Sunday, August 18, 2013




(Huntsville, Alabama)  It is premiere weekend and if you haven't see "THE BUTLER," yet, shame on you!  It is one of the most anticipated movies of the summer and it is "brilliantly and beautifully crafted!" Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey are "first rate" in their roles!  It is bold,  thought provoking, emotional and awe-inspiring!  From the opening frame to the closing credits, you feel the raw, colorful, explosive, emotional journey of our American history through the eyes of an ordinary middle class-family pushed through extraordinary challenges.

This movie has an impressive supporting cast with a slew of cameos, but it is Oprah fans who are in for a real treat. After more than a decade, the former "Daytime Diva," redeems herself on the silver screen as Gloria Gaines.  She nails the "southern, gentile demeanor" of this wife and mother during the turbulent times of the 60's.  Her scene at the dinner table where she literally slaps her militant son back into reality when it comes to "respecting your elders" is memorable.

Side note: I would love to know how much of Oprah's character's torrid, hot affair with Terrance Howard's womanizing character ended up on the editing room floor.  I also found it ironic that this movie which includes a scene from the election of President Barack Obama,  has one of the richest black women in the world portraying the wife of a White House servant.

Forest Whitaker comes full circle with his acting chops in his role as Cecil Gaines. This veteran actor cleverly shows us how even a "butler" in The White House had the potential to influence important legislation through seven Presidential administrations. The famed star is excellent in his portrayal of Cecil Gaines, a humble, "unsung hero" who has his own "spiritual awakening." The Butler truly is a vivid reminder of how one quiet voice can truly ignite a revolution!

I shall never forget the scene and message from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in the movie.  King reminds Gaines's son, who ashamed and often disrespectful to his father of the significance of the butler's role in the White House.  Dr. King reminds the most militant member of this iconic family that a role of a "domestic" is one of honor because it speaks directly to the domestics' "integrity, character and work ethic!"

Never before has a more edgy, candid portrayal of the "Freedom Riders" during the Civil Rights Era been placed on the silver screen. I'm still shivering from the coffee, lunch-room sit-in scene that literally sucks the wind out of every person sitting in the theater as it plays out in living color during a time when blacks and whites were still trying to find their place in this country. It is by far one of the most prolific scenes because it speaks to the sacrifice made during the movement. To see America's youth, many of them as young as 13 years old stand strong and defiant in the face of segregation.  I'm reminded of the "lessons learned" as a general assignment reporter in Birmingham researching this iconic era and learning first hand about the tremendous sacrifice of the "Freedom Riders," black and white!

"The Butler" is a real-life story that serves as "sobering reminder" of the "giant shoulders"we're all standing on in this country today. It is a bold slap across the face to those of us who have forgotten the struggle.  It brilliantly depicts how far we've come and how much more work that's left to be done!

I am proud to say in Huntsville, Alabama where I viewed the movie,  everyone in the theater--black and white,--young and old stood on their feet and applauded with approval at the closing credits.  Perhaps a people who have enjoyed the benefits of Cecil Gaines's sacrifice, leaving with a new found respect for the domestic who influence history in his own way.

Lee Daniels' -"The Butler" is an era-spanning, Oscar hopeful,  historical, Civil Rights drama that is worth your time.  See it two times, it's just that extraordinary!

Sunday, August 11, 2013


"Southern Songbird About To Take Flight"

(Huntsville, AL.) --Varion Walton still knows how to go out and get the "BIG ENTERTAINMENT STORY!" Check out this VISION/VOICE/VARION EXCLUSIVE with one of the hottest music producers, Kelvin Wooten (Django Unchained) and his new protege' who is earning comparison's to Whitney Houston.  Introducing, 15 year old "Halo" Wheeler! 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


George Duke, Legendary Jazz Keyboardist, Dies at 67

George Duke, the legendary jazz artist whose music played more like the soundtrack to our lives died on Monday, according to his publicist. His career spanned five decades and his music credits and collaborations includes other iconic artists such as Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, George Clinton, Anita Baker and one of my favorites Rachelle Ferrell.

