Apr 07

tim headshot

photo by Ross Pelto

Tim Allen says he tries not to get caught up in focusing too much on ratings and competition for his ABC “Last Man Standing” sitcom because, he says, “I’m kind of a worrywart.” Still, he is obviously well aware of what’s going on. Though TV pundits expect the show to get a fourth season renewal, things could be better — and should be better, as far as he is concerned. He points out, “We’re winning our timeslot Friday, which is a very difficult night. So that’s what it is. ABC — I think we’re one of their best products. I think we’re very undersold. Believe me, if four million more people saw the show, it would be amazing. We’d be in the top rung. I think it’s a top-rung show. It’s so well produced, so well written.”

Indeed, as viewers know, there is a lot to enjoy about Allen’s second series. From his interplay with onscreen wife Nancy Travis and boss Hector Elizondo, to his ever-more-capable younger castmates (daughters played by Amanda Fuller, Molly Ephraim and Kaitlyn Dever, plus guys including employee Christoph Sanders).

“I adore the show!” he enthuses. “I never, in my wildest imagination, would have figured I’d have done ‘Home Improvement’ for eight years, and I loved every second of that. And the crew, and the excitement in my life. I’ve gone through some personal troubles in between there, but aside from that, my work was wonderful,” he says. “Then to have this family I love deeply — different because they’re girls — it’s just been amazing! I’m so protective of the integrity of this.

“If I think about being competitive, well, I don’t get much help by their moving us, you know? First they put us against ‘NCIS,’ which is a fabulous show. It’s a very different vibe, but it’s kind of the same audience as ours. But we still did great numbers, and then right as we’re climbing, they move us to Friday to anchor their Friday night” — the worst night of the week for television, historically speaking.

“I’m a veteran, so we do what we need to do,” he says. Besides, “It’s a different landscape from the past. People watch what they want to watch; people TiVo it and make their own night out of it.”

Allen comes off as relaxed and open in an afternoon’s talk that ranges from his push to garner more attention for “Last Man Standing” to the future of Buzz Lightyear and Santa Claus, to the joys of being a later-in-life dad.

He is not only in a second-time-around situation at work, but at home as well. Married since 2006 to actress Jane Hajduk, he’s doing daddy duty once again. Does he bring any comedy fodder from home?

“No. I often say I wish I lived in a sitcom world, where things are resolved. Things aren’t resolved like that in real life. My five-year-old — it’s more intimidating because it’s real,” he says of his little Elizabeth. “She’s a bright one. My older one is calm and quiet,” he continues, referring to 24-year-old daughter Katherine, from his former marriage.

“But this one is very opinionated for a five-year-old. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s not. I adore being around her.”

How does she feel about daddy being Buzz Lightyear?

“She doesn’t quite get it,” he replies. “Right now she’s a ‘Frozen’ freak. She loves it. But it’s funny — we have a couple down the block who were over Friday for dinner. They think it’s fun to watch ‘Last Man Standing’ with me in the room. The baby’s right there. In a very funny way, in about five minutes she goes, ‘Can we watch something else?’” He laughs.

Speaking of Buzz, what’s the outlook for another “Toy Story” film or television special?

“As far as specials, I’m sure they’ll have another one because they’re so successful. But it’s very hard on these guys to come up with the stuff. It’s very difficult for them,” he stresses. “I believe there’ll be more specials, but I’m not the one to ask. They’re very private about what things are going on. And I respect it. They’re very cautious about making promises they can’t keep. But they love doing this.”

And so does Allen. “I just so like that I’m part of America’s history with this stuff. It’s such a part of the zeitgeist,” he notes. “I very rarely get to be around my buddy Hanks, so I like working with him, but we don’t do it that much.”

When Allen finished making “Santa Clause 3″ in 2006, he said he’d had it with the grueling demands of long days filming in prosthetics and swore he was hanging up the red suit for good. But ho ho ho. “Enough time has gone by, I’d do another ‘Santa Clause’ now,” he tells us. The bad memories have worn off enough.

His memories of the beloved “Home Improvement” live on, however — and he has former castmates Richard Karn and Jonathan Taylor Thomas in recurring “Last Man Standing” roles. Thomas has directed a couple of “Last Man Standing” episodes, in addition to popping up on the show as John Baker, daughter Kristin’s (Fuller) hot boss at the swanky restaurant where she works.

Baker was introduced at the end of last season. Allen says he loves working with his former series son. “It’s always nice to have him around. It’s been seamless again. It took awhile for the girls to settle down though — they’re big fans of his,” he says.

Last year’s season-ender was a noteworthy episode in terms of opening up new story arenas in addition to introducing Thomas. This year’s, coming up April 25, will be every bit as memorable, to hear Allen tell it.

“This cliffhanger is kind of fun. I don’t know that I’m supposed to give it away. In the atmosphere of the show, it’s pretty odd. It’s pretty uncommon, what’s going to happen. Somebody’s getting married,” he reveals.

“During rehearsal, my reaction as Mike Baxter was kind of a shock to me, because I felt like a parent. It’s a peculiar thing, being a TV parent, first with those boys all those years. It is, of course, structurally different from being a real parent, but you spend so much time with the damn kids, you take on some parental point of view. So I was like, ‘This couple, they’ve got to work some s#@! out. It’s not my decision.’ It’s kind of funny. I went ‘What?!’ And the look on my face — it’s a pretty funny line that they’ve given me.”

