Jan 24

ferrerePower suits. Shoulder pads. Catfights. Nobody did the ’80s prime-time soap better than the series that put the nasty in “Dynasty.” Now the Hallmark Channel’s “Home & Family” is bringing together members of the Carrington clan with the latest in their vintage TV reunion specials, coming up Monday, Jan. 26.

The recent “Knots Landing” reunion show “went over so well, three days after it aired, the producers told me next we were going to do ‘Dynasty,'” says “Home & Family” co-host Cristina Ferrare.

Pamela Sue Martin, John James, Al Corley and Gordon Thomson are among the names you can expect to see. And you never know who might Skype in — as Alec Baldwin did for the “Knots Landing” show.

It’s a blast from the past to Cristina — and not just because she herself used to wear fabulous “Dynasty”-worthy Nolan Miller gowns. Recall that her husband, Tony Thomopoulos, was the head of ABC back when “Dynasty” ruled the airwaves. Tony and his Max Factor supermodel cum TV hostess bride, Cristina, were one of Hollywood’s dazzling power couples. She’d meet the casts of his shows at various industry events, “do the wife thing, say ‘Hello’ and be gracious,” she recalls. Also, having been co-host of the popular “AM Los Angeles” for four years, Cristina met pretty much every show business luminary out to tout their latest projects.

For the Cleveland born-and-raised Cristina, it was a dream come true. “I was like a little girl caught up in this amazing fantasy — sitting with people like Jimmy Stewart and Lucille Ball.”

She notes, “The whole town was so different then.”

Indeed, things were quite different in the four-network universe, when everyone was watching the same shows, before the fragmentation of TV into dozens of outlets and hundreds of viewing choices.  “Home & Family” remains a bastion of show business of, well, a homier and more family style than much of television now.

“That’s what makes us so unique — no make believe ‘reality,’ no shock value. We have real life problems and humor,” says Ferrare, who is in her third season of the show co-hosted by Mark Steines. “We cook and play games. We shoot the show in a real house.”

Their house is in the middle of the Universal Studios Hollywood lot, but hey, it’s still real — which is a bit like Cristina herself. Much as she is part of the show business milieu, she remains relatable to her admiring audience, coming off as down-to-earth, charming and warm — the neighbor everyone would like to have.

She and Tony have now been together 31 years. The former network honcho currently has projects in the works at Sony Television and with the BBC. “He loves producing,” she says.

What’s their secret to a long-lasting marriage in (of all places) Hollywood?

“A sense of humor,” she answers. “We argue — but we argue laughing. We are each other’s best friend.

“And our family — our kids are everything to us. We have seven children — two from my first marriage, three from his, and our two together. Everyone gets along with everyone. It’s always family, family, family.”

And food, naturally, considering Cristina’s culinary gifts. “Home & Family” viewers have seen daughters Arianna and Alex whipping up delectable items along with their mother. Alex has been pursuing cooking and comedy, in fact, and Cristina says she may just have her own show one of these days. “She’s really funny.”

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Jan 05
richardsonPatricia Richardson admits she was nervous about her Jan. 9 guesting on Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing.”  The actress, who spent eight seasons playing Tim’s onscreen wife on “Home Improvement,” says she had absolutely no trepidations about working with Tim again — it was just that it had been so long since she’d done sitcom work, she wondered how it would be going back into the fray.  Turns out, she had a blast playing a power tool-weilding neighbor of Tim’s current character — and the door has been left open for her to return in her new Helen Potts role again.
Fellow “Home Improvement” alumni Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Richard Karn already turned up on “Last Man Standing.”  As for why it took awhile for the “Last Man” team to get around to asking Richardson, “I think Tim is very protective of Nancy Travis and their relationship on the show,” she says of his current TV Mrs.  “Bringing in the wife from the former show might have caused complications.”  If he did have any concerns in that regard, according to Richardson, they were quickly forgotten.  “Nancy is incredibly centered and well-adjusted — one of the most centered and well-adjusted people I’ve ever met in this industry.  I don’t believe she felt threatened by me in the slightest.  My favorite scenes were the ones I did with the two of them together.”  Plus, her character befriends Nancy’s.
Richardson, who, you may recall, went the drama series route with “Strong Medicine,” says she’s wide open to the idea of doing another series now — either comedy or drama, but likely not a network show.  The series she watches are generally on cable, free of the demands and restrictions of broadcast network shows.  
“I’m much edgier than a lot of ‘Home Improvement’ fans realize,” she notes.  “And I’m different from what they expect politically.  That show is very popular among red state Republicans and I’m a blue state liberal Democrat.  Sometimes people start following me on Twitter and I know they’re surprised.”
Now that her children are grown (her 23-year-old twin daughter and son graduated college this year and her 30-year-old son married), she would be able to focus full attention on work.   In the past, Patricia was not only balancing child rearing as a single parent with her series chores — she was also flying East regularly as she took care of the needs of her late parents, who were each fraught with long-term illnesses.  
Patricia today is a strong advocate for research to cure the ailment that took her father’s life, Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP).  She also serves as the national spokesperson for CurePSP.  There is an overlap in PSP research and the quest for a cure for Alzheimer’s, points out the actress, who believes brain disease research in general is drastically under-funded.  Right now, she is taking advantage of her “Last Man Standing” attention to shed light on the cause, and also, to generate notice for the “Home Improvement” jacket and shirt she will be auctioning off on eBay for CurePSP.  Check her @prichardsonla Twitter feed for more information.
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Jan 01
Nicki_Minaj_3,_2012The new year is here at last! Say goodbye to a year filled with entertainment news nobody predicted — a year in which a Hollywood studio suffered a cyberattack allegedly by a foreign country, formerly-beloved father figure Bill Cosby took a fall into infamy, and George Clooney got married. What in the world could be in store for the new year? It’s time to dust off our trusty celebrity crystal ball and make fearless predictions about the entertainment world and its stars in 2015.

