

August 10, 1979 – It was a hot summer day when our brown Pontiac Bonneville station wagon drove down Jerusalem Avenue on the way to our new home in Uniondale. My younger brother Todd and I sat in the back staring out the window as the moving truck trailed closely behind us, in tow.

Dad was driving while mom was listening to some music coming out of the radio. While looking out the window, I noticed that there were a number of stores along the way that would be my go-to stop for groceries and other items. We then passed a 7-Eleven, a pizza parlor, and a strip mall with a supermarket.

The two vehicles make a right turn south on Uniondale Avenue. We continued along until we got to Northern Parkway. We then made a left turn onto the street. The neighborhood was lined with Cape Cod similar houses. It was a common design for houses made after World War II.

Finally, we arrived at our new home, 724 Northern Parkway, and it was NICE! The grass was perfectly cut to perfection and a pretty bright green. A 25-foot maple tree was in front in-between the sidewalk and the street. The fully bloomed leaves would be a welcome natural air conditioner for us that summer.

We parked in front of the one family house and the main entrance had big numbers on display. The moving truck drove further ahead and stopped in front of our station wagon. One of the moving men, a tall muscular dark-skinned man with a bald head got out and helped the driver maneuver the truck around, backing it into the driveway.

Now parked in the driveway, two other heavyset and younger looking men jumped out of the moving truck. One of the heavyset men opened the back door to the truck and they started unloading the furniture and taking it inside. My parents, both excited, got out of the car and just stood in awe of their purchase. They worked so hard to get to this moment in time.

“It’s so beautiful.” Mom said while putting her arm around dad’s waist.

“It sure is,” dad replied, “Everything we dreamed about when we looked at it two months ago. Finally, after all these years, our dream home.”

My dad, William Parker, a tall, handsome 39-year-old black man, worked in sanitation for the City of New York for 18 years. Working his way up the ladder to supervisor, he was pulling in big money, which was unusual for men of color.

Dad was the enforcer. If my brother Todd or I got out of line, he would whip out the leather belt. I was 16 at the time and was getting too old for that, but Todd still endured that punishment. Despite all that, dad still loved us. He just wanted to make sure we were not following the wrong crowd.

My mom, Alice Parker, has a pretty brown complexion, 36-year-old, was a nurse at Cumberland Hospital in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. She started nursing in 1969 after getting her Associates Degree at New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn. She was a clean freak and made sure my brother and I did our chores.

Together, my parents saved their pennies and nickels for this moment. We were your typical middle class, African-American family. My name is Clayton Parker and friends call me Clay, and if I had to do it all over again, I would’ve been more enthusiastic about the move.

Yeah, I know. My folks were doing this for my kid brother and me. But let’s face it. When your parents tell you that you’re leaving your best friends and the comfortable settings of Lafayette Gardens Apartments, it’s a big adjustment. As a 16-year-old kid at the time, you’ve got to imagine that I was not very happy with the move. And when I got out of the car my dad immediately noticed.

“What’s your problem, son?” He asked me as I leaned up against our station wagon with my head down and fiddling with my fingers.

I mumbled with an attitude, “I don’t understand why we had to leave Brooklyn.”

My response pissed him off.

“Now we’re not going to go through this again. Brooklyn is no place for a teenage boy to be growing up. I want the best for my family. This is something we’ve been planning for a long time to happen.”

My kid brother, Todd, was only 9, and he is all excited. He is looking at the house with wide eyes.

“Is this where we’re staying at, Daddy?” Todd asks.

“Yeah, this is it, son. You’re gonna have lots of room to play with in the back yard. Lots of fresh air and plenty of friends for you and your brother to play with.”

I interjected. “I’m gonna miss all my friends in Brooklyn.”

And dad replied, “You’ll get plenty more friends here in this neighborhood, Clayton. Now why don’t you go help your momma get unpacked?”

I just walked away, disappointed and helped mom get the boxes out of the station wagon and into the house. I was in the living room unpacking boxes while admiring a large window with a view of the bay. Meanwhile mom noticed the movers getting a bit clumsy with the crystal table. She was possessive of her items.

“HEY! Be careful with that table! It’s very expensive and I don’t want to lose it!” Mom firmly instructed.

“Sorry, ma’am. We’ll be more careful.” The tall baldheaded muscular mover apologized.

“I paid a lot of money for that table, and it better not have a scratch on it.” Mom sarcastically chimed back.

Once I was done unpacking, I went upstairs to my bedroom. The movers had placed the mattress and box spring against the wall. I plotted on how the room was going to look. I looked at some of the loose boxes and noticed a circular mailing tube. I opened it and took out the first poster, Reggie Jackson a.k.a. Mr. October.

I’d been a NY Yankees fan since 1976 the year they won the pennant. I went nuts when Chris Chambliss hit that home run to send the Yankees to the World Series. The next year, Reggie Jackson slugged three home runs on one pitch each.

Dad was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and loved watching Jackie Robinson Play. He was hurt when they left Brooklyn for Los Angeles and he vowed never to watch another baseball game ever again. Even when the Mets came to town in 1962, Dad never could root for them or any other baseball team.

I looked at the walls in my bedroom and tried to figure out where I could put Reggie’s poster. I finally placed it on the wall on the left side next to the window. I then began hearing music coming from the house next door. I loved the music, so I popped my head out to hear what it was.

The music of “A Taste of Honey’s “Boogie, Oggie, Oggie” was blasting from the stereo on the top floor of our neighbor’s home. The bedroom window was wide open, and I could see huge posters of Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George Gervin and other basketball players from back in the day on the wall around the room.

I later found out it was my new neighbor, Keyon Mitchell, a 16-year-old African-American boy. He was a phenome in the world of Uniondale Basketball and was a star on Turtle Hook Junior High’s (Now Middle School) undefeated squad. He liked to wear the best clothes and name brand shoes.

After admiring his posters, Keyon put on his best basketball sneakers (Puma’s), Levi’s jeans and Dr. J T-Shirt and started singing along to the song.

“Get on Up on The Floor ‘cause We’re Gonna Boogie, ‘Oggie, ‘Oggie ‘til We Just Can’t Boogie No More….”

He turned off the stereo and continued to sing the lyrics. Keyon then grabbed his basketball and walked downstairs to the kitchen. There, Keyon’s mother, Janice Mitchell, a beautiful woman in her late 30s, was washing dishes. Keyon walked by.

“Keyon, Where you headin’?”, she asked.

“I’m gonna go play some basketball at Uniondale Park.” He responds while spinning the basketball on his index finger.

“Oh, no you’re not. You’re going down to the basement and get some steaks from the freezer so we can get the barbecue started tonight.”

