Saturday, April 08, 2006

Kathleen York Oscar Nominated, Other "West Wing" Oscar moments

Arianna Huffington posted at her blog site:
"I'm talking to Basil Walter, the architect who seven years ago started designing the space for the Vanity Fair party. For the dinner he has used cherrywood panels to create walls in which are embedded 13 TVs so that 160 dinner guests can watch the awards. We just finished dining on burrata with a salad of red and yellow tomatoes (which at our table Aaron Sorkin has been eating off Maureen Dowd's plate since quickly clearing his),"

Here is a photo of Aaron Sorkin with Maureen Dowd.

Lily Tomlin presented an honorary Oscar to director Rober Altman.

Kathleen York, who plays Toby's wife Andi Wyatt, did not won in the Best Song category at the Oscars.

From the Los Angeles Daily News:
"There's nothing even the slightest bit "fat" about singer Bird York. Except, she hopes, her voice.

That's York's bit of vocal self-description, by the way: "I want to have my voice be really open and full and fat.

"Strangers tell me it feels like a blanket is put around them when they hear my voice," continues York, who will perform her Oscar-nominated song, "In the Deep," from the film "Crash," during tonight's telecast. "I really like people to be focused on music and the sound of my voice. It's almost if I could blindfold people, I might like to."

Not much hope of that happening tonight, and York (whose first name is actually Kathleen) is ready for the spotlight. When she takes the stage at the Kodak Theatre, the svelte Chicago- raised performer will be wearing a dress that could cost in the vicinity of $40,000. On her feet will be a customized pair of Stuart Weitzman sapphire-and-ruby-encrusted shoes carrying a price tag of $1 million.

Her outfit will be a far cry from the black pants and flat shoes York typically favors when she performs. Then again, who wouldn't get a charge out of being a princess for an evening?

"I think it would be hard to be a girl and not enjoy it," confesses York, who, when she was interviewed, was carrying about $900,000 worth of possible Oscar-night outfits stashed in her car. "People who design clothes, obviously that's their art form. I just don't want to adopt the pressure that there's a little storm of concern over who's wearing what dress, when was it made and has anyone seen it before?

"I'm not in any way clothing-obsessed. I never have been. I'm idea-obsessed and creativity-obsessed. That's where my attention goes."

Point taken. We'll talk about the music.

"In the Deep" continues the collaborative partnership between York and writer/director Paul Haggis, for whose series "Family Law" York would regularly pen songs. In fact, several of the songs on York's newly released album, "Wicked Little High" (Narada/EMI) were first heard on "Family Law."

Accustomed to working quickly, York - who is also an actor with a recurring role on "The West Wing" - would set to work after reading an episode's script, never seeing any shot footage. Similarly, Haggis would never see a song in progress. He'd get the finished product in time to lay it down - seamlessly, according to York - in post-production.

"She is one of the most focused and driven people I've ever met," says Michael Becker, the co-writer and producer of "In the Deep" and several other songs on "Wicked Little High." "She really knows what she wants, and she's tireless when it comes to going for it."

The "Crash" experience worked much the same way. York read the script before the Oscar-nominated ensemble film was ever cast, and she quickly wrote a song that would cover the montage of characters physically and morally adrift in a racially divided Los Angeles.

Inspiration? York references a quote by Leonard Cohen: "There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

"All of the characters are experiencing a crack," she says. "If you're in the deep, you're in this place where you're twirling and you don't know where the bottom is. We wanted something that was comforting in its uncertainty. It's comforting, but it doesn't give you any answers. It doesn't tell you everything's going to be OK at all."

Adds Becker: "I like the way her brain thinks when it comes to creating. The way she creates pictures with words, I respect and find it lends itself well."

York is comfortable writing about loss and uncertainty. She was in her mid-teens when both her parents died, and she turned to writing music and poetry for comfort when nothing else seemed to help.