With Garth Brooks and Christine McVie out of retirement, the next AARP-aged music superstar retiree to return to the spotlight will be Steve Perry — who already teased the idea in 2014, appearing with the Eels in May and leading the crowd in “Don’t Stop Believin'” at a San Francisco Giants playoff game. And they won the World Series. It was a sign.

Given her dramatic change of appearance, the media will have a field day with the title of Renee Zellweger’s first film in four years, “Same Kind of Different As Me” — “Kind of the Same As Me,” “Kind of Different Me,” etc.

Critics will feel obligated to mention Meg Ryan’s and Melanie Griffith’s dramatic changes of appearance in reviews for Ryan’s directorial debut, “Ithaca,” based on the 1943 novel “The Human Comedy” by William Saroyan. Yes, excessive cosmetic surgery is, in fact, a sad human comedy.

Despite the most over-reported and picked-apart advance news bites of any film in history, J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” will rule the movie-going universe upon its release Dec. 18.

A new generation of Clooneys will be on the way before year’s end, courtesy George Clooney and his “Most Fascinating Person” bride, human rights attorney Amal Alamuddin. Sure, George said he’ll never have children, but he also said he’d never wed again.Come on! You’ll make pretty babies.

In answer to the unprecedented popularity of exposed celebrity buttocks in 2014, look for the launch of a new line of fashion dolls called Back by Popular Demand — with backsides that put Barbie’s dainty derriere to shame. Included will be the Nicki doll, with a gyrating wonder of a wind-up butt, dancing to “Anaconda”; the Kim doll, with her oiled bottom accessorized with an iPad to break the internet; the Jenny doll, exciting the interest of onlookers as she parades her bountiful “Booty” down the block; and the Beyootiful doll who comes complete with a stage and a costume featuring cut out glutes and a halo.

Speaking of that particular part of the anatomy, there’s “Real Housewife” Teresa Giudice. She recently noted in a TV interview about New Year’s resolutions that she’d like to stop eating “bad carbs” because she wants to get her “ass back” — but she never mentioned that she’s about to go serve 15 months for fraud. In fact, as the cookbook author will note before 2015 is through, she has found the ultimate restricted diet: prison. Come out of the big house looking like a brick house.

The “Ghost Hunters” on SyFy will at long last capture unequivocal proof of post-mortem activity when they stumble onto the ghostly visage of Lindsay Lohan’s career.

Meryl Streep will make it 19 Academy Award nominations with her “Into the Woods” performance as the witch — but she won’t win Oscar No. 4. Patricia Arquette will take home Best Supporting Actress honors for “Boyhood.”

Tyler Perry will make a movie in which he’s wearing a dress.

Neil Patrick Harris will make it a sweep with his upcoming Oscar show emceeing success rounding out his run of awards show hosting achievements. Oh, wait. There’s still the Grammys.

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey will skewer North Korea in their Golden Globes opener Jan. 11 — and their lines will be way funnier than just calling someone a monkey.

Happy new year, everyone!