Keyon became annoyed from being distracted, “Damn!”

“I heard that! Don’t you be cussin’ in my House! Now, do as you’re told!”

“Okay, mom.”, Keyon said as he walked down the stairs into the basement.

The basement downstairs was unfinished. Lots of storage and boxes laid across the room. The furnace and water heater were situated in a corner. The Freezer was located right under the stairs. However, there was a sound system. A Panasonic stereo and amplifier, a turntable made by Technics, and four 2-foot speakers. There was a speaker in each corner of the basement. Keyon looked at the record on the turntable, “Good Times” by Chic.

Keyon couldn’t resist temptation. He took the basketball and put it down on the floor. He then walked over to the stereo and turned the power button on. The light turned on from the stereo and Keyon put on the headphones, not realizing the volume control on the speakers was on high. Keyon put the arm of the turntable on the record. He then takes the record and moves it back and forth with his left hand, on a certain break part of the record making it sound like it’s scratching.

With headphones on his ears Keyon didn’t realize the sound traveled full blast throughout the house.

“KEYON! I THOUGHT I TOLD TO BRING UP THOSE STEAKS!”

Janice was livid.

“Uh Oh.” Keyon mumbled out loud after realizing he was in deep trouble.

“SORRY, MOMMA! I’M ON MY WAY!”

Keyon abruptly turned off the stereo and lowered the levels on the sound. He picked up his basketball, headed to the freezer where he grabbed four packages of steaks, and walked up the stairs slowly, hoping he doesn’t get the wrath of his mom.

He opened the basement door.

“You Know One of These Days I’m Gonna Take That Stereo Away from You!”

“Sorry, Momma.”

Keyon’s having a hard time carrying both the steaks and the basketball at the same time.

“You’re always sorry, Keyon. You’re So distracted, you can’t even put two and two together to make four…and put that basketball down!” Her final demand which he does.

Upon doing so, Keyon notices the moving van outside.

“Who’s moving into the old Sullivan house?”

“They’re a family from Brooklyn. Your father and I know them from way back. You were a baby when we lived in Lafayette Gardens, so I doubt you’ll remember them. We’re having dinner with them later tonight. And you’ll be going to school with their oldest son, Clayton.”

“Cool.” Keyon said. “I’ll see if he wants to play basketball with me.”

“I don’t know, Keyon. They may still be packing. Listen, I want you home by six, Keyon. Got it?”

“I got it, Mom. Later.” Keyon says while exiting the house.

Keyon left with the basketball in his hand. He was hoping to not only have a new neighbor but a new friend.

◆◆◆

The moving men were done with the main furniture and were leaving the house. My neighbor, Keyon became curious. He started walking toward the house, dribbling his basketball along the way. Dad noticed Keyon in the front yard and walked out to greet him.

“May I help you, young man?” Dad recognizes Keyon. “Oh, hi Keyon. How are you today?”

“I’m good, Mr. Parker. My mom was saying you were moving in today.”

“Yeah, we’re just moving in.”, Dad replied. “All the heavy stuff is done, so it’s just the boxes and unpacking.”

My mom, seeing Keyon and Dad, walks out the house to meet him.

“Oh, hello there Keyon. Where’s your folks?”

“My Mom’s at home cooking. My dad’s at work.”

“You excited to have us as neighbors?”, questioned dad.

“Yeah, I Am. You’re probably be better than the family that used to live there.”

“Your father and I go way back. He told us about the house being available back in January and we had to take a look for ourselves. You haven’t met my son Clayton before, have ya? I’ll call him out. He’s about your age.” Dad Said After His Rhetorical Question.

My dad then called for me to come outside. The whole time I was in the doorway seeing Keyon talking to my parents they had no idea I was scouting them. My first impression of Keyon was that he seemed to be pretty cool. Looked like the type that was able to get along with.

I thought to myself. “If we were going to be schoolmates, I might as well get acquainted with him.”

“CLAYTON! COME OUT OF THE HOUSE! WE GOT SOMEONE FOR YOU TO MEET!”, dad screamed out.

I played it off like I didn’t hear him the first time and walked out the house to joined the conversation. Dad immediately introduced Keyon to me.

“Keyon… this Is my son, Clayton.”

“Hi.” I said, “But you can call me Clay. Only my folks call me clayton.”

Keyon put up his hand to give me a “High-Five” handshake and responded, “It’s Cool.”

Mom was still in overdrive with the move. We had pretty much everything in place.

“Clay, is your room done?”, mom asked.

“Yes, Mom.” I politely answered.

“Well, why don’t you go and play basketball with Keyon and get to know him.”, she said.

I tried to get out it by saying, “I’m not much of a basketball player, momma.”

But my request went ignored. Dad wanted me to get involved in making as many friends as possible.

“That’s okay, Son. We got most of the important things unpacked. The most important part of moving is starting new friendships. Besides, we’ll be over for a barbecue at the Mitchell’s place tonight.”

“It’s alright, Clay.” Keyon interjected, “We’ll be home by 6. I promise.”

As we left, Keyon passed me the basketball, a Spaulding, NBA quality, completely inflated. When you bounced it, you can hear the rubber pounce, and it had a funny smell.

“This ball smells like pure rubber.”, I stated after getting a good whiff of the ball.

“That’s a new ball.”, Keyon said. “I purchased it last week at Modell’s. Someone punctured my last one. What we’ll do is play ‘21’, no free throws, and half-court.”

“I’ll try to play catchup.” I said, knowing I’d never make it to 10 points.

◆◆◆

The two friends would form a pack and embark on a quest into deejaying supremacy on Long Island. The journey wouldn’t be easy, with money and school time being just a few of the obstacles in their way. Their friendship would be tested, as jealousy, envy and a racial charged world are just a couple of the problems that await Keyon and Clay.

1616741640Wanna read more? Then purchase a copy of the book on Amazon. Wanna read HOLLYWOOD HOUSE for free? Then purchase a Kindle Unlimited subscription for $2.99 and read this and millions of other books in the Amazon Kindle collection.

The book is available for a special price on Amazon Kindle for a limited time.  Purchase your copy for only .99 cents now until April 7th,  

Posted in Book, Hip-Hop, Long Island, Novel, Rap Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks – 2021 World Figure Skating Championships

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Last year’s World Championships in Montreal were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What followed was a difficult period for figure skating. Many competitions were cancelled amid health and safety precautions, and ice rinks around the world were shut down, causing skaters to miss out on important practice time. The ISU adjusted to allow regional competitions in their Grand Prix season, but countries like Canada and France cancelled their competitions by order of their country’s health officials. Sweden was one of those countries that didn’t implement a lockdown order and were able to have a somewhat normal approach on the pandemic. However, this weekend’s World Championships will be a challenge, as skaters from around the world will descend on Stockholm to take part in the first World Championships in two years.