"This is an ephemeral existence," she says. "For some strange reason, in my culture, they don't prepare you for that. They don't really prepare you for how much things move around. My mom died in an instant, and it was like, 'Oh boy.' Like a cat, you keep trying to find your feet, but not in a rigid way or in a guarded way. That's the challenge - how to stay open, and not live a protected life."

Oscar or no Oscar, York says she receives positive feedback on "In the Deep" practically on a daily basis, as she is one of the few people from the movie "Crash" who is reachable via a Web site (

"People all over the world write to me about their feelings about the film, going back again and again," says York. "It's really touched something in people that I didn't know it would."

"Wicked Little High" is her third CD, and the first to be released on a major label. It's an album for grown-ups, she says, for the nighttime, when people are willing to be drugged and hypnotized.

"I like to go to my CD collection at a certain time at night and find something that's going to be very vibey," says York. "You can kind of dial in a vibe, and you're not going to have to be skipping through songs because something's going to be too alarming for 11 at night. So, yeah, I wanted something a little sensual, something that maybe gets you to want to make out with somebody."

From the New York Times:
"What most musicians mean by "day job" is something steady that can pay the bills. For Kathleen York, a singer-songwriter of sultry, ethereal tunes, what has always paid her bills is a career as uncertain as music: acting

Viewers may recognize Ms. York as the congresswoman ex-wife of Toby Ziegler on "The West Wing," as the libidinous mother Renee Wheeler on "The O.C." or as the masseuse who memorably pleasured Larry David on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." The last time anyone saw her sing on television was in 1995, when she played Naomi Judd in the NBC biopic "Love Can Build a Bridge."

Ms. York's audience will be decidedly larger next Sunday when she is scheduled to perform at the Academy Awards. The song "In the Deep," which she wrote with Michael Becker for the drama "Crash," is up for an Oscar.

"I don't know if I've had such a thing as a big acting break," Ms. York said by telephone from her home in Los Angeles, "but being nominated for an Oscar has definitely been a big music break."

For years, Ms. York, who records as Bird York, released her own albums and lobbied successfully to get her songs onto the soundtracks of "Nip/Tuck" and other shows, as well as small films like "Shelter Island." Now she has a major-label release, "Wicked Little High" on Narada/EMI, and a music agent at Creative Artists. "For me, her music is something akin to drinking ground glass in honey," Paul Haggis, the director and co-writer of "Crash" said. "It goes down smooth and sweet, and then it just cuts you to shreds."

The breakthrough has been a long time coming for Ms. York, who will not reveal her age. At 15, she ran away from home in Chicago after her parents died and wound up in Los Angeles. But "trying to get a band together was like wrangling cats," she recalled. "As an actor, I only had to rely on myself to show up."

Over the years, hoping her music career would take off, she turned down long-term roles on series. (One audition led to friendship with Mr. Haggis and the "Crash" job.) Eventually she realized that "the trying-to-control-things line of thinking doesn't work," she said.

Though her music is just now gaining wider attention, Ms. York has embarked on yet another field: she wrote two series pilots and sold them to Sony and John Wells Productions. Which career will dominate? "It's like a faucet," she said. "I don't see why I have to shut any of it off."

From Reuters:
"The third contender is alternative rock trance song "In the Deep" from the film, "Crash," an explosive drama about racial tensions. It will be performed by Kathleen "Bird" York, who co-wrote it with Michael Becker.

Having the songwriters perform their own songs marks a change from last year, when the Academy tapped singers other than the songwriters, like Beyonce and Antonio Banderas, to perform the nominated songs.

"The great victory is that I'm going to be able to reach a lot of people with music that's very close to the bone," said York, who also is an actress with a recurring role on television's "West Wing." "I did not write an obvious crowd pleaser or a radio hit."

Kathleen York, who plays Andi Wyatt, is nominated for an Oscar in the Best Song Category for a song she performed for the film "Crash".

She has also released a new CD "Wicked Little High" which is available for sale and on Itunes. (Thansk, Hae.)

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