TODAY AND TOMORROW, REV. ROGER McPHAIL, founder and senior pastor of Bay Ridge’s Gateway City Church, with his wife Teresa, will play host to the local arm of a global phenomenon: the mega-church annual leadership seminar originating at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill. McPhail’s church, now 18 years old, will be one of more than 150 locations in North America to receive live satellite feed from Willow Creek. Nancy Liatsis, Gateway’s musical director, was first in charge of public relations, but, as of a few days before the event, had taken over the role of producer on the local end. She was finding it to be a whole lot of work.
“It’s like producing a TV show!” she said. “They are very high tech. I am just getting the hang of it myself.”
Liatsis says the church has been prepping for the event for months. During the days immediately preceding the summit, she sat into multiple chatroom meetings per day with all the other North American directors and producers, ensuring that the satellite feed works and eliminating as many glitches as possible. A new feature added this year is unscripted Q&A time — during breaks in the broadcast sessions, participants can text questions to Willow Creek, which will be answered on the rolling feed. A grand total of 100,000 business and church leaders will come together via satellite for The Leadership Summit 2008. Gateway is the Brooklyn-Staten Island site; the other boroughs each have their own.
This is the 13th incarnation of this massive assembly, where the focus is on building leadership — and not just for religious institutions, according to the summit’s organizers. In fact, they say, a number of secular companies use it as an employee training event for the leadership and motivational aspects, although the foundation is church-based.
The list of speakers includes Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, Brad Anderson, CEO of Best Buy, Catherine Rohr, founder of the nonprofit Prison Entrepreneurship Program, and, leading it all, Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington.
MUSICIAN SAMUEL CLAIBORNE, a native of Cobble Hill who attended St. Ann’s School, has received a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts for two tracks on his newest CD, “The Annunciation.” This achievement is made all the sweeter by the fact that Claiborne was in a life-threatening accident in 1992 that crushed his spinal cord and left him temporarily paralyzed. It took him seven years to recover almost full use of his body, but he is again composing, recording and performing on stage.
He says that during the healing process, he came to a deeper understanding of the power of music as a force in his life and the lives of others. Claiborne, who now resides in High Falls, N.Y., was awarded unrestricted funds in the amount of $7,000, which he will use to compose more music.
“While I appreciate the money immensely, especially as a father with two kids in college, the affirmation that the NYFA grant has given me is absolutely priceless. This grant has told me that my work is indeed reaching people, and it gives me the strength to persevere both as a composer and as a performer,” said Claiborne, who is also a published poet, essayist, visual artist and photographer.
OUT OF TOWN:
IT WAS ALBERT ROTHMAN’S Depression-era, Jewish Brooklyn childhood, so memorable and full of characters, that prompted him to write his memoir, A Brooklyn Odyssey — Travails and Joys of a Boy’s Early Life, replete with anecdotes about his large family and his own boisterous and largely outdoor adventures.
Stories include tasting Coca-Cola for the first time at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, attending a workshop with baseball legend Lou Gehrig and being invited to a Benny Goodman concert, where Rothman encountered a young Peggy Lee.
More recently, in 1987, Rothman made a solo 10-week journey in his truck-camper and hiked every day in every national park from Nebraska to the West Coast. The author, who still hikes today, and who has previously published and won prizes for his poetry, short stories and essays, is contemplating writing a travel memoir about his hiking trips.
Born in 1924, Rothman earned his doctorate in chemistry and chemical engineering from UC Berkeley in 1954. He has lived in the Bay Area since 1948.
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THE CAREER OF JESSE CUTLER, born and raised in Ridgewood, is a model of longevity that has criss-crossed the country and numerous channels of business and show business over a 40-year span. He fell into the limelight at a young age, and continued on to a career that involved music, composition, acting, producing, entrepreneurship — even a gig as a Playgirl centerfold.
Cutler’s autobiography, “StarLust: The Price of Fame,” due in September, chronicles his life from his beginnings in Brooklyn, through his teen rock-star years, and on to Broadway where his work as part of the original cast of “Godspell” won him a Grammy Award. Despite Cutler’s achievements, “StarLust” reads as a cautionary tale about weighing the benefits and struggles of an intensely public life. He asks would-be celebrities and their parents, “Are you willing to pay the price?” Paul Shaffer, David Letterman’s bandleader and a good friend of Cutler’s since his “Godspell” days, contributed the foreword.
After Cutler’s first band, the Young Executives, saw their single “Everybody Do the Duck” hit the Billboard Top 100 charts, they were invited to appear on “American Bandstand,” “The Merv Griffin Show” and “Shindig.” At charity fundraisers and private parties on Long Island, Cutler says they played in the company of The Rolling Stones, Sammy Davis, Jr., Barbra Streisand, Joan Collins and the Beatles.
“It was the Sixties,” Cutler says of that time. “With my dad as the band’s manager, we had entrée to places and people very few other Long Island kids would have had.”
Next stop was “Godspell,” for which he played 800 consecutive performances during 1971 and 1972, first at the Cherry Lane Theatre off-Broadway, then at the Promenade Theatre on Broadway. He also co-arranged the score for the Arista Records original cast recording and the movie soundtrack. Both albums were awarded gold and platinum records, and Cutler won a Grammy for his work.
At 21 years old, Cutler was signed to new record label Brut Records, which Cutler calls his “coup,” because through the multiyear contract he alternately traveled the world and resided in an Upper East Side penthouse.
“The world was at my feet — that’s how I felt at the time,” he says. “Here I was, a second-generation Italian kid from Brooklyn, and I’m seeing my pic-ture in Harper’s Bazaar.” The list of projects, roles and activities goes on 20 years more, but Cutler has kept a lower profile for the last decade, which gave him an opportunity to reflect.
“I wanted to share my experiences and help those who are on the edge of fame,” he says. “There are so many traps to avoid. But there’s also a great sense of accomplishment and reward once you do grab that brass ring and enter the spotlight.”