There will be no spectators allowed in the arena. However, if the situation were to improve and the Swedish government lifts the restrictions, a small number of spectators could be allowed in. Covid-19 tests will be conducted before arrival, upon arrival and during Championships week, as well as a daily health screening on all skaters, coaches and officials. Viewers will be able to watch the World Figure Skating Championships via their national broadcaster or for countries where there are no broadcasters, the ISU will offer a live stream on the Figure Skating ISU YouTube Channel.

‰H¶Œ‹Œ·‚̉‰‹ZMen – 34 skaters vie for the crown. At the top of the list is one of the best skaters in the world, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu. After skipping the Grand Prix Series due to COVID-19 concerns, Hanyu participated at Japanese Nationals and won his 5th championship. The two-time Olympic gold medalist will have his hands full with American Nathan Chen on his heels. Chen did participate in the Grand Prix series at Skate America and won his 4th title. He then went on to win his 5th consecutive US title in dominating fashion. Between these two skaters, it will be a fierce battle, leaving 32 other skaters to fight it out for the third spot on the podium. One of those skaters could be Chen’s teammate, Vincent Zhou. Zhou did not compete last season, but he is back, as he had a strong showing at Skate America (2nd) and at US Nationals (2nd). Another contender is Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada. He also who missed last season due to health problems, but was able to make a strong comeback by winning each competition he entered, including his 3rd National Championship.

Skaters to Watch: Keep your eyes on China’s Boyang Jin. Injuries have plagued his career recently, but has made a strong comeback in anticipation of next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing. Japan’s Shoma Uno missed out on his chance to win a 5th National title, but lost to teammate, Yuzuru Hanyu. Others to watch include 2019 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final bronze medalist Kevin Aymoz of France, American Jason Brown, Italy’s Daniel Grassl, Deniss Vasiljevs of Latvia and South Korea’s Junhwan Cha.

Smooth’s Pick – This will be tough to pick, but right now, I give the edge ever so slightly to Chen over Hanyu.

1. Nathan Chen (USA)
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
3. Mikhail Kolyada (FSR)

FULL MEN’S ENTRIES

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anna-shcherbakovaLadies – The division is dominated by Russian “quad queens” and it’s also been a real soap opera, with skaters leaving coaches and returning when things don’t work out. Russian ladies also have a distinct advantage this weekend after participating in at least 6 regional team events this season. At the top of the list is Anna Shcherbacova, who won her first National title in grand fashion. Teammate Alexandra Trusova also looked great at Nationals and in team events this winter. The third skater makes her stunning return this weekend. Liza Tuktamysheva won the World title in 2015 and looks to return to greatness after an incredible comeback to international form. Will there be a Russian sweep this weekend? Maybe. But if there’s one skater that could break that task, it’s Japan’s Rika Kihira. She’s added a quad salchow to her program, and if she hits it, she’ll most definitely be in the mix for gold.

Skaters to Watch: Keep your eye on American Bradie Tennell this weekend. She re-established herself as a top contender over the past years and captured her 2nd National title in January. Japan’s Satoko Miyahara also makes her return to the world stage along with teammate Kaori Sakamoto. Others vying for a top 10 finish includes Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx, Estonia’s Eva-Lotta Kiibus, South Korea’s Yelim Kim and Haein Lee as well as Switzerland’s Alexia Paganini and American Karen Chen.

Smooth’s Pick – With all the quads and triple axels planned, there’s bound to be problems. It may also be exciting if they all hit their elements. But Shcherbacova has been very consistent the last two season, and should be the skater to beat.

1. Anna Shcherbacova (FSR)
2. Rika Kihira (JPN)
3. Alexandra Trusova (FSR)

FULL LADIES ENTRIES

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wenjing-sui-and-cong-han-1Pairs – 26 teams will be looking to grab the top of the podium this weekend. The favorites will be from China, Wenjing Sui & Cong Han, who are the reigning World and two-time champions. They haven’t competed since winning gold at Four Continents in 2020, but have experience in returning after a long break to win championships. Russia will have two shots at the top spot with Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov and last year’s European Champions Aleksandra Boikova & Dmitri Kozlovskii. Tarasova & Morozov won at Russian Nationals over their rivals, Boikova & Kozlovskii. Two-time Four Continents medalists Cheng Peng & Yang Jin of China are also expected to contend, along with Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro. Moore-Towers and Marinaro have only competed virtually, as Canadian nationals and all other live events within the country have been cancelled.

Teams to Watch: Keep your eyes on Americans Alexa Knierim & Brandon Frazier. They surprised many with their victories at Skate America and the US Championship. Russia’s Anastasia Mishina & Aleksandr Galliamov also have a Grand Prix Final medal under their belt and will be in contention. Other teams to watch out for are Italy’s Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise, Austria’s Miriam Ziegler & Severin Kiefer and Americans Ashley Cain-Gribble & Timothy LeDuc.

Smooth’s Pick – This will be a battle between Russia and China, with Sui & Han edging out Tarasova & Morozov for gold.

1. Wenjing Sui & Cong Han (CHN)
2. Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov (FSR)
3. Aleksandra Boikova & Dmitri Kozlovskii (FSR)

FULL PAIRS ENTRIES

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victoria-sinitsina-and-nikita-katsalapov-1Ice Dance – Four-time World Champions Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron sat out the 20-21 season due to COVID-19 concerns, giving the top four ice dance teams a chance to fight it out for gold. Russia’s Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov were able to qualify despite missing the National Championships due to illness. A win in the Russia Cup final sealed their spot. Americans have two contenders in the running. Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue claimed gold at Skate America as well as at US Nationals. Madison Chock & Evan Bates did not compete at Skate America, but looked strong at Nationals, finishing second. Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin came close to reaching the podium at Worlds in 2019. They look to improve on their 4th place finish.

Teams to Watch: Keep your eyes on Canadians Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier. After years behind two elite (Virtue/Moir and Weaver/Poje) ice dance teams, they look to break free and contend for a medal. Italy’s Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri captured silver in the 2020 Four Continents Championships and will also look for a spot on the podium. Other teams include Russia’s Tiffani Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro, Americans Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker, Laurence Fournier-Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen of Canada and Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khaliavin of Spain.

Smooth’s Pick – Aside from the Ladies competition, ice dance might be the most competitive. This will be hard to predict, but for my money, I’ll wager it on a Sinitsina & Katsalapov narrow win.

1. Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov (FSR)
2. Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA)
3. Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA)

FULL ICE DANCE ENTRIES

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, ISU, Skating, World Championships | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kazakhstani Rapper and Artists From Other Countries Shows How Far Rap Music Has Gone Internationally

Scriptonite

Adil Oralbekұly Zhәlelov, better known by his stage name, Scriptonite is a rap artist and music producer from Kazakhstan. His success has branched out from his native country to all over Central Asia and Russia, where he has become hugely popular.

In an addendum to my new book, “HOLLYWOOD HOUSE”, I take a look at how far rap music has become in a worldwide setting since the late 1970’s.

——————–

I’ve been a follower of the hip-hop music scene from it’s very beginnings in the late 1970’s. But in the early 90’s, I began to concentrate more on my work as a broadcaster of an internet radio station that programs the smooth jazz format. I didn’t realize how far rap music had gone until a very dear friend of mine exposed me to an artist by the name, Scriptonite. Upon listening, I was stunned to hear that he was rappin’ in his native language…Russian!

Scriptonite (real name Adil Oralbekұly Zhәlelov) was born in a village in northern Kazakhstan a year before the breakup of the Soviet Union. He got involved in rap music by selling his own beats CD’s through social networks, all the while, working at a gas station in his native country.

Дом_с_нормальными_явлениямиHe began to focus on rap music in 2009, with content that relates to the problems many young people in his native country experience. They include alcoholism, drugs, crime and domestic violence. His debut album in 2013 entitled, “House with Normal Phenomena”, became one of the most successful Russian-language rap albums.

His message caught on in Central Asia and expanded into Russia, where his first three album releases hit #1 on local iTunes and other music charts. His music videos on YouTube and Russian social media sites have amassed more than 50 million views.

——————–

Kurtis-Blow-1970-billboard-1548-1591981782-compressedRap music has come a long way since a guy from the Bronx by the name of Kurtis Blow (shown left) released “Christmas Rappin’” in 1979. Released on the Mercury Records label, it sold over 400,000 copies, becoming one of the first commercially successful hip hop singles.

sugarhillThe Sugar Hill Gang (shown right) would follow along that year with their own breakthrough hit, “Rapper’s Delight”. Receiving heavy airplay on WBLS-FM in New York, it became the first rap single to make the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, peaking at number 36. In the years that followed, rap music slowly took shape on FM radio and in dance clubs around America.

run-dmc-jam-master-jay-arrest-murderRun DMC became one of the first rap groups that had heavy airplay on Top 40 stations with multiple songs released. Afrika Bambaataa, Houdini and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five also had success early on. MTV finally noticed the genre, when in 1987 the network aired “Yo MTV Raps”, highlighting music videos by rappers and hip-hop artists.

2871Public Enemy was also a huge influence in rap music, concentrating it’s message on addressing racism, bigoty and justice in America.  Spike Lee would utilize the group by having them record the track, “Fight the Power” in his groundbreaking 1989 film, “Do The Right Thing.”  But it wouldn’t be until 1990, when rap music cemented its finally unignorably mainstream influence with its first-ever No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby.”

In the 30 years that followed, rap music had evolved from an urban setting to an international spectacle.  It’s brought together legendary names, such as Biggie, Tupac, Diddy, Eminem and Kanye. It also had it’s share of controversy for it’s glamorization of crime, sexuality and violence.  N.W.A. was noted for this contantly as part of the West Coast Rap scene. In spite of this, the genre has developed rappers from every part of the world, showing their own style, influence and language.

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image1But international rap artists have burst onto the music scene in the last two decades. It was not uncommon to hear rap music in Spanish early in the genre’s infancy. That same year, a group named “La Familia” began rapping to disco music. It didn’t quite catch on until Reggaeton, a blend of rap, Latin and Caribbean. came on the scene in the mid-1990’s. It became popular in countries such as Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Panama. Artists such as Daddy Yankee have expanded its reaching throughout the world.

633x422In Europe, rap music had slowly taken hold of the music industry there, mostly in England, Germany, Spain and Portugal. One of the most notable was from the Belgian hip-hop group called Technotronic. Their lead emcee was “Ya Kid K” who hailed from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They hit it big in the late-80 with hits like “Pump up the Jam” and “Shake That Body”.

543ee868Despite the emergence of K-Pop in the 2010’s, Asian rappers still had a foothold on the hip-hop scene. One of the first was Fresh Kid Ice (shown left), a Chinese Trinidadian-American rapper who was part of the controversial group, 2-Live Crew during the late 80’s. Other Asian rappers were Traphik, Jay Park, Rich Brian, The Fung Brothers, Far East Movement, Dumbfoundead, Heems, Anderson. Paak, and Awkwafina.

It was astounding to hear how rap music has evolved over the years. 40 years from now, we may hear a completely different sound from rap music. By then, I’ll be either dead and buried, or listening to it on my hearing aids.

————————

Hollywood House Front Bookcover“Hollywood House” is available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle. You can also read the book for free if you subscribe to Amazon Kindle. A hard copy book will be available for purchase after March 16. 

Reserve your copy today!



Posted in Hip-Hop, Music, Music Industry, Music Videos, Rap Music | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“HOLLYWOOD HOUSE” Become Reality, as a New Book is Released!

Hollywood House Front Bookcover 3

A cover shot of the book which will be released in March by Amazon and Kindle eBook.

Late last year, I made the announcement to my Facebook friends that the book project I’ve been working on for many years was in the finishing stages.

This has been a 16-year journey for me. It all started back in 2005 when I participated in a worker’s writing and photography course in Syracuse, NY. After the official exhibition, I got the writing bug. After moving to Canada in late 2008, I developed a story originally as a screenplay during my time in-between TV gigs. I worked on the project off and on whenever I had some spare time. I attempted to shop it around to talent agents and enter it into screenplay competitions.

It was only after the devastating breakup of my friendship last year that made me re-evaluate where I was going in life, and I decided to re-commit and finally get the project finished. I converted the screenplay into novel form and with the help of a few experienced authors, I was able to complete my project.

So today, I’m proud to announce that the release of my book, “HOLLYWOOD HOUSE”, will be published next month. With the help of Kindle Direct Self-Publishing, my dream of becoming a published author is coming true. The book has been submitted for release and pre-order thru Amazon.com and by Kindle eBook.

After hiding my project for the longest time, I can finally tell everyone what the book is all about.

This is the story of two teenagers. One, a shy new kid on the block. The other, a basketball jock and a rapper emcee. Both of these kids are growing up in a racially charged world, and they have high-hopes of making it big in an underground music genre that will be later known as “hip-hop”.