Dec 05

jay thomas and david lettermanJay Thomas admits “there may be tears” when he does his annual Yuletide turn on “The Late Show with David Letterman” this year — knocking a meatball off the top of Dave’s tree and telling his Lone Ranger story again — because, with Dave retiring, this is going to be the last time for that oddball tradition.

“I don’t know what year it started — 1998 maybe?  Wow.  I guess the genius of it is that Letterman thought of doing it every year,” says Jay.  “It’s nerve wracking, there’s no doubt about it.  The damn thing looks pretty small up there.”

As a football devotee, he loves having a football-related claim to fame — but even more, he gets to be “the guy,” that recurring guest who always pumps up the crowd like Don Rickles or George Gobel  when Jay watched talk shows as a kid.

But although his Letterman finale may be bittersweet, Jay certainly has other irons in the fire to think about.  The veteran actor and radio talk show host is in his 10 year with Sirius Satellite, doing his daily talk show that runs 3-6 p.m. Eastern time.  And he has his recurring gig on “Ray Donovan” as a tabloid TV producer named Marty Grossman who bears more than a little resemblance to TMZ’s Harvey Levin.

“Harvey’s not interested in it,” Jay lets us know.

Or at least, whatever interest he may have had seems to have subsided.  “I was getting out of a car at a mall and there’s this TMZ guy there, and I said, ‘Oh, this is great.’  I made fun of the fact they were following me around.  Harvey doesn’t like that.  The kid was laughing and I was laughing, and I acted shocked and all that, and pretended I cared.  I don’t even know if they ever ran it or not, but you know, Harvey tends to take himself a little seriously,” Jay opines.

Jay had envisioned his character on the gritty series about a tough Hollywood fixer ending badly, “Ray Donovan” style:  “They’d have me having sex with a man and get killed with a baseball bat.”  However, Marty lives on.  “I was talking to one of the producers and asked if they’d thought about killig him off, and he said yeah.  I suggested that it would be interesting for Ray to need him.  I mean, he’s always doing stuff and Ray is always getting mad at him, but it looks like they know each other.  So the writer says, ‘I never thought of something like that,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, okay.  Just trying to keep my job, basically.’

“So I was in the second to last episode of the season, and in the last episode he hands this DVD to his assistant and says, ‘Get this to Marty,’ the name of my character.  My wife turns to me in bed and slaps me five and says, ‘Well, I guess you’re back.'”  I’m back.  Marty ran something for Ray and now he owes Marty something.”

He enjoys playing Marty, who tends to be surrounded by gay bodyguards.  “I have my muscle shirt on.  I worked out for it.  It’s gotten me into good shape, so it’s very good,” Jay notes.

He says he hasn’t acted as much as he would have liked to through the years, but what he has done has had focus.  He has a way of being memorable on memorable shows.  On “Cheers” he was Eddie LeBec, hockey player husband of Carla (Rhea Perlman).  On “Murphy Brown,” he was Murphy’s boyfriend, the Morton Downey-esque Jerry Gold — and won two Emmys for it.  He was the Easter Bunny in two “Santa Clause” movies and the football coach in “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”

Jay did an onstage turn recently that was particularly close to his heart — his son’s musical, Somewhere With You.  Country song writer JT Harding is Jay’s eldest son, “my biological son that I gave up for adoption many years ago.  And then about 20 years ago, he came back to us and I became friends with his mother and father. Sadly, they both passed away in the last few years.”

Jay was close enough to his son’s adoptive family to have flown to Grosse Pointe for his brother’s wedding.  Harding “is the big brother to my other sons,” he says.  Jay and his wife had everyone over for Thanksgiving.

The musical features Harding songs made famous by Kenny Chesney (as in the show’s title, the Number One song “Somewhere With You”), Uncle Kracker, Jake Owen and JTX.  Jay performed in it at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre in New York last summer.  It’s described as a “coming-of-age love story centered around a new generation of Southerners, confronted by the methamphetamine epidemic, the war in Iraq, and other post-9/11 challenges in the rural South.”

According to Jay, the producers are taking it “all over the country.  That’s what it takes to get these shows done — perseverance.”

He’s looking forward to more family time during the holidays.  But first, he has a meatball to topple.


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Nov 27

JoBethWilliamsPhotoAt a time in life when many consider slowing down, JoBeth Williams has never been busier. She’s currently balancing roles on two series, has work on a third and has two movies in the can. Not so long ago, she found herself going from one series set to work on another on the same day. She admits there have been times she’s been “at one studio thinking, ‘Now wait a minute. Where do I go from here?’ I get lost.”

