Tom Brandau knows what he'll be watchingCan...


Tom Brandau knows what he'll be watching

Can two old men take on eight hormone-driven kids?

Tom Brandau plans to find out Wednesday when his film, "Sonny & Cornblatt," makes its TV debut against Fox 45's popular "Melrose Place."

Never mind that Mr. Brandau works as a producer-director for WBFF, the Fox TV station here. He's clear about what he and his friends will be watching.

" 'Sonny & Cornblatt,' " he says. "There's even a little bit of sex in it. Or at least an inference of sex."

The half-hour comedy-drama, which airs on Maryland Public Television at 9 p.m., focuses on two widowers from different worlds who become friends.

After having devoted two years to the project, the Towson State grad has relished watching it win several awards.

"It's not about being black or Jewish or old. It's about being human and dealing with human experience -- the loss of a spouse and loneliness," says Mr. Brandau, 31, who lives in Hamilton.

Working with a volunteer crew of 25 and a meager budget of $5,700, he was forced to cut corners. If the kitchen looks familiar, there's good reason: It was first used in "Hairspray."

When the pressures of working in a visual world become overwhelming, he turns off the television for a week. That can bring its own problems.

"I'll read something," he says, "and think, 'I'd love to put this on the screen.' "

A night at Cafe MonTage: A Frenchman named Olivier arrives with his trumpet and cajoles Dexter, a guitarist, to join in a midnight jam session. Owner Linda Richardson, who would give anything to have a tambourine right about now, surveys the scene from her usual spot behind the pastry counter.

"We're on the right side of madness," she says with a laugh that's barely audible above Miles Davis on the stereo.

If she's happy, credit this small space above a laundromat in Mount Vernon. Three months ago, it became perhaps the city's first coffeehouse and art gallery.

"What I want is for people to feel that this is a nice, comfortable place to read, play chess, have a cup of coffee," says Ms. Richardson, 34, who grew up in England but now lives in the area.

Since she began singing blues in Los Angeles coffeehouses seven years ago, she has envisioned having her own place. Things have gone so well the cafe will be open nightly beginning this week.

The coffeehouse, she says, marks the end of a restless career path in which she worked as everything from an editorial assistant for Architectural Digest to a Beverly Hills caterer.

But the one job she hasn't given up on is singer. Some night soon a lucky crowd may be served more than espresso, quiche and pastries.

"I'm capable of getting up at any moment and singing," she says. "I haven't yet, but you never know."

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