1146726_10201788091766665_1385168526_nNow, if my Uniondale, Long Island Facebook family is familiar with the name “Hollywood House”, then yes! It is based on the actual DJ’s that used to play house parties and jam sessions in the late 70’s. The book, however is a fictional account of life during that moment in time.  For everyone else unfamiliar with how DJ’ing in the late 70’s was like, “Hollywood House” will resonate with anyone who had a dream in high school and made a naïve attempt at making it happen.

The photo on the left is me working on the turntables in my basement back on Long Island.  We put together a makeshift DJ set-up.  I had a set of speakers, a receiver and a turntable.  My friends Chip and Cleveland threw in a mixer and a microphone.  We all would take our records and match two of each, then sample a certain “break part” for hours.  We played house parties and jam sessions during those times, and of course, there were issues with personality conflicts among us.  We lasted a year and a half before going our separate ways.  I stuck with the communications side of the business, creating “Smooth Jazz and More” in 2001.

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I just received a PROOF copy of the book to look it over and make sure there aren’t any issues with printing, spelling and formatting. (Note the ‘Not for Resale’ stripe on the book.) I hope to have this ready by March 17, which would have been my mother’s 80th birthday.

In publishing my book, I’m reminded of the story of how Motown Records was created. It’s founder, Berry Gordy was determined to succeed when major record labels wouldn’t give him a chance. The lead singer of the Miracles, Smokey Robinson once said to him, “Why work for the man, when YOU can be the man.” The rest, they say, is history.

Now comes the hard part, marketing and promotion. As an independent author and working with an independent publisher, I’ll be responsible for getting the word out about “HOLLYWOOD HOUSE” thru advertising. It’s gonna be an incredible ride and I hope you’ll join me by purchasing my book.

Peace, out!

mj

Posted in Book, Brooklyn, Hip-Hop, Long Island, Music, Music Industry, Novel, Rap Music, Uniondale | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium PIcks: US Figure Skating Championships 2021

2021-toyota-u.s.-figure-skating-championships

The 100th anniversary of US Figure Skating will be one for the record books.  Last year’s Skate America in Las Vegas was the first of its kind, a competition performed in a “bubble” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Protocols will be the same this week, as the US Figure Skating Championships takes place in the same arena. Because of the pandemic, regional competitions took place for junior and senior skaters. And for the first time, skaters had to compete virtually, submitting their programs by video. Unfortunately, the competition had its share of problems, as four teams and one ladies skater were forced to withdraw because of possible COVID-19 exposure. Despite the loss, the competition will continue this Thursday, with the Pairs short and Ladies short programs.

Official program with senior and junior participants located here!

10232020_2020skam_m_sp_191_nathan_chenMen: With no known positive tests confirmed, the field looks to be set. Nathan Chen dominated the men’s event at Skate America last year, and is, by far, the odds -on favorite to win his 5th straight US title. A number of skaters look to block his path, including 2015 US Champ, Jason Brown. Brown caught a bad break when Skate Canada was cancelled last year due to COVID-19. He trains in Toronto with coaches Tracy Wilson, Brian Orser, and Karen Preston. Despite the lost competition time, he’s still a major player this weekend. Vincent Zhou took a step back during last year’s US Nationals finishing 4th. But he had a solid program at Skate America last year, taking silver. Tomoki Hiwitashi was the surprise podium taker at US Nationals, finishing 3rd. He took 4th at Skate America and looks to make the podium again.

Skaters to watch: Camden Pulkinen is one skater you should keep your eyes on. He’s had some success in juniors, but is still looking to transfer that to the senior circuit. He was 7th at last year’s nationals and finished 9th at Skate America. Ryan Dunk is also a former US junior champion in 2019. He was 11th in men’s seniors in 2020.

Smooth’s Picks
1. Nathan Chen
2. Jason Brown
3. Tomoki Hiwitashi

gettyimages-1210998391-e1610127823462Ladies: Alysa Liu is supposed to be the favorite, but there are three factors that may get in the way of the two-time US Ladies champ from making it a three-peat. First, the lack of competition, as she opted out of this season’s Grand Prix. Second, a growth spurt, as she’s grown three inches since last year. And third, the large field of ladies skating, led by Mariah Bell. She had the free skate of her life at last year’s Nationals, finishing 2nd and is coming off her first Grand Prix title at Skate America. 2018 US ladies champ, Bradie Tennell still has the fire to get her title back and has been a consistent skater this season, finishing 2nd at Skate America. Amber Glenn is also a top contender, having finished in 5th place at Skate America last fall.

Skaters to Watch: Senior skater Paige Rynberg was a last minute withdraw because of COVID-19 exposure. A bad break, as she won the virtual qualifying event. This leaves 17 skaters in the field this weekend. Keep your eye on Audrey Shin. She made her senior debut a memorable one, as she found the podium at Skate America, finishing 3rd. This will be her first competition as a senior and she could make a splash in Vegas. Karen Chen will also be a factor.  Of course, the story to root for is former two-time US champ and Olympian, Gracie Gold. She’s fought hard to get back to Nationals two years in a row after a difficult period.

Smooth’s Picks
1. Mariah Bell
2. Bradie Tennell
3. Alysa Liu

gettyimages-1202126949-e1585759847813Pairs: This category was hit hard by the pandemic. Sarah Burden and Matthew Rounis, Winter Deardorff and Mikhail Johnson, and Brynne McIsaac and Mark Sadusky were all forced to withdraw because of COVID-19 exposure. The loss drops the field to 9 teams, with the team of Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier being the slight favorite in the event. The newly formed pairs duo surprised audiences by winning their first ever competition together at Skate America. Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson were caught a bit of guard, but were able to take 2nd. 2019 US pairs champs Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy Leduc will look to get back that spark after a poor showing in Las Vegas, as they finished 4th.

Team to watch: Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov had their best Grand Prix competition showing, finishing 3rd at Skate America. They finished 6th at last year’s nationals and look to improve their showing.

Smooth’s Picks
1. Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier
2. Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy Leduc
3. Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson

hubbell_and_donohue_short_program_new_16x9Ice Dance: Two teams clearly are at the top of the list. Madison Chock and Evan Bates come into the competition as the defending champions. But they decided to opt-out of the Grand Prix series due to the pandemic. Still, they’re the slight favorites to win back-to-back titles. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue didn’t opt-out, and won Skate America with a strong performance. They look for their 3rd US title this weekend. Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker also participated at Skate America and went home with a 2nd place finish. They look to improve on their 3rd place showing at last year’s nationals.

Team to watch: Skate America medalists Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko were forced to withdraw from the competition because of COVID-19 exposure. They were expected to contend for a medal this weekend. Their absence leaves an opening for the remaining eight teams. Keep your eyes on Caroline Green and Michael Parsons. The team missed the podium at Skate America, finishing in 4th and were 5th at last year’s nationals.