I believe it was my best friend Gina Brown who introduced me to George Duke during our freshmen year at the University of South Alabama. Though Gina was more familiar with jazz than me the age of 17, it didn't take long for me to share in her passion for the sweet, sultry sounds of this iconic keyboard player that would only described as "musical sunshine."  For years it served as my first and best example of jazz and fusion in its purest form.

Today, I join the world in saying though his voice has been silenced; his music, memory and contribution in revolutionizing jazz in its purest form will live on forever.

Check out one of George Duke's last interviews recorded last month (July 13th), he talked about his new album entitled "Dreamweaver" which is a tribute to his dearly departed wife Corine, who died one year ago from cancer.

Friday, August 2, 2013

342 Dead Across the South....250 Killed in Alabama Alone!

342 Dead Across the South....250 Killed in Alabama Alone!
By: Varion Walton
(Harvest, Ala.)—4 days in and it’s still difficult to wrap your mind around the unbelievable amount of damage and devastation. I traveled to some of the hardest hit areas in Central and North Alabama to hear the stories of survival and heartbreaking tragedies first hand. 
My first stop was Harvest, Alabama a small town just east of Huntsville heavily damaged by the storm. What I saw was beyond my worst fears! Entire subdivisions flattened.  What used to be homes now appear to be simply piles of wooden matchsticks. Huge trees have fallen, cars are scattered all over the place.    
The worst image was the pile of mangled mess which used to be Eva Ragland’s home. The only thing left standing is the steps leading to what used to be her front door.  Beyond that is the concrete foundation for a home that is no longer there.  

I witnessed the elderly Harvest woman literally picking up the pieces of her life! Everything she owned was either destroyed or reduced to a pile of rubble. I found her sifting through broken glass, rain and mud soaked furniture, desperately trying to salvage many of her priceless possessions. 
She appeared physically exhausted, wearing a dark blue skull cap, blue jeans and a tattered sweat shirt. Ms. Ragland recalled those horrifying moments the day before when she was terrorized by the killer tornado! “It got real dark and then I heard a whistling noise.” The wind started picking up and it sounded like something was scratching at the walls,” recalled Ragland.storm
“I looked out the door and the wind had thrown my truck 600 feet.  It landed in my neighbor’s yard three houses over. That’s when I knew it was too late for me to leave home,” recalled Ragland. When I was running through the house the wood on my kitchen floor started separating. It looked more like someone was playing an accordion. When I finally made it to the bathtub I just fell to my knees and started praying,” Ragland said. 
Her home of 26 years was no match for the 200 mph winds which cut a path of destruction across North Alabama; killing hundreds, destroying lives and property.  What took her nearly a life-time to build was destroyed in mere seconds. The house completely collapsed around her, but, in the aftermath and recovery Eva Ragland is still counting her blessings. She lost her home, but not her life! “I’m still here”, proclaimed Ragland. “I’ve been through tornadoes in this house before, but this time I can truly tell the world I’m a survivor. I’ve lost everything, my car, my house, but I still have my life. Even during those frightening moments I just knew God was going to take care of me.  It shook my house, but nothing will ever shake my faith and belief in God, I’m still blessed I tell you, I’m still blessed,” exclaimed Ragland. 
She’s not alone! Right now dozens of others are gladly sharing in the burden of recovery.  Before the storm Eva Ragland and Patrick Neal were strangers. In fact, Neal lives on the other side of town. But the day after the storm he, his wife and children showed up with a trunk filled with ice coolers, bottled water and Power Aid trying to be good neighbors. “We just felt so helpless sitting at home and I wanted to do something to help those who have lost everything,” said Neal.
storm-ruble“Right now we’re struggling with no electricity on the other side of town, but we’re definitely in this thing together,” said Neal.  If bottled water or Power Aid can help boost somebody’s spirits it’s the least we can do.  “We’re here to give them a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear or simply to pray with and for them. We’re all in this together.  My house was spared this time, but who is to say someday she might have to do the same for me someday.  We’re all in this together,” Neal said.  Meantime, Eva Ragland says she’s simply grateful for her good neighbors.  “I thank God for my neighbors and friends. I’m blessed to be surrounded by such caring people,” Ragland said.
Strangers no more, they are storm victims and survivors working together on a mission of relief and recovery, one day at a time.