Not that she is complaining.

Long embraced by the movie-going and TV-watching public for her honest portrayals — in dozens of films including “Poltergeist,” “The Big Chill” and “American Dreamer” and television productions from “I Am Bill W” to “Dexter” — the down-to-earth, all-American actress says she can’t imagine ever retiring. “I like being busy.”

She’s charmed by the team on “Marry Me,” the NBC show on which she plays Ken Marino’s controlling mom, Myrna. Her other series, TBS’s forthcoming “Your Family or Mine” (both from “Friends” producer Jamie Tarses) has JoBeth working opposite long-time friend Richard Dreyfuss.

“It’s based on an Israeli show that is hugely successful over there,” she says. “The idea of it is that each episode takes place at one set of in-laws’ house. So one week it’s set at our house — me and Richard — and the next week it’s at Ed Begley Jr. and Cynthia Stevenson’s house. We are the parents of the son, they’re the parents of the daughter. It’s about how hard it is to get along with your spouse’s family. And it’s very good and very real and very true, I think. So we’ve had a lot of fun, Richard and I.”

They met more than 30 years ago, as founders of a group called L.A. Classic Theatre Works — the precursor of today’s L.A. Theatre Works — that was comprised of “movie, television and theater actors who had all been trained in the theater and wanted to do plays.” JoBeth worked with Richard on radio plays and on a reading of “Babbitt,” but “Your Family or Mine” marks “the first time we’ve actually played husband and wife.”

She laughs when asked how she likes Dreyfuss as a mate. “Oh, he is one of the most imaginative people! He’s a character and he’s fun and the audience loves him. He’s a hambone like the rest of us. I think he’s having a great time. The writing on the show is really good and the other actors are terrific, so we’re really enjoying ourselves.”

With that going on, is it hard to get back into the “Marry Me” mindset? “Sometimes, yeah,” JoBeth responds. “But because it’s a different format. It’s one camera, and you shoot it like a movie. ‘Your Family Or Mine’ is done before an audience, and I love that because it reminds me of theater. It has that live response which really, particularly in a comedy, feeds you and is so gratifying for an actor — although you do get to go back and redo stuff, which you don’t get to do in play,” she adds, smiling.

“With ‘Marry Me,’ what is really fun, the writer/creator David Caspe — who is married to the leading lady, Casey Wilson — he’s often on the set, and he and the directors love to have the actors try a lot of different things.”

TV pundits have duly noted that the network chose to pick up only five episodes of “Marry Me” rather than a full back nine for the second part of its season order, leading to speculation about the show’s future being short.

She points out Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing” began with a 13 episode order, then a pickupfor five more — then more episodes were added. Now that show, produced and directed by JoBeth’s husband, the highly regarded film and television director John Pasquin, is in its fourth season.JoBeth, however, says, “It’s got a following and I think it’s a terrific show. I think these young actors are so funny, so good and so clever. I think NBC is behind it because they don’t have a lot of comedies that are working, and this one they have has a lot of promise.”

The Pasquins have been married since 1982 and have two sons. “They’ve both finished college and are out in the work world going ‘well, hell,'” as she puts it.

As for her own career, the affable star says “I’m just happy to be working.” Thinking again, she adds, “It’s exciting because it gives me hope for the future of actresses. As long as I’ve been an actress we’ve been saying, ‘Surely the numbers will improve of roles written for women, and surely the number of roles written for older women will improve. And they haven’t very much unless you’re Meryl Streep. Now I think maybe what we’re seeing, with the quality of television being done and the types of material, that maybe the roles for women over 50 are starting to expand. I hope that’s true.”

Are there still items on her career bucket list?

“I’ve never done a Broadway show and I would love to do a Broadway show,” she says. “I’d love to do another lead in a movie; it’s been quite a while. I was nominated for an Oscar for directing a short film, then I directed for a couple of years — but then I became very busy acting, and my directing was forgotten. People don’t think of me as director anymore. I’m always looking for scripts to do a little independent movie to direct.”

JoBeth, who also finds time to serve as president of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, also feels she’s improved with the years. “I think I’m much smarter than I was when I was a younger woman. I think I have a better attitude toward things. I think I feel a little more connected to my life, and not like it’s this kind of frenzy of trying to achieve.” Now, says JoBeth, “It’s more about being able to do work I love to do, to be able to do it throughout my life, to maintain my health so that I can do it, and to take care of my family — to make sure that those relationships are nurtured and fed. It’s more important to me to enjoy what I’m doing while I’m doing it.”