Smooth’s Picks
1. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue
2. Madison Chock and Evan Bates
3. Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker

The US Junior Championships take place January 20-21. Here are our picks to win.

201920nationals20lucas20broussard20jvbfs0688

Men – Lucas Broussard

5e2881be45733.image_
Ladies – Isabeau Levito

smirnova_siianytsia
Pairs – Anastasiia Smirnova and Danil Siianytsia

brown_brown_crop
Ice Dance – Oona Brown and Gage Brown

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, ISU, Skating, US Nationals | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Athletes Turning to Porn For a Living is Still a Rare Phenomenon

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Continuing the conversation on my last blog entry, Melissa Bulanhagui (shown above) turning into Jade Kai is unique, as she became the first former figure skater to become a porn star. She made the switch by getting involved in webcamming.  She parlayed that into an exclusive deal to shoot for PornHub. 

Making that kind of career switch is very rare. In fact, only one athlete has been known to have participated in Olympic competition and went on to a career in porn.  With the advent of websites like OnlyFans and FanCentro allowing for exclusive content, you may see more athletes showing their wild side.

Here are a few other athletes that made the switch.

verona

Verona van de Leur – Voted Dutch Sportswoman of the Year in 2002, the decorated gymnast’s downward spiral began following an injury which curtailed her sporting aspirations.

After spending two years homeless and enduring a fractious legal battle with her father, Van de Leur hit rock bottom when she was imprisoned after being convicted of blackmail in 2011.

She says redemption came by working as a porn actress. “Actually I have no regrets because I was living on the streets … I would still do it, so I don’t have any regrets, not the way I did it, no,” she told CNN.

She retired from the business in 2019, but still maintains a website filed with adult content.

Official Websites: Verona’s Adult Film Website

Verona’s Gymnastics Website

melo

Melo Imai – Back in 2006, she represented Japan at the Winter Olympics in Turin as a snowboarder. The then 18-year old abandoned her dreams of Olympic glory for softcore porn after a brutal halfpipe wipeout at the Turin Games caused her to fall out of love with the sport.

Upon her return to Japan, she suffered public humiliation, with commenters calling her “a waste of tax money” and “a national embarrassment”.  Imai supported herself over the years by working in bars, and soon became a hostess and then an escort, working three days at a sex parlor. She moved on to appearing in television programs as a ‘Tarento’ (or celebrities who regularly appear in mass media in Japan, especially as panelists on variety shows.) and as a nude model in pornographic magazines.

Between 2014 and 2016 she appeared in over a dozen nude gravure DVD’s, a genre of softcore pornography. She later stated, “For many athletes, the Olympics are the peak of their career, but for me it was a nightmare.” She suffered from depression, and gave up the sport.

“After the Olympics, I was making as much as a company president, and sometimes I’d go party at a host club and drop $9,000 in a single night,” she said about her gig as a porn star.

Imai returned to snowboarding in 2017, and won gold at the All Japan Snowboarding Championships in 2018.

andrea

Andrea Absolonová – Andrea was better known by her pseudo name, “Lea De Mae”. Born in Czechoslovakia, she was a member of the Czech high diving national team. She injured her spine in an accident diving from a 10m platform when she was training for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

She recovered from her injury, but did not qualify for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Her problems persisted, so she retired from professional sports. After her career ended, she was persuaded by a photographer to pose nude and eventually decided to participate in the adult film industry.

She performed in 80 films in her porn career. In July, 2004, she was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Despite a medical fund set up for her in Prague by fans and fellow porn actors, she died later that year in December at the age of 27.

IAFD: Lea DeMae Biography

lea

Lea Lexus – Born Laura Stan, Lexis’ gymnastics talents saw her become a five-time national champion for Romania, before she quit the sport due to injury at the age of just 14. “I had a double breakage in a muscle,” she said. “Recovery took six months.

After being out for half a year, I was mentally done with gymnastics.”  She eventually found her way into porn which took her to America, where she is now one of the biggest names in the hardcore scene. According to IAFD.com, she’s starred in 688 films during a 13-year career.

She’s currently a Production Manager for Brazzers.

IAFD: Lea Lexus Biography

Posted in Adult Films, Olympics, Winter Olympics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Angel is the Centerfold”, the Transformation of a Former Figure Skater into a Full-Fledged Adult Film Star

While telling this story, I’m reminded of the top 40 hit from the 80’s by the J. Geils Band, “Centerfold”.

She was pure like snowflakes
No one could ever stain
The memory of my angel
Could never cause me pain

Years go by I’m lookin’ through a girly magazine
And there’s my homeroom angel on the pages in-between

My blood runs cold
My memory has just been sold
My angel is the centerfold
Angel is the centerfold

That’s pretty much the reaction I felt when I found out who adult film star Jada Kai really was.

melissa-bulanhagui

Her real name is Melissa Bulanhagui, a former figure skater who competed at US Nationals from 2005 to 2008 and again in 2010 and 2011. She attended the University of Delaware and skated out of Newark, Delaware with the Skating Club of Wilmington. Her highest placement at senior nationals was 8th in 2008. She also captured regional titles in 2006 as a junior and 2010 as a senior.

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In 2012, she competed for the Philippines and won their national ladies’ championship two years in a row (2012, 2013). She would also win bronze at the 2013 Asian Open Trophy (shown above) and competed at two Four Continents Championships, finishing 15th in 2015. That year, Melissa would retire from competitive figure skating.

Career Results from ISU (isuresults.com)

In 2019, she made a bold decision to enter the world of the adult film industry.  In an interview with fellow porn star Asa Akira, Melissa discusses what led to her journey into porn.

“I won (Philippine) nationals and Olympics qualifiers were around the corner, and when I asked the team about the application, they said ‘oh, we’re gonna send the junior champion instead…’ I had sacrificed everything, and I was good.”

“I was burning out, I started drinking so much more.”, she said.

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Dissatisfied with where she was at, when an old friend said he was going to California, she went with him. Looking for work she could do remotely; Melissa became frustrated and decided to watch some porn to relax.

She said: “Then I came across webcamming. I started watching documentaries on them and so I tried it and I made like $200.”

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Melissa now shoots with Pornhub.  “I was able to make cash that night, so I just started doing it. I told my roommate and he was so supportive.”

Wanting to take control of her situation, she began to make her own content.

She said: “I wanted to grow my career a little bit more, and then I got an offer from Reality Kings on their new channel called ‘true amateurs’ and I shot three scenes for them.” Her roommate, porn star producer, director and performer Jackie Knight is also in porn.

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Melissa is still relatively new to the porn world, having been in 24 months. The average career in porn is approx. 3 years.

