Dennis J. Freeman

Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.

LOS ANGELES-Stars like the shine of the spotlight. They also like the perks that come with being a celebrity. That includes stacking up on the freebies that is usually doled out with regular aplomb at any given awards show.

The glam came of the 58th Annual Grammy Awards started long before the stars hit up the red carpet and graced the stage at Staples Center. The party started a couple of days prior to the music industry’s version of the Academy Awards took place in downtown Los Angeles.

Any time there is some big-time awards show, you can bet your bottom boots that an awards gifting suite for the stars, is not too far away. After all, this is Hollywood, the land of good-looking people, fine dining, hot cars and the best in entertainment. The entertainment part was golden at the GRAMMY Gift Lounge, an event presented by Distinctive Assets and sponsored by “Tools By Gina.”

The makeup of this gifting lounge had all the variables that could make for good shopping. What’s the big deal about a gift suite? Well, this where the businesses and vendors show up to woo stars with their products, hoping their brand will get some kind of shout out or attachment by a celebrity. For the hottest music event around-the Grammys-it was pertinent for some to get their name out in front of that crowd.

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12: Bella Harris (L) and music producer Jimmy Jam attend the GRAMMY Gift Lounge during The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/WireImage)
Bella Harris (L) and music producer Jimmy Jam attend the GRAMMY Gift Lounge during The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/WireImage)

Chef Phillip Ashley Rix brought his line of tasty chocolates to the party. So popular and known is Phillip Ashley Chocolates that one publication have gone to the length to dub the Memphis, Tennessee native Rix as the “Real Life Willie Wonka.” Now that is a mouthful of hyperbole. But the hype is nothing like the real deal.

It was all good as one celebrity after another would wandered by and forced themselves to stop by Rix’s gorgeous outline of delicious eateries. And who doesn’t like a nice bite of chocolate in their mouth? With this being the first time that Phillip Ashley Chocolates staking a claim inside the Grammys gifting suite, Rix was elated about the notoriety he received.

“We were invited to the Grammys,” Rix said. “We’re doing the gifting lounge, but we’re also doing the official celebration. We did 6,000 boxes of 23-karat gold salted pecan prelaines. We came out from Memphis just to show what we do out there, but we ship our chocolates all over the country.

“This is a big thing; we’ve gotten a lot of press prior to coming, just the preparation and everything, but the exposure that’ll come from something like this…having the talent to come through and see what we do, giving us a platform to showcase it. We execute on a very high, high level when it comes to chocolate, and the time and the effort that we put in, so it means a lot. ”

Musician Bruce Witkin attends the GRAMMY Gift Lounge during The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/WireImage)
Musician Bruce Witkin attends the GRAMMY Gift Lounge during The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/WireImage)

Working in corporate America, Rix said he eventually wanted to try his hand at doing something different. Something different was going out on a limb and piping his curiosity in exploring new ways to make eating chocolate an experience for potential customers, Rix said.

So he shelved the suit and tie for a chef apron and went to work in trying to make that median work. So far, Rix’s experiment has worked out wonderfully. What Rix has been able to come up with is an awesome display of chocolate yummies that’ll have you hopping in line for.

Among the mainstay 32 mouth-watering flavors that the Phillip Ashley Chocolates collection consists of is Wonder Woman Bing Cherry Pomegranate, Sweet Georgia Peach Cobbler, Tennessee Whiskey Coffee, Pineapple Banana Rum, Memphis BBQ, Savoy St. Agur French Bleu Cheese, and Mama Jean Sweet Potato.

“I really wanted to do something different, completely different from what I was doing from an corporate America standpoint,” Rix said. “When I went into chocolates…at the time, I felt there wasn’t a voice that wasn’t being expressed in chocolate, like doing things like barbecue with chocolate, putting in blue cheese with chocolate, and putting all kinds of other ingridients that we do, like beer hots and coffee grinds and chocolate. We’re very creative; I’m always thinking about new ways to push the boundaries with chocolates. We have a vegan collection that’s coming out in March. We do seasonal collections, plus we have our signature flavors.”

As far as his own favorite?

My favorite is Flute (Champagne), which is a champagne chocolate,” Rix said. “I’m just a big champagne man. Every chocolate has a name because every chocolate should tell a story.”

Actor/ musician Johnny Depp (C) of The Hollywood Vampires and Tools by Gina founder Gina Rivera attend the GRAMMY Gift Lounge during The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/WireImage)
Actor/ musician Johnny Depp (C) of The Hollywood Vampires and Tools by Gina founder Gina Rivera attend the GRAMMY Gift Lounge during The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/WireImage)

Celebrity stylist Gina Rivera knows something about telling a story or two about the hair styling industry. The “Tools by Gina” owner has been in the hair styling business for years. She comes from a family of hairstylists.  She has her own chain of  hair salons all over the country. Now she wants to introduce her own brand of the flat iron, more specifically the Infra Red Flat Iron, a digitally-controlled product that can reach 450 degrees, for the consumer, and not just for celebrities.

Despite the high heat it brings, the Infra Red Flat Iron is designed to keep moisture in the hair instead of drying it out.

“Smart technology is everything going,” Rivera said. “Nowadays and forever, women blow dry and curl their hair, flat iron it and it can become very damaged. We’re the first company to bring Infra Red, the technology, and pot tools into the United States, so I am really excited about it.

“What it (Infra Red Flat Iron) does is…conventional blow dryers and flat irons and curling irons, the wave lengths aren’t as long, so it dries the hair. So the Infra Red (Flat Iron) actually penetrates inside the vortex of the hair, causing the hair to lock in the moisture of the hair. It is actually very healing for the hair. The curls last two to three days. There’s so many features and benefits to the tools, and it’s really revolutionizing.”