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Nov 25

Lindy Booth, Christian Kane, Rebecca Romijn, John Larroquette, John Kim

Rebecca Romijn is looking pretty fierce, kicking butt and saving treasures in TNT’s “Librarians” series that launches Dec. 7 — a feat all the more remarkable considering the kind of schedule she was keeping through much of the production in Portland, Oregon.

“My husband was doing a play in New York and my girls had to finish up their school year, so their grandparents actually came and moved into our house with them and helped them, and I flew homeevery weekend from Portland to be with them,” reports the gorgeous actress of “X-Men” and “Ugly Betty” fame.

Referring to her and husband Jerry O’Connell’s twin daughters, she goes on with a laugh, “Taking care of two 5-year-olds for a weekend is not how you recover from a 90-hour work week. On Mother’s Day weekend, we shot till like 5:30 in the morning. I took a 6:30 a.m. flight home Saturday to spend Mother’s Day weekend with my kids. I was exhausted. I got right into bed and I had my girls with me and they were like, ‘It’s Mother’s Day! Can we go to the merry go round at the mall?’ ‘Hey, it’s Mother’s Day! Can we go to the bowling alley?’ And I was like, ‘How about, ‘It’s Mother’s Day. Let’s stay in bed and watch movies all weekend.’

“It was so tiring, but it was so worth it. And so much fun once they all got up there.”

Romijn also notes, “I enjoy work so much and I want my girls to see that and also sort of be a part of it. I have fun when I’m not working, too, but I’m really happy when I’m working and I want my girls to see that and hopefully be a role model for them.”

According to her, when it comes to spending time setside, Dolly and Charlie “love it. At this point, they don’t think there’s anything strange about it. They’re young enough where they — I think they assume everybody’s mommy and daddy does this.”

Does she foresee her daughters going into acting? “You know, there are some things that are out of our control. They may, and once they finish school they can do whatever they want,” says Romijn, “but as far as I’m concerned, nothing happens until they’re 18.

They can do as much acting in school as they want, but professional acting has to wait. That’s the deal my parents made with me.”

There was plenty for Charlie and Dolly to see around the “Librarians” sets. Taking off from the hit TNT franchise, this series has Noah Wyle’s character now aided by four more Librarians in the great quest to safeguard, preserve, defend, get back and otherwise curate fabled antiquities from supernatural forces. John Larroquette, Christian Kane, Lindy Booth and John Kim star along with Romijn. Wyle recurs and exec produces, and Bob Newhart and Jane Curtin are seen as well. The series keeps the same big, fun-loving tone as its predecessor movies.

“It’s as Noah Wyle put it: ‘Indiana Jones’ as if ‘Indiana Jones’ was being played by Don Knotts,” notes Romijn.

Her character is referred to as the “brawn” of the outfit, and she’s quite pleased about that. “I love it! I mean it’s such a fantastic time in television and movies with all these girls that can kick butt. I’ve gotten to play a few of these characters now that are sort of butt-kickers, and it’s an honor,” she says.

As far as preparation, of course, as the unforgettable blue Mystique of “X Men,” she had “done a lot of fight sequences.” Then, “Right before I got ‘Librarians,’ I had a series on TNT called ‘King & Maxwell’ and I had martial arts and weapons training for that. That was still fresh in my body, so I rolled all that training into this character.”

She was offered “Librarians” by franchise creator Dean Devlin, who is also exec producing the series. “He was working with TNT at the time, and I had a great relationship with TNT so it felt like a no-brainer, a marriage made in heaven.”

As for the future, and the prospective Jerry-and-Rebecca talk show that’s already getting attention? Romijn says, “That’s not official. There’s nothing to announce. We did a pilot, but there’s nothing to say about it yet.” Still, if it did come to pass that she and her witty mate try their hands at a chat show, “They did schedule it I would still be able to do ‘Librarians.'”

And she’s already proven how good she is at juggling schedules.

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Nov 23

Marty Allen bookTalking to Marty Allen is a little like stepping into a time machine, back to those cool Rat Pack days of yesteryear, and even earlier. In terms of keeping an energetic career going well into advanced years, the 92-year-old comic is up there in the rare terrain of Betty White. He not only still frequently plays gigs with wife of 30 years Karon Kate Blackwell, now he’s tub-thumping his “Hello Dere!” autobiography.

I wondered how someone so, well, mature could possibly recall the minutia of events dating back decades — dancing in the White House with Betty Ford, making friends with Joan Crawford, performing with former partner Steve Rossi on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on the same bill as The Beatles? Has he kept a journal all this time? “Oh, I remember, honey,” he assures, his voice imbued with schmoozy Las Vegas charm. “I even remember you.”