She said: “I started webcamming two years ago, or three years ago almost.”

According to IAFD.com; Melissa, under the Jada Kai name, has performed in 28 films, mostly online.

Earlier this year, Melissa discussed her experiences on Instagram with pairs figure skater John Coughlin.  Coughlin was accused of unwanted sexual advances on a number of female skaters.  In January, 2019; Coughlin committed suicide one day after being suspended from figure skating for unspecified allegations.  Other skaters have come forward publicly, including former US skater Ashley Wagner.

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As for the future, it’s unknown where her journey will lead to.

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/officialjadakai
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/officialjadakai/

Posted in Adult Films, Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, Skating | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks – 2020 Rostelecom Cup

2020-rostelecom-cup

The Grand Prix circuit returns with regional competition from Moscow. Skaters who have their home skating base in Russia will compete this weekend. Despite the Coronavirus pandemic, there are 60 skaters scheduled to compete.

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Men – Defending European Champion Dmitri Aliev of Russia faces stiff competition in this year’s event. Teammate Mikhail Kolyada returns to the ice after missing last season due to health problems. Georgia’s Morisi Kvitelashvili also looks to take the podium. Also contending is Russia’s Andrei Mozalev, who will debut at the senior level.

Name

Nation

Vladimir LITVINTSEV

AZE

Alexander LEBEDEV

BLR

Morisi KVITELASHVILI

GEO

Dmitri ALIEV

RUS

Petr GUMENNIK

RUS

Makar IGNATOV

RUS

Mikhail KOLYADA

RUS

Artem KOVALEV

RUS

Andrei MOZALEV

RUS

Roman SAVOSIN

RUS

Evgeni SEMENENKO

RUS

Ilya YABLOKOV

RUS

Smooth’s Picks
1. Dmitri Aliev (RUS)
2. Morisi Kvitelashvili (GEO)
3. Andrei Mozalev (RUS)

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Ladies – Lots of drama, as two of the top skaters in the world, Alena Kostornaia (center) and Alexandra Trusova (right), left coach Eteri Tutberidze to skate for Olympic champ, Evgeni Plushenko. Don’t feel bad for Eteri, as she still has Anna Shcherbakova (left) under her wing. All three are favored to medal this weekend. Other skaters looking to make the podium are Sofia Samodurova, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Elizaveta Nugumanova. Evgenia Medvedeva was supposed to skate, but is still experiencing issues with her back and is out of this weekend’s competition.

Name

Nation

Anastasiya GALUSTYAN

ARM

Ekaterina RYABOVA

AZE

Viktoriia SAFONOVA

BLR

Eva-Lotta KIIBUS

EST

Alina URUSHADZE

GEO

Anastasiia GULIAKOVA

RUS

Alena KOSTORNAIA

RUS

Elizaveta NUGUMANOVA

RUS

Sofia SAMODUROVA

RUS

Anna SHCHERBAKOVA

RUS

Alexandra TRUSOVA

RUS

Elizaveta TUKTAMYSHEVA

RUS

Smooth’s Picks
1. Alena Kostornaia (RUS)
2. Alexandra Trusova (RUS)
3. Anna Shcherbakova (RUS)

aleksandra-boikova-and-dmitrii-kozlovskii

Pairs – Reigning European Champions Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii are expected to get a challenge from Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov. World Junior Figure Skating Champions Apollinariia Panfilova and Dmitry Rylov will be making their senior debut this weekend, as are Ksenia Akhanteva and Valeri Kolesov & Iuliia Artemeva and Mikhail Nazarychev.

Name

Nation

Ioulia CHTCHETININA / Mark MAGYAR

HUN

Kseniia AKHANTEVA / Valerii KOLESOV

RUS

Iuliia ARTEMEVA / Mikhail NAZARYCHEV

RUS

Aleksandra BOIKOVA / Dmitrii KOZLOVSKII

RUS

Iasmina KADYROVA / Ivan BALCHENKO

RUS

Anastasia MISHINA / Aleksandr GALLIAMOV

RUS

Apollinariia PANFILOVA / Dmitry RYLOV

RUS

Smooth’s Picks
1. Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii (RUS)
2. Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS)
3. Apollinariia Panfilova and Dmitry Rylov (RUS)

victoria-sinitsina-and-nikita-katsalapov

Ice Dance – This will be a battle between two of the top Russian ice dance teams. Reigning European Champions Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov are expected to lead the competition, along with Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro. Both will get a challenge from teammates Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva and Egor Bazin. Of the non-Russian competing, Lithuania’s Allison Reed and Saulius Ambruvelicius & and Ukraine’s Alexandra Nazarova and Maxim Nikitin.

Name

Nation

Viktoria SEMENJUK / Ilya YUKHIMUK

BLR

Anna YANOVSKAYA / Adam LUKACS

HUN

Allison REED / Saulius AMBRULEVICIUS

LTU

Elizaveta KHUDAIBERDIEVA / Egor BAZIN

RUS

Ekaterina MIRONOVA / Evgenii USTENKO

RUS

Annabelle MOROZOV / Andrei BAGIN

RUS

Victoria SINITSINA / Nikita KATSALAPOV

RUS

Anastasia SKOPTCOVA / Kirill ALESHIN

RUS

Tiffani ZAGORSKI / Jonathan GUERREIRO

RUS

Alexandra NAZAROVA / Maxim NIKITIN

UKR

Smooth’s Picks
1. Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov (RUS)
2. Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro (RUS)
3. Allison Reed and Saulius Ambruvelicius (LTU)

———————————————————————–

cupofchina2020

2020 Cup of China – A very sparse group of teams and skaters competed in Chongqing, China in late October. Here are the results from the event.

Men

Rank

Name

Nation

Points

SP

FS

1

Boyang JIN

CHN

290.89

1

1

2

Han YAN

CHN

264.81

2

2

3

Yudong CHEN

CHN

226.21

3

3

Ladies

           

Rank

Name

Nation

Points

SP

FS

1

Hongyi CHEN

CHN

186.53

1

1

2

Angel LI

CHN

148.33

2

2

3

Minzhi JIN

CHN

135.43

3

4

Pairs

Rank

Name

Nation

Points

SP

FS

1

Cheng PENG / Yang JIN

CHN

223.90

1

1

2

Yuchen WANG / Yihang HUANG

CHN

175.40

2

2

3

Daizifei ZHU / Yuhang LIU

CHN

140.37

3

3

Ice Dance

           

Rank

Name

Nation

Points

RD

FD

1

Shiyue WANG / Xinyu LIU

CHN

206.84

1

1

2

Hong CHEN / Zhuoming SUN

CHN

192.26

2

2

3

Wanqi NING / Chao WANG

CHN

171.90

3

3

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, Russia, Skating | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks – Skate America 2020

2020-Skate-America

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the figure skating world heavily this year.  The ISU has cancelled this year’s Junior Grand Prix events and has changed the format of the Senior Grand Prix to a regional competition.  But a number of important events have been cancelled due to the severity of the virus in countries where events were to have taken place.   Most severely affected was Canada, where the country lost last season’s World Championships in Montreal, and just recently, this year’s Skate Canada, which was scheduled to take place next weekend in Ottawa.  Right now, the city has seen a rise in confirmed positive cases, which has forced it to increase its level to prevent the spread.  Also affected was Grenoble, France, where ISU officials have decided to cancelled the International de France due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. 

