Tag Archives: Brian Simpson

Roger’s Rave Reviews: Dave Koz, Janet Evanovich, and the CT Boxing Hall of Fame

by Roger Zotti

Dave Koz

It was the best encore I ever saw. Dave Koz, the great saxophonist, and his incredibly talented band – Bill Sharpe, Randy Jacobs, Brian Simpson, Steveo Faye, and Ronnie Gutierez – began playing “You Make Me Smile” and then went into the audience for what can be called a up close and personal final touch. It doesn’t get any better!

Highlights of Dave’s June 20 show, at the Mohegan Sun Cabaret Theater, included his Grammy nominated “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” from his “At the Movies” CD. “The song is seventy years old, and I know you’ll recognize it,” Dave said: “It was a fun album to record because the songs were so [integral] to the films.”

Other highlights were several tracks from “The Dance” CD: the title cut, the arresting “Surrender,” and “Can’t Let You Go (The Sha la Song).” (He fired up everyone with “The Sha la Song” by dividing the crowd into three sections and having them compete vocally against each other.)

Dave Koz is an enormously talented musician. Accessible, energetic, and personable, he’s athletic, too – he moves around the stage as if he owns it and, while he’s performing, he does.

Janet Evanovich at MGM Grand

“I always hated reading, until I read Janet Evanovich,” said Chris of East Granby. “I’ve read all the Stephanie Plum series and most of what’s come in between.” Chris was in the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods, June 17, to listen to the best-selling author read from and sign her latest novel, “Fearless Fourteen.” (St. Martin’s Press).

With Janet, though, you get not only a reading and signing, but also a live band (Doublefisted), videos, and Mooner imitations. (William “Mooner” Dunphy is, of course, a recurring character in the Stephanie Plum series.)

Before Janet began her reading, she told the audience: “If it gets boring, just talk among yourselves.” Then she read from Chapter One of “Fearless Fourteen”: “…my kitchen is filled with crackers and cheese, roast chicken leftovers…Truth is, I would clearly love to be a domestic goddess, but the birthday cake keeps getting eaten…My name is Stephanie Plum… and I don’t have any communicable diseases.” Not to worry: Janet’s reading wasn’t boring. After all, what’s more interesting than listening to an author read passages from his/her work?

Janet said she started writing as a romance novelist: “But because I liked the chase and the adventure, I reinvented myself.” She did “a lot of reading in the crime genre” and began writing crime fiction.” Janet noted that 1988’s “Midnight Run,” with Robert De Niro as bounty hunter Jack Walsh, influenced her. (Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter.)

Asked why she writes her Plum novels in the first person, as opposed to the third, Janet said, “It’s more intimate. Of course, it’s limited to what only Stephanie sees and hears.” Janet admitted that with the first person narrative, she doesn’t have to write much narrative – which, she added, “I suck at.”

Will any of her books be made into movies? Tri-Star Pictures is interested in her Stephanie Plum novels, Janet said: “But by the time they get around to it, I’ll be on oxygen.” As for who she’d like play Stephanie, Janet favors Sandra Bullock.

Grand Opening

Former welterweight contender and 2006 CT Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Gaspar Ortega was there, and so was former welterweight champion Marlon Starling, a 2005 inductee. Other inductees present were Manny Liebert, Lou Bogash, and Joe Rossi. (Apologies to any inductee I missed.) The event was the Grand Opening of the CT Boxing Hall of Fame, which is now housed in the concourse of the Mohegan Sun Casino Arena.

Gaspar, who’s in his seventies and was a top welterweight from 1956-64, had his first pro fight at seventeen. His overall record stands at 131-39-6 (69 knockouts). Of his 176 bouts, 44 were on national television. Incredible! Back then, Gaspar told Stu Rosen of South Windsor, fighters didn’t take a vacation after a bout. “I fought on a Friday night and was back in the gym training on Saturday.”

So, the night was a success. “All the feedback about the grand opening that I got,” said Mike Murtha, Vice-president of the CT Boxing Hall of Fame, “has been positive. We wanted to memorialize these CT fighters, and with the help of Mohegan Sun, our commission, and a lot of other folks involved, we saw it through.”