I’m not sure how to take that, but no matter. It’s interesting to think of Marty, with his googly-eyed expressions and untamed wilderness of upward-shooting hair, talking to the Fab Four backstage on that pop culture history-making night on the Sullivan show.

“Steve and I had done so many of those — someone asked me, ‘How many “Ed Sullivan Shows” did you do?’ and I said, ‘We did more than Ed Sullivan,'” he says. Ba-dum-bum! Marty recalls Sullivan telling him and Rossi, ‘You’re going to be on with The Beatles, and I went nuts because I had a hunch, when I saw them, that they were going to be the biggest thing that ever happened in show business. They were very nice; they were very courteous. They had no idea who Steve and I were. At the time I had that wild, crazy afro haircut, you know. John Lennon was tuning up and getting ready, and I said, ‘John.’ He said ‘Yes.’ I said ‘A lot of people mistake me for you.’ And he started laughing.

“A lot of little girls were trying to get in. It was the same studio where David Letterman is now. Backstage when we came in there had to be 1,000 girls screaming.”

Marty notes, “In writing the book, I remembered so many things. There’s sadness as well as happiness.”

So now that he’s completed his memoir, is there anything else on his show business bucket list?

“I’m enjoying what I’m doing,” he replies. “Karon and I enjoy doing these shows, working, and now that I’ve got the book. … Hey, just to keep going. It’s a good feeling.”

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Nov 15

If all has goneJosie Bisset Paper Angels according to plan, Josie Bissett of “Melrose Place” fame has just set off for Sri Lanka on a week-long mission with the Starkey Hearing Foundation. She attributes her decision to make the trip to the inspiration she got starring in the TV adaptation of country star Jimmy Wayne’s “Paper Angels.”

Now that’s some strong inspiration.

“I have always wanted to do a mission and I’ve always loved traveling,” she explains. “But you know, life gets busy and work takes your attention.” Now she will be helping in the process of giving hearing aids to hearing-impaired children and adults.

How did “Paper Angels,” which debuts Sunday, Nov. 16 on the UP channel, lead to such a trek? The story of a woman who has run away from her alcoholic husband and is at such a point of destitution she can’t provide Christmas cheer for her children sounds like pretty tough subject matter for a holiday movie. But the readers of Wayne’s immensely popular book will smile at the mention of the name.

“It was just one of those feel-good movies that leave you wanting to be a better person and give more than you get, and I love that,” she says. “I love content like that, especially being a parent myself. I really loved it when I read it.”

In fact, Bissett, who is divorced from one-time castmate Rob Estes, finds much with which to relate in the character. “It was really interesting, the parallels with my own life. My kids are the same ages as the kids in the show, a boy and a girl,” notes Josie, whose son Mason is 15 and daughter Maya is 12. “There are so many single parents out there who can really relate to that struggle.”

She adds, “I’ve always known about those angel trees and the Salvation Army. I’ve known about it, but I’ve never truly understood the impact that it could have. It’s one of those things you do, but you don’t get to see the recipient open it, so you don’t really know. Hearing Jimmy Wayne’s story — because basically, that’s what the script is about — you realize, the Angel Tree program did change his life. His personal story — he got his first guitar through the Angel Tree program, and you know, look at him now. Without that program, he would not have had anything for Christmas.”

Wayne has made it his personal mission, through his songs and writings, public appearances and lobbying, to support and uplift people, especially young people, who are in similar dire circumstances to those from which he pulled himself. He was in a series of foster homes. He recalls starving to the point of stealing food.

“When I met Jimmy Wayne, I swear to you, he’s just like an angel on this earth,” enthuses Bissett. “He had such a horrific childhood and now his entire life is about helping other people because he knows how blessed he is coming out of it. That’s all he does is talk about and travel for foster care and helping the foster care system and his various programs. His story really opened my eyes to someone who is just so incredibly giving and passionate.

“I would love to mention his new book that’s just come out,” she adds, “‘A Walk to Beautiful.’ ‘Paper Angels’ is loosely based on his life, but ‘A Walk to Beautiful’ is his personal story.”

Bissett herself is an author. Her “Tickle Monster” children’s book and “Little Bits of Wisdom and Making Memories,” a compilation of stories she co-edited, have fared well in the marketplace and continue to sell. She has another series in the formative stages, one that she says requires travel.

As far as her acting aspirations at this point? Bissett, who lives in Seattle, says she’d be open to another series as long as it would allow her a reasonable work schedule — especially, she mentions, an ensemble show that would “let me keep a balance in my life.” Living in the Pacific Northwest isn’t a matter of wanting to be away from the bustle of the industry in L.A., she notes. It’s a question of, “Where do I feel the most grounded? Where do I want to raise my kids?”

And then there’s the personal side. “I would love to be with someone again some day, but I’m not out there trying,” confesses the multi-talented beautiful blond. “I still believe in timing, and when things are meant to be. I know in my heart, deep down, the person will come when the time is right. I don’t have to look for it or find it. Otherwise people spend all this time dating and it’s really a time sucker. I don’t have time for that. I’m trusting that it will happen when It happens.”

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Nov 04

Jennifer Lopez book coverCelebrity watchers now know that Jennifer Lopez has felt abused “mentally, emotionally, verbally” in past relationships — thanks to that snippet from her “True Love” memoir going viral in the media.

Released this week, Lopez’ book purportedly “sets the record straight” on her already highly chronicled marriages and romances. When you get right down to it, however, this is not a book of shocking revelations, but introspection — in a pop music diva kind of way — as J.Lo lets us know that, via therapy, she has realized passion is not love. These days, instead of men the likes of Ben Affleck and P. Diddy showering her with rare diamonds, trips to Europe and expensive cars, she writes that she wants a love who’ll give her time, kindness, honesty and faithfulness.

Indeed, evidently third husband Marc Anthony even got to have a look at the book prior to publication.

In the realm of celebrity tell-alls, it’s pretty non-combustible stuff. Recent years have seen a parade of shocking revelations — along with oddball moments, feuds, high living and bitchy remarks — flipping by us in the pages of books. When it comes to unforgettably revealing show business memoirs, it’s a cinch the following Top 10 Tell-Alls will be remembered after Lopez’ book fades.

1. Drew Barrymore revealed shocking facts behind her adorable child star image in her unflinching 1990 book, “Little Girl Lost.” Abandoned by her alcoholic father, saddled with a mother who didn’t act like one, at 7, the ‘ET’ cutie felt she was expected to behave like a 29-year-old. At 9 she was smoking and boozing, at 10 she was smoking pot, and by 12 she was on cocaine. She co-wrote the best-selling ‘Little Girl Lost’ at the older and wiser age of 14.

2. If “Little Girl Lost” isn’t enough to convince readers that it’s hard growing up a child star who is part of an acting dynasty plagued by substance abuse problems, then Tatum O’Neal’s “A Paper Life” will do the trick. In it, she says, among many other things, that her father, Ryan O’Neal, seethed with jealousy over her acclaim for their “Paper Moon” film, that he punched her in the face when he learned of her Academy Award nomination, and that on Oscar night when she was the youngest winner in history, neither of her parents attended the ceremony. Her mother, Joanna Moore, was a hopeless addict and the family was riddled with drug abuse.

3. And then there’s Corey Feldman’s 2013 “Coreyography” that alleged that he and his late friend Corey Haim were both victims of sex abuse by older men who preyed on young boys in Hollywood. He also wrote of his drug addiction and what it was like to hang out with pal Michael Jackson — who was NOT one of the predators — at the height of his fame.

4. Rob Lowe’s “Stories I Only Tell My Friends” and “Love Life” memoirs dish the Lowe down on his wild Brat Pack days, romances with Melissa Gilbert and Princess Stephanie among many others, the infamous 1988 sex tape, his realization in 1990 that he was an alcoholic, rehab, run-ins with other celebrities and more.

5. Tori Spelling made dishing on herself, her randy “Beverly Hills, 90210″ cast mates, and — especially — the extravagant luxury and strangeness of the Aaron and Candy Spelling household into irresistible reading in her 2008 No. 1 best-seller, “sTORI Telling.” Her late super producer dad had snow trucked in to their mansion’s tennis courts as a Christmas morning surprise. Her mother dressed her up in adult costumes — complete with fake breasts and hip enhancements sewn inside — when she was 5 years old and never seemed to fully approve of her. Tori spilled more dirt on her relationship with mom in 2009’s “Mommywood.” Subsequent books including last year’s “Spelling it Like it Is,” prove Tori is the queen of TMI.

6. Mackenzie Phillips’ “High On Arrival” stunned the world with its allegation that she’d had an incestuous relationship for 10 years with her late father, John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas fame. Her former stepmother, Michelle, is among those who denied and pointed to Mackenzie’s long history of drug abuse — but Mackenzie has been embraced by survivors of incest groups.