“Home Improvement” lasted eight years. Allen would like “Last Man Standing” to go that long as well. Or longer.

“I’d love to see these girls get married,” he says. “I’d love to see them have children, I’d love to see them go through that. Yes, I’d love that.”

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Apr 06

whoopi and vingWhoopi Goldberg didn’t have to think twice about signing on for Lifetime’s April 19 “A Day Late and a Dollar Short.”  p>”It was literally, the executive producer called and said, ‘Listen, we have this project and we want you to be in it.  We’re doing it for Lifetime.’  And I said, ‘Oh, okay.’  It was really that succinct,” says Whoopi, who turns in a brilliant performance as the irascible, dying Viola, trying to help her woefully dysfunctional family resolve their many problems — without letting them know her condition — in this adaptation of the Terry McMillan book.  She adds, “We shot it during a break that I had so it didn’t interfere with ‘The View’ or anything, so it was perfect.”

She tells us she liked the fact that “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” has an important underlying theme about living life fully aware that time will not stand still for anyone.  ”Death comes to everybody.  It doesn’t care how old you are.  I’m sure that as a kid Viola thought she was going to live forever, and suddenly she finds, ‘You have no time left.’  So she tries to fix everything she can fix, and, you know, you can’t.”

Whoopi also has a role in the new “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” feature being unveiled in August.  ”People know that I love superhero stuff. I’ve always loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and have wanted to be in it, and have said that over the years, and finally somebody listened,” she says.

Then there’s her dramatic feature coming out later this year with Patrick Wilson and Ashley Judd, “Big Stone Gap,” based on the best-selling series of novels set in the Virginia hamlet.  ”My friend Adriana Trigiani wrote ‘Big Stone Gap’ and when I met her, she said, ‘I wrote this for you.’ Isn’t that cool?” she says of the best-selling author.  ”And she said, ‘When I get the money, we’re going to make this into a film.’  And it took her 15 years, but she did it.  It’s wonderful.”

Besides “The View” and acting assignments, she has a calendar filled with comedy show dates.  ”You have to be 18 to get into my shows, but parents tend to bring their kids anyway,” notes Whoopi with surprise.  She works blue to put it mildly.  ”It is interesting, whenever I spot kids, I go, ‘Do you know what I talk about?’ And they go, ‘Yeah.’  And it’s okay. We think it’s okay for her to hear it from you, or him to hear it from you.’”

Of course, then there are the kids in her own life, three grandchildren, offspring of her daughter Amarah Dean, and, since March 15, one granddaughter.

The EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) winner is 58 now — very young for being a great-grandmother. Does her humor help her deal with getting older?

“Well, the only to answer to that question is, what is the alternative?  And once you come to terms with that,” she says, “everything else is gravy.”

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Mar 13

Olivia summer nightsIt’s fabulous to see Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts out on the international 14 On Fire Rolling Stones tour at age 72, more than three years after recovering from throat cancer.

It’s fantastic that Fran Drescher is on Broadway in the revival of Cinderella, nearly 14 years after successfully battling uterine cancer – and becoming a tireless advocate for cancer patients.

We honestly love the fact that 21 years after beating breast cancer, Olivia Newton-John is busy as ever. beginning her “Summer Nights” residency at the Flamingo Las Vegas next month. She was on hand for the opening of Australia’s Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Center in 2008, has put out music releases as cancer fundraisers. Her “Hope is Always Here” song for her 2009 “Kaleidoscope” television special was performed by figure skating great and fellow breast cancer survivor Dorothy Hamill.

Knowing that such admired and diverse famous personalities as Edie Falco, Colin Powell, Eddie Van Halen. Gerald McRaney and Kylie Minogue have faced down cancer gives countless patients all the more resolve.

The fact is, when it comes to battling debilitating or life-threatening ailments, celebrities find themselves in the unique position of being able to quite literally help millions by their own examples.

It is an act of courage and enormous generosity toward their fans and the general public when they choose to share, inspire, fund-raise, lobby on behalf of cures. Melissa Etheridge, at the White House last week for the Women of Soul celebration, is the embodiment of that courage. No one who saw it is likely to forget her flipping off her breast cancer with her 2005 Grammy show performance of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” her head shaved bald rather than showing a chemotherapy hair loss.

Going public with an illness can be a career-ender, which is why it’s unusual for performers to be as open as Etheridge. Or Tom Green.

That the king of tacky taste was chosen by fate to get hit with testicular cancer – which predominantly strikes men between the ages of 15 and 35 — turned out to have unforeseen pluses. Who else would have turned the occasion into an MTV “Cancer Special”? The show caused a surge in testing for testicular cancer, which Green told Playboy wasn’t “the main plan.” Still, he added, “I hope the show made kids realize that testicular cancer isn’t embarrassing. It’s #$@!% hilarious. Feel your balls!”

Drescher told us she never made the decision to tell the world of her disease. “I was outed by the tabloids while I was still in the hospital. I turned that into a positive, because it forced me to come to terms what had happened,” she said. “Some people make believe they never had cancer. They keep it a big secret. With me, everyone had heard about it before I had a chance to digest it.”

Fran found that in her case, “There is a silver lining of cancer. Being a survivor has given a purpose to my life and an importance to my fame that works in astounding way I could never have imagined.”