As of this blog entry, this year’s Skate America is still scheduled to be held in Las Vegas.  Because of the regional format, a number skaters are getting a chance to perform internationally for the first time on the senior level.   To address health and safety protocols, there won’t be an audience allowed in the arena, and skaters will be in a “bubble” for the duration of their stay, which means they won’t be allowed outside of the arena or the hotel they’re staying at.  The big story of this weekend is who had the best training preparation during the pandemic.  After so many months off the ice, will some skaters falter and flop, or will it be business as usual? 

downloadMen – Nine of the twelve skaters participating this weekend are from the United States, with three international entries.  At the top of the list is Nathan Chen (shown left), the three-time Skate America champ and will look for a fourth title.  His main competition will be from Canadian Keegan Messing, who is currently ranked #12 in the world.  He finished 4th at last year’s Skate America.  Vincent Zhou was 3rd in the world in 2019, and is looking to get back to top form this weekend.  Camden Pulkinen begins his second stint on the senior circuit.  His best finish was 4th at last year’s Skate Canada. 

Here’s the full list of 12 skaters, including competition links.

NameNation
Keegan MESSINGCAN
Alexei BYCHENKOISR
Daniel SAMOHINISR
Nathan CHENUSA
Tomoki HIWATASHIUSA
Joseph KANGUSA
Alexei KRASNOZHONUSA
Jimmy MAUSA
Ilia MALININUSA  
Maxim NAUMOVUSA
Camden PULKINENUSA  
Vincent ZHOUUSA  
Bold: Senior GP Debut

Smooth’s Pick:

1. Nathan Chen (USA)
2. Vincent Zhou (USA)
3. Keegan Messing (CAN)

tumblr_pmteyq8Rse1uwc1x0o1_1280Ladies – In a mostly weak field of skaters that aren’t quite on the level of Japan and Russia, there are still a few skaters that can put together strong performances that will please the judges.  Mariah Bell and Bradie Tennell (shown right) are the top skaters in the field of 11 Americans and one skater from China.  Bell’s best international finish was a win at the Nebelhorn Trophy in 2019. Two 3rd place finishes in Grand Prix action gives her a fighting chance this weekend.  After winning at US Nationals in 2018, Tennell has take a seat to eventual champ Alysa Liu.  That may have broken her confidence internationally, as she took 2nd at last year’s Skate America.  But she’s still a top contender this weekend.  Amber Glenn was looking forward to a strong international season when COVID canceled her season.  She looks to improve on her 7th place finish at Skate America last season.

Here’s the full list of 12 skaters, including competition links.

NameNation
Shan LINCHN
Starr ANDREWSUSA
Mariah BELLUSA
Karen CHENUSA
Amber GLENNUSA
Gracie GOLDUSA
Finley HAWKUSA
Pooja KALYANUSA
Paige RYDBERGUSA
Audrey SHINUSA
Bradie TENNELLUSA 
Bold: Senior GP Debut

Smooth’s Pick:

1. Mariah Bell (USA)
2. Bradie Tenell (USA)
3. Amber Glenn (USA)

gettyimages_1199304436Pairs – The lack of international competition hurts the Americans in the short run, but this could be a preview of nationals in 2021.  At the top of the list is Jessica Calalang & Brian Johnson (shown left), who finally broke out with a 2nd place finish at last year’s US Nationals.  A chance at Worlds was wiped out by COVID, so this is their chance to get their first Grand Prix competition title.  Two teams on their tails are Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea, who won at US Nationals in 2016.  Their best GP finish was 2nd place at Internationaux de France and a Four Continents title, both in 2018. Ashley Cain-Gribble & Tim LeDuc fell off after winning the US pairs title in 2019.  They’re looking to improve on their best Skate America finish in 2018, when the finished 3rd

Here’s the full list of 8 teams, including competition links.

NameNation
Anna VERNIKOV / Evgeni KRASNOPOLSKIISR
Ashley CAIN-GRIBBLE / Timothy LEDUCUSA
Jessica CALALANG / Brian JOHNSONUSA
Emily CHAN / Spencer Akira HOWEUSA
Tarah KAYNE / Danny O’SHEAUSA
Audrey LU / Misha MITROFANOVUSA 
Alexa SCIMECA KNIERIM / Brandon FRAZIERUSA
Olivia SERAFINI / Mervin TRANUSA
Bold: Senior GP Debut

Smooth’s Pick:

1. Jessica Calalang & Brian Johnson (USA)
2. Ashley Cain-Gribble & Tim LeDuc (USA)
3. Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea (USA)

Ice Dance 

hubbell_and_donohue_short_program_new_16x9The loss of Madison Chock and Evan Bates hurts this competition, but there are still some outstanding teams ready take to the ice in their place.  At the head of the field is Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (shown right), who are currently 3rd in the world in ice dance.  The two-time defending champs look to make it three in a row, but they face Kaitlyn Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker, who are looking for their first Grand Prix competition title since winning at NHK Trophy in 2018.  They also won the title at Four Continents in 2018.  Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko won Junior Grand Prix titles in Minsk and Austria in 2017 and have a best finish in Senior Grand Prix action at Rostelecom Cup in 2018.  They will figure into a podium slot this weekend. 

Here’s the full list of 8 teams, including competition links.

NameNation
Emily MONAGHAN / Ilias FOURATIHUN
Christina CARREIRA / Anthony PONOMARENKOUSA  
Molly CESANEK / Yehor YEHOROVUSA
Caroline GREEN / Michael PARSONSUSA 
Kaitlin HAWAYEK / Jean-Luc BAKERUSA 
Madison HUBBELL / Zachary DONOHUEUSA
Lorraine MCNAMARA / Anton SPIRIDONOVUSA 
Eva PATE / Logan BYEUSA 
Bold: Senior GP Debut

Smooth’s Pick

1. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (USA)
2. Kaitlyn Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker (USA)
3. Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko (USA)

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Grand Prix, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, ISU, Predictions, Skate America, Skating | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment