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Nanaimo News Bulletin’s most-clicked arts and entertainment stories of 2023

Local writers, singers, artists and content creators made the top 10 list of most-read articles
Bianca Blakney, also known as Pinup Pixie, left, and photographer Sarah Bowman during a photoshoot at Bowman’s studio. (Mandy Moraes/News Bulletin)

1. Pamela Anderson makes bare-faced appearance at Paris Fashion Week, Oct. 8

Model, actor and Ladysmith resident Pamela Anderson ditched the makeup and embraced her natural look at Paris Fashion Week. From Sept. 25-Oct. 3, celebrities, models, and designers gathered in Paris to highlight the best in modern fashion, and the former Baywatch star had spectators floored at the Sept. 28 Isabel Marant show.

“An adventure in Paris with fresh eyes,” Anderson posted on Instagram. “There is beauty in self-acceptance, imperfection and love.”

Fellow actor Jamie Lee Curtis took to Instagram to praise Anderson, saying “the natural beauty revolution has officially begun. I am so impressed and floored by this act of courage and rebellion.”

2. Real-life murder case in Nanaimo inspires author’s latest novel, Sept. 4

A Nanaimo-born writer based his latest work on the mysterious deaths surrounding two teenagers in the ’60s.

Author Kim Blank said the idea to write The Watchers’ Club was tucked away until he recently discovered a newspaper clipping in a box of childhood memories and trivia.

“I can vaguely remember some closeted talk around our house when the [Nanaimo] murder of Diane Phipps and her boyfriend Leslie Dixon took place,” he said in an e-mail to the News Bulletin. “My older sister was very close in age to Diane, whom she also knew a bit. It was, then, more than just a distant news event.”

At the time, Blank recalled Nanaimo as a small but rapidly growing town where everyone seemed to know each other, especially in the outlying neighbourhoods. The parallels between the true crime and what happens in The Watchers’ Club are both close and distant, and the location of the murders – Piper’s Lagoon – was where Blank and his family would often go swimming. However, the perpetrator and resolution in his story differ from the actual crime.

3. Nanaimo writer recounts criminal life of Ladysmith drug smuggler, Jan. 4

A Nanaimo author, local historian and investigative journalist has finally published a story that was put into abeyance until five years after the death of a notorious drug lord from Ladysmith.

Daryl Ashby’s Nobody’s Boy: Ralph Harris – The Northern Connection recounts the life and criminal activity of Ralph Ross Harris, who was charged with 13 offences but never convicted.

As the author suggested, his latest book, which was published in mid-November, can be viewed as a sequel to his previous work, 85 Grams: Art Williams – Drug Czar, in that Harris assumed the market and production for the ‘love drug’ MDA following Williams’s disappearance in the late ’70s. Unlike Williams, whom the author described as someone who detested violence in all forms, Harris did not shy away from brutality.

“In fact, if anything, he seemed to be prone towards lethal violence and seemed to find pleasure in it,” Ashby said.

4. Iconic Canadian rock band April Wine playing Nanaimo show, June 10

A Canadian Music Hall of Fame band brought its best hits to town in June.

According to a release, the platinum-selling, Halifax-founded group April Wine rocked the Port Theatre stage on June 15 while they toured Western Canada.

The band enjoyed international success in the ’70s and ’80s, releasing more than 20 albums since 1971 and selling more than 20 million albums worldwide. In 2009, the band was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award for being part of Canadian music history for 40 years, and was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

5. Three-storey mural splashes colour in downtown Nanaimo, July 28

A mural covering an entire wall of a three-storey building was nearing completion in downtown Nanaimo at the end of July.

Artist Mehran Razmpoosh started on the image a year ago and was atop a lift to put the finishing touches on the mural depicting a B.C. coast scene with orcas, large trees and coast mountains.

The art was commissioned by Maike Marnet of Marnet Real Estate Services.

Razmpoosh, originally from Iran but now based in Vancouver, said there are a number of smaller murals planned for Nanaimo after the three-storey one was complete. He has created about 100 murals in B.C. including 20 in Port Hardy.

6. Nanaimo’s Lauren Spencer-Smith receives two Juno Awards nominations, July 31

Nanaimo’s rising pop star Lauren Spencer-Smith just keeps on rising as she returned, again, for “Canada’s biggest night in music.”

The 20-year-old was one of five musicians nominated for the highly coveted Artist of the Year award at this year’s Junos.

The awards show, which was broadcast from Rogers Place arena in Edmonton on March 13, saw Spencer-Smith pitted against such prominent names as Michael Bublé, Shawn Mendes, The Weeknd, and Avril Lavigne.

This year’s round of nominations was the second time Spencer-Smith’s work has been recognized by the awards show, as her debut album Unplugged Vol. 1 was also up for an Adult Contemporary Album of the Year award in 2020.

Last year, she also performed at the Junos in Toronto, as well as appeared on network television for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2023.

7. All four ‘Canada’s Got Talent’ judges say yes to Lantzville singer Raymond Salgado, April 12

Lantzville’s Raymond Salgado was one of the best the Canada’s Got Talent judges have heard.

The 25-year-old singer went before Howie Mandel, Lilly Singh, Kardinal Offishall and Trish Stratus on the April 11 episode of the national reality talent show and amazed all four judges with his vocal chops. Salgado showcased his talent on the OLG Stage at the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls and sang Bryan Adams’s Heaven, earning himself four ‘yeses’ across the board and a standing ovation.

On social media, the singer posted a video showing him excitedly celebrating the win with show host Lindsay Ell, and wrote that he considers it a “full circle” moment he’s dreamed of since he was a child.

8. Diana Krall shows up for surprise performance at Nanaimo jazz festival, Sept. 18

A surprise appearance stunned the Port Theatre audience in September during a special homage performance.

While groovy tunes and funky New Orleans flair could be seen and heard in the downtown core during the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival, Sept. 15-17, the highlight was a performance by jazz superstar Diana Krall.

Krall showed up at the Port Theatre on Sept. 16 during an all-star concert honouring beloved music mentor Bryan Stovell.

Reportedly, “the air pressure dropped from all the gasping” as Krall walked across the stage to embrace Stovell. She handed him a small stack of records that she had borrowed and kept “under her bed for 30 years,” before performing her song How Deep is the Ocean.

The all-star concert also featured a performance by the Connor Stewart Sextet, Decadence and the Nanaimo Musicians’ Association Big Band. The Wellington Jazz Band provided pre-show music in the lobby.

9. Vancouver Island TikToker aims for the stars with ‘retro-futurism’ aesthetic, July 21

A central Island woman has created an “unrealistic aesthetic” and in the process, built a social media following.

Bianca Blakney, 26, known online as Pinup Pixie, is a social media personality and cosplay content creator from Nanaimo-Ladysmith known for her short-form retro-inspired cosplay.

The origins of her platform started roughly seven years ago when she met and befriended Sarah Bowman, of Sarah Bowman Portraits, who offered to hold a free photo shoot for the then fantasy cosplayer. At the time, Blakney said she agreed to the photo shoot as a way to distract herself from a family member’s death.

Three years later, in 2019, was when she really started to push content in hopes of building a name for herself after noticing the rise of other influencers. From that humble beginning, Blakney has amassed nearly 12 million followers on TikTok and more than 433,000 followers on Instagram.

10. Island dance duo Funkanometry competes in Nanaimo dance battle, Feb. 23

The beats were pumping and the crowd was jumping at a Nanaimo dance studio in February during a freestyle competition.

Vibrant Dance Studio was at full capacity and saw several dozens of competitors during its 11th edition of BattleZone from Feb. 17-19. Amidst the two-day battling, studio owner and director, Serra Stewart, said BattleZone also featured special performances including Vancouver Island’s own Carlow Rush and Jacksun Fryer of Funkanometry.

Stewart said the competition originated as a passion project about 12 years ago when her studio’s dance instructor A.J. (Megaman) Kambere proposed the idea. Since then, Kambere had been the driving force behind the annual event. This year’s battle was particularly special since it was Kambere’s last before he left to pursue education in the medical field, although Stewart noted that Vibe intends to continue hosting BattleZone competitions.

About the Author: Nanaimo Bulletin News Staff

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