Fran has received many messages from cancer patients and their loved ones thanking her for the inspiration in her best-selling “Cancer Schmancer” book. She’s become the unlikely pal of legislators, lobbying for legislation on behalf of cancer prevention education and cancer care, particularly for women’s cancers, which she believes have received far less attention and research funding than other forms.

Many stars have come through the trials of illness or disability with insight and appreciation, and their words have staying power.

“My teacher told me at the age of 10 that when I grew up, I was going to be given a gift. Diabetes turned out to be it. It gave me the strength and toughness I needed for my life,” said Halle Berry at a Diabetes fund raiser.

Michael J. Fox’s 2003 No. 1 New York Times best-seller, “Lucky Man,” takes readers on a journey through his self-indulgent days as a young star through his denial of his illness to his final acceptance and then advocacy for Parkinson’s sufferers. He’s often bitingly funny and never allows himself to get maudlin – and makes it clear he really does believe in the title. His “Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist” (2009) and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future: Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned” (2010) give readers incalculable inspiration along with the laughs. His Michael J. Fox Research Foundation proudly states it has granted more then $450 million in research since 2000. Fox’s ongoing acting career, his roles on shows including “Rescue Me” and “The Good Wife” in addition to his own NBC sitcom are a further testimonial to his grit and gifts.

Meredith Vieira and her husband, CBS News journalist Richard Cohen, have made an art of surmounting the insurmountable. He literally wrote the book on it: “Blindsided: Living a Life Above Illness: A Reluctant Memoir.” Cohen has had multiple sclerosis since age 25 and has gone through two bouts of colon cancer. He is also legally blind. But his is a full life anyway, rich with accomplishment and family love.

Breast cancer survivor Suzanne Somers sums up how life feels with a drastically changed perspective: “The birds are singing more sweetly and the foxes don’t scare me. Everything has slowed down. Cancer does that for you,” she told People magazine. “That’s the first of the blessings. Worrying about work and all those things that were so urgent seemed so stupid. I just want to live.”

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Mar 12

Home posterFirst-time filmmaker Jono Oliver never dreamed that his work would wind up winning accolades from organizations across the country — but his touching and beautifully rendered Home drama has been doing just that. The story of a man recovering from mental illness (Gbenga Akinnagbe), whose goal is to leave his group home, get his own apartment and reconnect with his son, “Home” has been nominated for a SAMSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration) and an Entertainment Industries Council Prism Award. It was recognized by the New York Metro branch of NAMI (The National Alliance of Mental Illness). And Oliver found himself nominated — along with the directors of “12 Years a Slave,” “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and “The Best Man Holiday” — for an NAACP Image Award for directing.

“It wasn’t a goal to be acknowledged like this. The goal was to make an entertaining film,” says Oliver, who has a life-long awareness of the challenges of mentally ill people through his social worker parents. “I’ve always had the idea of doing a story that took place in that world,” he says. Oliver notes that it was of paramount importance to him to portray the challenges of mental illness truthfully, and never to allow the film’s light moments to veer into mockery. He enlisted the help of technical consultants including a psychiatric nurse to ensure verisimilitude.

“I’m glad didn’t screw that up,” says the filmmaker, who is a First Assistant Director on “Blue Bloods” when he’s not busy with his labor of love. “It’s unfortunate that most of the time you see people with mental illness in film, they’re either a joke or a psycho killer. There’s not a lot of in-between. And oftentimes in the media’s portrayals, you see headlines where they’re made into monsters.”

Oliver cites statistics that claim one in four Americans is dealing with some form of mental health issue, “millions upon millions of people. There are a lot of mental health organizations whose main goal is combating the stigma that surrounds mental illness — a stigma that leads to people being discriminated against when it comes to housing or jobs. There’s a preconception that these people are violent; they’re much more likely to become a victim of violent crime. There are a lot of statistics, a lot of knowledge and education people need. What’s been really cool about this film is that it’s opened up a dialogue on mental illness,” he says.

Pitching a “small story” with no guns or explosions wasn’t easy, he admits. Along the movie’s two-year journey to production, Oliver put his project on Kickstarter, where friends and family contributed 10 per cent of the budget. His “Blue Bloods” friends not only contributed monetarily, but gave him equipment to use and made it possible for Oliver to use rehearsal and office space when the show was on hiatus.

The film had a week-long theatrical release late last year. It will become available to the mass audience March 25, when Entertainment 1 releases it on DVD and video on demand. The Prism Awards are coming up April 22. Whether “Home” wins, Oliver says he feels its nomination — all its nominations and kudos — are “not just an honor, but a victory.”

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Mar 04

jerry lewisThe rather prickly nature of the choice of Jerry Lewis as recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement honors at the ICG Publicists Awards was underscored by none other than Lewis himself.  He noted in his acceptance remarks that he was receiving the guild’s statuette with all the humility he could muster — and his name wasn’t one normally associated with humility.

Lewis also noted his surprise at being given any award by the press, since he’s long made his feelings about the press clear.  Interesting that somehow in the weeks ramping up to the event — not to mention a career spanning seven decades — he failed to recognize that publicists and press are two different things.

The 87-year-old legend of slapstick did, however, take the time to tell an odd joke/story about how he’d decided to take a New York subway train one day, only to have a man clad in leather and chains with head full of rainbow-hued hair board his car.  Seeing Lewis stare at him, he said — said Lewis — “Hey, old man.  Haven’t you ever done anything unusual?”

The audience laughed.

Lewis went on, “I had sex with a parrot once.  I was wondering if you were my son.”

The Friars Club must’ve loved that one.

In fact, a clip package of Lewis in his antic comedy heyday, as well as his later achievments — the drama of “The King of Comedy,” for instance — and his many Muscular Dystrophy Association fund-raising telethons, reminded the crowd of what a towering figure Lewis has been in entertainment.

Not that this ultra-savvy crowd needed reminding. There were also grumbles from some who recalled just how despised Lewis was by many who worked for him.

Complex, gifted, controversial Jerry Lewis has a Publicists Guild Lifetime Achievement Award.  Perhaps he’ll take time to become aquainted with the work of publicists now.

Introducing her friend Lewis was Carol Burnett.  The long standing ovation that sparkled with sincerity for Carol was among the more uplifting moments of this 51st Publicists Guild Awards.  She motioned for everyone to sit down, and tugged her ear — after all, she was a presenter, not a recipient this time — then introduced Lewis.  He also got a standing ovation, of course.

Also honored at this favorite Oscar week event were writer-producer Shonda Rhimes (“Scandal,” “Gray’s Anatomy”)– named the Television Showman of the Year; Lionsgate chieftains Rob Friedman and Patrick Waschberger — named the Motion Picture Showmen of the Year; and “Entertainment Tonight” exec producer Linda Bell Blue — given The President’s Award.

Awards to publicists included honors to the team that executed the campaign for “American Horror Story: Coven.” And on the film side, the publicity team for “Gravity” were named winners.  Indeed!

The glamorous Friday afternoon event, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, got off to a merry start with a video from Jimmy Kimmel depicting what his show would be like if it weren’t for publicists:  himself and an empty chair.  He exhorted the audience to relax and enjoy themselves in the only Hollywood event where they didn’t have to run around the red carpet wearing headsets and catering to narcissistic stars.  But Jimmy, they live for that stuff!

It’s only right that incredibly hard-working and under-sung entertainment industry publicists get their moment in the sun in this popular annual luncheon.

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Mar 03

McConaughey wins Best ActorBrad Pitt waxed poetic about his love for “12 Years a Slave” — but admitted he’d started his stellar day by having to “pick up dog poop…in my bedroom.” Cate Blanchett swore her Aussie pride, Lupita Nyong’o spoke of honoring the spirits of slaves, and Jared Leto offered opportunities to fondle his Oscar in a night that ping-ponged between euphoria and thoughtfulness backstage at the 86th Academy Awards.

It was a historic night for Oscar, with “12 Years a Slave” filmmaker Steve McQueen becoming the first black man to win Best Picture honors, “Gravity’s” Alfonso Cuaron becoming the first Mexican to win Best Director, and Best Actress winner Cate Blanchett becoming Australia’s first double Oscar winner in the acting categories.

McQueen, who literally jumped up and down on the Oscar stage when his film took the top prize, claimed to be “cool as a cucumber” by the time he made it to the press room, but was clearly still on the verge of another happy dance, explaining that sometimes physicality just takes control. Some 75 years after “Gone With the Wind” gave moviegoers a romanticized view of antebellum slavery, McQueen noted that his film’s success shows “a progression. The background characters are now in the foreground. It’s indicative of what is going on right now; people now want to look at that history and embrace it.”

His fellow producer, Pitt, told us, “I love this movie. I love our film…This man in this inhumane situation trying to get back to his family…It’s important to understand our history — not for any kind of guilt, but to know who we were so we can better understand who we are…and who we’re going to be. It’s a gentle reminder that we’re all equal, that we all want the same dignity and humanity for our family, and that another’s freedom is as important as our own.”

The film team is particularly pleased that their movie has brought Solomon Northup’s memoir back into the spotlight. The long out-of-print book is a best seller now, and destined to be in high schools across the country. It’s noteworthy that the Academy was looking to update and diversify itself and Cheryl Boone Isaacs, its first black president, opened up the membership in hope of bringing in more diverse and younger members — which certainly did not hurt “12 Years a Slave’s” chances this year.

“12 Years a Slave” also won Best Supporting Actress honors for Lupita Nyong’o. Backstage, the It Girl of this Awards Season, admitted she was “a little dazed. I can’t believe this is in my hand. I can’t believe this is real life. I’m really overwhelmed.” Yet the stunning fashion world favorite was poised enough to talk about how moved she was by support in her native Kenya and around the world — including coming across an Instagram of hundreds of people holding a good luck sign. She had the presence of mind to touch again upon the fact that “12 Years a Slave” filmmaker Steve McQueen “honored people who really have been unsung for a really long time, doing this film. Their spirits have been honored.”

And, asked by a Chinese reporter what had been the most encouraging thing that had been said to her along the way, Nyong’o was thoughtful enough to respond that those words were from people who had said “from their hearts, that the outcome doesn’t matter. You’ve already won because the work has been done. Remembering that has kept me hopeful and positive and relaxed.”

As for celebrating, she was going to head to the Board of Governor’s Ball and “do all the things that are Oscar-related. It’s my first time here. I feel like Willy Wonka in the Chocolate Factory.”

So, apparently, did rock star cum Oscar winner Jared Leto (Best Supporting Actor, “Dallas Buyers Club”), He revved up the press room crowd early on by offering his Oscar to “anyone who wants to try it out for size…hold it…If you have swine flu, please — don’t touch,” he joked. “I bet this is a first — the first person to give their Oscar away for an orgy in the press room…Anyone else wanna fondle?”

He also offered the chance to take a selfie with his statuette, but was told the Academy doesn’t allow unauthorized pictures in the press room. He tweaked the Academy reps there, saying, “You guys want to get media — let the media do what they do!” Not surprisingly, he was answered with a huge round of cheers from the media. A few seconds later, sounding every bit the rock star, he rallied the crowd, “Who’s your favorite Oscar winner tonight?!”

Leto certainly made clear, on this “Hero”-themed night, that his personal hero is is mother, who was a single teen when she gave birth to him and his brother, but managed to raise them and give them wings of imagination as well. Backstage, he reiterated that the best thing about winning was having his mother and brother there with him — “the two most important people in my life…I’m really fortunate to be able to thank them in such a unique and grand way.”

Leto was asked about the comments he made to encourage dreamers out there, especially in Ukraine and Venezuela. He pointed out that, “You have an opportunity, when you stand on stage — you can make it about yourself, or you can take the opporunity to shine a light…For me, these global issues impact us in a real way. We have a show in Ukraine in a couple of weeks,” he said, referring to his 30 Seconds to Mars band’s touring schedule. Leto says he and his band “feel at home all over the world. Social unrest affects us in a real way.”

He was quick to acknowledge the work of fellow winners Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews, who did hair and makeup on “Dallas Buyers Club.” Their win was seen over the monitor while Leto was in the room. Pointing out that they’d had an unbelievable budget of $250.00, he said, “They work harder than anyone else; they’re there at the crack-ass of dawn and stay ’til the crack-ass of dawn.”

When Lee and Mathews came backstage, they said that they’d never met Jared until the Oscar Nominees’ Luncheon a couple of weeks ago — they knew him as Rayon. He was in character as the AIDS-stricken transvestite when he came to them and remained in character.

Leto was asked whether it’s better to be cheered onstage as a rock star, or to win an Oscar. His answer: “The good news is, I don’t have to choose.”

He left saying, “and thanks for getting my Oscar dirty with your fingerprints.”

Leto’s fellow “Dallas Buyers Club” winner, Best Actor Matthew McConaughey, said that despite being considered a lock by most Oscar prognoticators, “I did not expect it.”

The actor who decided to put his all into promoting the small-budget feature when it was made — and has reaped amazing results — noted, “It’s a bit of the end of a journey with this film, this script that came across my desk four years ago…Nobody wanted to make it for 20 years. It was turned down 137 times.” Getting the movie mad was “a miracle in itself,” he went on. Then it was received well at the Toronto Film Festival and “started to gain momentum. This is the gold standard of the light of excellence.”

He again expressed his gratitude for his wife’s support, and the fact that she’s taken their children to all his film locations — “It’s been harder for her than for me.” Asked what he hoped his children would take from this Oscar experience, he recounted telling them, “‘Remember when we were in New Orleans, the work that Dad did? People are shining a light on it today.’ I want them to see, if you do your best right now, it can come back and have reciprocity.”

Regal-looking Cate Blanchett, Best Actress winner for “Blue Jasmine,” said she “got to be a princess today.” She got a massage — “pummelled like Kobi beef” — and had the privelege of choosing between three dresses prepared for her by “Mr. Armani, with whom I have a long and great relationship.”

However, when a reporter began a question by stating that she’s the first Australian actress to win two Oscdars, she dropped the decorum to interrupt, “and don’t you f#@!ing forget it!”

Blanchett had phoned home and found her youngest child had “stopped vomiting, so that’s good.”

Next, she anticipated going out dancing.

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Feb 21

Face Off - Season 6McKenzie Westmore has loved acting since she played Robert De Niro’s daugther in “Raging Bull” at age three. That was when she got her Screen Actors Guild card. She came to love singing as well, and was studying opera and performing in musical theater by age seven.

But the blue-eyed, blond host of SyFy’s fiendishly popular “Face Off” reality competition show does say that for awhile, she considered going into the family business. That family business, in case you’re not aware, is movie makeup. The Westmores, going back to patriarch George (who made up Mary Pickford and the Talmadge sisters, among dozens of others), have been responsible for many of the unforgettable faces, hideous and beauteous, that you have seen on the big screen small. From “Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” to all the makeup for “Gone With the Wind” to “Blade Runner” and beyond, four generations of Westmores have plied their special creative trade in Hollywood.

“The bug did actually bite me at one point, really going way back,” she says. “When I got into my teens, I thought, ‘Oh, gosh. I don’t want to see the family business die.’ I had actually read an interview, the Los Angeles Times had done an interview with my dad, and they called him The Last of the Living Dinosaurs,” she says, speaking of Michael Westmore, who won an Oscar for his work on “Mask,” was a vital part of the “Star Trek” series’ teams, and even created spy makeup kits for CIA operatives overseas. Fans of “Face Off” have seen Michael as a mentor on the show.

Continues McKenzie, “He was one of the last to do everything — conceptualize an idea, run the molds, run the lab, then bring it to life and actually do the application on the actors. You don’t really see that a lot now. When I read that article I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t want to see the family legacy go.’ So I started to study. I started to take classes and work alongside my dad. I helped him out in the lab. And after awhile, I said, ‘Dad, I love you. I love what our family is known for in the industry. There’s magic there. But it’s not the thing that’s stolen my heart. I love acting, and I want to continue down that path,’” she recalls. “And he said, ‘You know I support you whatever you want to do. Go after your dreams like I did mine.’ And so, I went back to acting and got ‘Passions.’”

She was on that soap for 11 years, and also accumulated credits on other shows including “Dexter,” “All My Children” and “Friends.”

With her knowledge of makeup arts, “I feel very confident to walk into the lab on ‘Face Off,’ because I do know what I’m talking about. But at the same time, I did not want to go that route in life. ‘Face Off’ is the best of all worlds for me. I couldn’t have scripted this better.”

The show boasts the crème de la crème of Hollywood makeup artists, including judges Ve Neill (“Beetlejuice,” Mrs. Doubtfire”), Glenn Hetrick (“The Hunger Games,” “Heroes”) and Neville Page (“Avatar,” “Star Trek”) — plus such guest judges as filmmakers Paul W.S. Anderson, Gale Anne Hurd, Brian Grazer and Kevin Smith.

This season, “We get to travel — a big travel. We get to go to Japan. One of the challenges I’ve always wanted to see on our show is anime, and that’s what we bring back with us from Japan,” notes Westmore, speaking of the March 4 installment of the show. “I can’t wait for the fans, even new fans who jump into the show, to experience that because we really get to show them these amazing stunning visuals of Japan, from the middle of the countryside to the urban scene. It’s really going to be fun for the viewers.”

The Japan shoot took place over one week. “We got off the plane guns blazing — the contestants had to do a challenge immediately,” she says.

With “Face Off” in its sixth season, Westmore hopes the show will go on and on. She points out, “‘Face Off’ really is a go-go-go-go-go production, but it doesn’t take the whole year. So I can go out and do other things. I’ve also fallen in love with hosting since doing this. ‘Face Off’ is my baby, it will always be number one,” she says, “but I’m looking forward to seeing what else is out there.”

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Feb 16

WelliverTitus Welliver has come to feel a certain amount of personal ownership of the character Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch, mystery writer Michael Connelly’s popular L.A. homicide detective, who is now the centerpiece of a much-discussed Amazon pilot.

What makes the steely gray-haired actor of “Lost,” “The Good Wife” and “Sons of Anarchy” fame feel such a profound connection? In a morning’s talk about the new venture, the erudite Welliver answers candidly. “I suppose I have my own haunted qualities to a certain degree. I’ve had a bit more than I would care for of personal tragedies in my life. Three of my siblings passed away and my wife died a little over a year ago from cancer, and that effects you, to say the least. It alters the state of your internal being. There’s a lot of that in Bosch.”

It has been a stunning year, a year overflowing in many ways for Welliver. He’s been exceptionally busy, with not only “Bosch” but Gus Van Sant’s recently-released “Promised Land,” starring Matt Damon as a drilling-rights salesman — as well as upcoming roles in “Transformers 4″ and a role in Michael Bay’s forthcoming TNT series, “The Last Ship.” With him have been his three children.

“I’m quite proud of my kids. It’s by no means easy to navigate such a devastating loss as they’ve had to navigate — and yet they have. That which fulfills me as a human being is the love of my children and my love of them.”

Taking them with him to assignments “is tricky, but we are, as I say to my kids, we’re cinema gypsies.”

He’s grateful, he says, “they’ve been so malleable, because, you know, it was very disruptive to their summer vactions to go on several different locations. Although because it was ‘Transformers’ there was not a lot of kicking and screaming, I have to say,” he adds, smiling. In fact, the June 27 release “Transformers: Age of Extinction” Welliver says, has given him the kind of cool movie actor cred he’s never had with the three of them before.

“They were very delighted to be sitting on the set of the film. And Michael and Ian Bryce, our producer, were extremely generous in having my kids be there and giving them a wonderful thrill and a ride, just to observe that. It’s not easy for kids eight, 12 and 14 to understand non-disclosure agreements and things, but I was very proud of the fact that although they’re bursting at the buttons to be able to talk about it, none of them have folded under the interrogation of their peers.”

On the front burner for Welliver is Bosch. The immensely popular books have had a long journey to the cameras — some 20 years and different production entities and stars who were interested in making movies of him. The Amazon project is a result of Connelly himself regaining control of rights to his character.

“It’s a new world. It’s a very diffent way of doing things,” Welliver says. “Because of this new business model Amazon has where they’re streaming it for free, the audience watches it and then they grade it — Watch, Grade and Share.

The audience will be the deciding factor in whether it goes to series. The material is there, because Michael has written so many of the books, but it’s definitely a wait-and-see. My understanding is that thus far the response has been very positive. It’s tricky because when you take an iconic character, you’re not going to please everybody no matter what you do. I’m really hoping that it proves out and is given the opportunity to go to series because it’s a project I’m really, really passionate about and I want to breathe more life into it.”

Welliver likes the fact Connelly was on set and guiding the proceedings. “So many times, films and TV move so far from beloved source material that they lose what was magnetic about it for the audience,” he finds.

Is he tracking responses in real time? “I’m a little bit in the camp of ignorance is bliss. for me, it’s like reading reviews,” Welliver says. “You get a swelled head or a broken heart and neither state is desirable.”

The pilot is a combination of the books “Concrete Blond” and “City of Bones.”

“Michael gave me all the books which was a tremendous gift,” says Welliver, who had only read one of the series before the job came his way. “I’m now a fan that goes beyond my homework. I love the books, and I get why the audience likes this character so much. He’s not a guy with a white hat. There are very many different shades to this character. He’s very, very complex. He’s kind of thequintessential anti-hero, a broken guy to a certain extent. He has this incredible moral compass, that makes him very interesting to play.

“I allowed my eight-year-old daughter — she’s no stranger to bad language, I’m slightly ashamed to admit — I let her watch some of the pilot and she said a really interesting thing to me. She said, ‘Well, it’s a little bit scary,’ and then she said, ‘He’s a sad man.’ And I thought, yeah. There’s a sadness and brokenness to Bosh, which I think informs his drive to right these wrongs. He’s really the ultimate advocate for the victims of these crimes. And there’s a kind of poetic beauty to the character. He’s not just that kind of brutish cop who likes to smoke and drink too much and self medicate. There’s a beautiful drive to him.”


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Feb 12

Tony Dovolani

 Dancing With the Stars” pro Tony Dovolani got to try out his comedy acting chops in next week’s (Feb. 19) episode of TV Land’s “The Exes” — and loved it.

 The nice guy ballroom champ tells us that his one-time “DWTS” partner, Leah Remini, called him out of the blue.  “She said, ‘All right, you’ve been preparing for acting for a long time and I’m going to make sure you get the opportunity.’  I guess they had put a scene together for her, dancing, and she said ‘How about if I bring Tony?’

“The question was, ‘Can he act?’” Tony recounts, “and she said, ‘I’ve seen him study.’”  They not only brought him in, but gave him more and more lines, much to Tony’s delight.  He points out, “Normally in situations like this, if you’re not good they take your lines away.  So that means they liked what they saw.”

He was definitely required to act, since the script called for him to play a fellow who didn’t know how to dance, that Leah’s character teaches.  “It was such an incredible experience — definitely a favor returned on her part.  She just made me feel like I could conquer the world, and you know that’s a special quality in a person,” says Tony.

He enjoyed getting laughs from the audience, applause from Leah and from the “Exes” cast including Donald Faison, Wayne Knight and David Alan Basche.  One of the show’s producers “gave me a very nice vote of confidence.  He said, ‘Tony you’re very warm on camera.  You’re very likable.  You come across very nice.  I think this is something you should pursue.’”

Not that he has any intention of putting aside his dancing shoes.  The 18th season of “DWTS” is set to launch March 17, and as far as Tony is concerned, there is no end in sight for the show.   “Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly entertained audiences for 70 years — musicals and dance were a part of our culture.  So I don’t see it going away.  Every year we do something new and we twist it a little bit and we mix it up a little,” he says.  He also considers “DWTS” the most positive of programs, because not only does the winner triumph but so do other competitors, in that “they’ve still accomplished something for themselves….It shows how difficult some things are, but  If you work hard, anything is possible.  That’s the message every week, and I think we need more of that on television.”


EAT, PLAY, LOVE:  Shelleylyn Brandler, lovely blond cast member on FUSE TV’s “Warped Roadies,” just might be stepping into her own reality TV spotlight soon.  The rock ‘n’ roll caterer, whose TaDa company hands out all kinds of gourmet grub to music stars from Taylor Swift to Marilyn Manson, has been paged by pal Gene Simmons to star in a prospective cooking show titled “Rock Star Chef.” 

The KISS frontman is “the most amazing mentor I could ask for.  He is busy with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame right now,” she notes, referring to KISS’ induction into that rarified group April 10, “but after that we’re going to get together about it.”  Meanwhile, another producing entity has been pitching a reality show centered on Shelleylyn and her world, called “‘Sex, Food and Rock ‘n’ Roll.’  Food is the new drug.”  She notes, “It’s a matter of finding the right home.”

In the ’90s, she was a concert production runner with a rocker boyfriend — and a knack for snacks the bands began to crave.  “It was my brother who said, ‘There’s Martha Stewart, but there’s no one for the urban, punk, rock ‘n’ roll style.  You could really make a niche for yourself in rock ‘n’ roll catering,” recalls Shelleylyn.  She also recalls lackluster food — at best — being served on rock tours.  “Nobody was caring about food or being a foodie. I remember sitting in my  living room coining the word ‘foodie,’ because I just cared so much,” she declares.  “I wasn’t a great chef, but I knew that on my worst day, I could do better than what some of these professional people were doing.  My turkey sandwiches were made with fresh rosemary bread I made myself — so what I did was always a little better than what I was seeing.”

Along with a generous portion of nerve, she lucked out in terms of timing — just ahead of the explosion of interest in chefs and culinary arts.  Now her credits include nine years of catering for the Coachella Festival, plus The Warped Tour, the Mayhem Tour, tours for Taylor Swift, Beyonce, shows including the BET Awards and many more.  She knows that Miley Cyrus is gluten free and Tobey Maguire is vegan, and she recently learned how to cook Kosher for some orthodox rockers.  And perhaps most importantly, her go-to hangover cure is “menudo, the Mexican soup.”

WRIST WATCH:  Despite all the heavy breathing, cat-fights and sexy bodies on display on ABC’s “The Bachelor,” obvservant viewers may have noticed that The Bachelor Juan Pablo Galavis wears the same bracelet all the time.  That’s all the time as in every scene and every photograph, from poolside with his daughter to the hot tub with one of his wannabe wives, to when he’s modeling teeny tiny swim trunks and handing out roses.  No, it’s not a high-end accessory — it’s a Step by Step Foundation bracelet.  This band is a symbol of an international non profit ( that helps children in need around the world.  It was founded by Juan Pablo’s friend Liliane Stransky who is also from Venezuela.  We’re told he has been an active supporter for three years now.  Now, there’s some exposure anyone can feel good about.
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Feb 11

Oscar nominees class of 2014Leonardo Di Caprio was peppered with questions about the salty stuff in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Cate Blanchett pretended not to know that she’s been nominated for Oscars six times, and Jonah Hill declared that he’d paint Martin Scorsese’s house if it meant the chance to work for his favorite filmmaker again.  Those were among the stand-out moments from interviews given as guests congregated at today’s 86th Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon.

Always a favorite event on the awards season calendar — where nominees can chum around with each other sans pressure, join for a “class photo” on risers set up in the grand ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and go home with a certificate and a commemmorative sweatshirt — the luncheon saw stars and filmmakers in great spirits.

Matthew McConaughey happily noted that he’s been enjoying this Oscar season, his first as a nominee, as much as possible, aware that even if he’s nominated again in the future “There’s only one first time.”  The “Dallas Buyers Club” Best Actor nominee pointed out that he had chosen to get out there and support the film as much as he possibly could, so the fact it was recognized with six Oscar nominations was particularly rewarding.

(Can one draw a correlation between the star working hard to support a film and its being recognized?  Most certainly yes.)

McConaughey’s cast mate, Best Supporting Actor nominee Jared Leto was asked about the fact his mom has been seen accompanying him to several events this season — and warmed to the question immediately.  “We were born very poor, you know, in very humble surroundings. And my mother always wanted to do something better with her life. She wanted something better for her children, and she was a dreamer. She was a worker…So I think the biggest inspiration she taught me was to dream, and then do the work that it takes to make dreams a reality.  So it’s been fun to bring her around, and you get these opportunities to stand up in places like this and say something…Of course, I could spend every opportunity at every event thanking my mother.  She’s the best.”

Di Caprio was quizzed about the immorality of his “The Wolf of Wall Street” character, a ruthless stock scammer who becomes an addict, uses prostitutes and seems to, as Di Caprio himself put it, have “no moral compass.”

Nominated for Best Actor in the film (which is up for Best Picture as well), Di Caprio admitted, “There’s a lot of disgusting behavior in this movie [but] it was very much a function of this culture we wanted to accurately portray.”

According to him, Best Director nominee Martin Scorsese, “just goes in and says,  ‘I’m not going to judge these characters.  I’m going to portray them for what they are.’  And he purposely didn’t cut away from the victims of this kind of behavior…We kind of looked at it like a giant Hieronymous Bosch painting — pure debauchery,” he added, referring to the Dutch artist who dealt in themes of immorality with fantastical images.  “Put in the context of the kind of movie we wanted to make, and that was very much a cautionary tale, makes it okay.”

Did he really watch with his parents, as had been said, he was asked.  “That was very much just a joke,” answered Di Caprio.

Jonah Hill was not joking when it came to his feelings about being paid scale for his role in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and whether he’d negotiate a better deal if he did another film with Martin Scorsese.  “I wouldn’t care, honestly,” replied the Best Supporting Actor nominee with a laugh.  “Martin Scorsese is my favorite filmmaker of all time.  ‘Goodfellas’ was the reason I want to make movies, spend my life making movies, dedicate my life to that.  The money is never really a concern to work with someone like Martin Scorsese.  I would paint his house if I needed to.”

Bradley Cooper, a Best Supporting Actor nominee for “American Hustle,” was asked if he planned to bring a lucky trinket to the Oscars.  “Hm.  I’ll have to think about that,” he said.  “Any suggestions?”  The room broke into laughter when the female reporter came back with, “Yes, some women would like to.”

Cate Blanchett may well have been relieved not to be asked about Woody Allen and his current personal traumas for a change.  She obviously enjoyed talking about the fashionable clothes she wore in “Blue Jasmine” with E! Online.  “They all had to go back immediately at midnight.”  Even the Chanel jacket?  “Everything, yeah.  I think the entire costume budget was less than the Hermes bag” — which, of course, was borrowed.

Of her Best Actress nomination, the six-time nominee and 1-time winner (“The Aviator”) confessed, “This one certainly took me by surprise.”

“American Hustle’s” Amy Adams, looking ravishing in red, talked about her style approach and how sometimes in the past, her gowns had been more a reflection of a character than of Amy herself.  “This year when I’m on the red carpet, I guarantee I will be wearing a dress that I would wear — not a character.”   We’ll see!

“12 Years a Slave” nominee Lupita Nyong’o looked exquisite and acted poised today, not at all like an actress brand new to the awards season circus.  She told press “I couldn’t have dreamed this up.  It’s been an adventure, a very exciting one — a very rewarding one, and a very revealing one as well.”

Winners will be decided when the 86th annual Academy Awards are doled out March 2nd.<\