7. With his 1993 autobiography and tons of tabloid tales, we already knew a lot of dirt about ’50s and ’60s matinee idol Tony Curtis — his sexual conquests, drug use, adultery, the fact he snorted cocaine with daughter Jamie Lee Curtis when she was a young adult. So what could be left to shock the public by 2009? In his “Some Like it Hot: My Memories of Marilyn Monroe and the Making of the Classic Movie” the late star claimed he and Marilyn Monroe were lovers and she miscarried their baby. He writes, “When I was in bed with Marilyn, I was never sure, before, during or after, where her mind was. She was an actress. She could play a part. She could give the part what she thought a man wanted. I never asked for more.” And here everyone thought they didn’t get along.

8. Perennially breezy and charming George Hamilton joined the tell-all ranks with his “Don’t Mind if I Do” memoir, in which he disclosed that he lost his virginity at age 12, to his stepmother. Ew. Also, George dished on relationships with Mamie Van Doren, Judy Garland, Danielle Steel and — her again — Marilyn Monroe. They had a date but didn’t hit it off.

9. If you’re into sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, you’re bound to find Keith Richards’ 2010 “Life” riveting. Reading like an uncensored evening with the legendary guitarist, “Life” wends its way through tales of drug use and affairs that make it even more unbelievable Richards is still alive. This is the book that made Mick Jagger miffed at his Rolling Stones band mate for referring to him as “unbearable” and suggesting he lacked in male endowment — which Richards later said he regretted writing.

10. “Mommie Dearest.” The one that started it all. Christina Crawford’s harrowing 1978 expose about her adoptive mother, movie star Joan Crawford, sent shock waves through Hollywood, spawned a movie with Faye Dunaway and countless send-ups on shows from “Saturday Night Live” to “Project Runway” — and was at least partly responsible for a spate of celebrity tell-alls that followed. (Among them: texts by the daughter of Bette Davis and by one of Bing Crosby’s sons.)

The book alleges: Crawford insisted upon Christina and her siblings addressing her as Mommie Dearest. She had alcoholic rages and attacked Christina physically many times — including once trying to strangle her and the infamous episode wherein Crawford exploded over finding wire hangers instead of covered or wooden hangers in Christina’s closet. She was germ phobic, compulsive. She made the children refer to her many lovers as “uncle'” or “daddy.”

Pundits today conjecture that she may have been bipolar or have had borderline personality disorder. Whatever the case, Christina certainly made good on her vow that Joan would not have the last word by leaving her out of her will.

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Oct 29
Hero Dog Awards 2014

Donna Smith Lawrence and Suzie at left. The AHA Hero Dog Awards 2014 feature hosts Beth Stern and James Denton

In 2009, Donna Smith Lawrence and her husband saw a TV news report about a puppy that had been found with severe burns on her body, her ears burned off, a broken jaw and teeth. The North Carolina hairdresser told her husband she wanted to adopt that dog. It was an astonishing statement — especially in light of the fact that Donna herself had spent weeks in the hospital recovering from a horrific pit bull attack by an abandoned animal in her neighborhood.

The Lawrences nursed the puppy they called Susie back to health. Infuriating many, the man who had so cruelly burned and beaten her was sentenced to probation only. At the time, North Carolina law did not criminalize animal abuse. Donna and Susie got busy — and today the state has “Susie’s Law,” which makes animal cruelty a low-level felony.

On Thursday night (10/30), viewers will have the chance to see Donna and Susie, now a certified therapy dog, being honored at the 4th Annual American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards on the Hallmark Channel. The celebrity-studded award show features compelling story after compelling story of amazing canines. Susie’s and Donna’s story of triumph and forgiveness brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience in the Beverly Hilton Hotel ballroom.

Susie, however, seemed to enjoy basking in the adulation and glamor. She looked divine in a purple tutu and a strand of faux pearls for the formal event. “She’s kind of used to it,” admits Lawrence with a smile. “She was just a little star, just standing up there on stage, just taking it all in. She didn’t seem to mind at all. That’s kind of her trademark, pearls and tutus,” she adds.

Susie’s rise to fame began with the campaign to get her animal cruelty law on the books. She and Donna visited communities across the state, manned booths at events to get petitions signed, answered questions. Eventually, they took their case all the way into the state house in Raleigh. “We took her right up in front of the Senate and the House and let them see first hand what animal cruelty looked like. I think that’s what really made the powerful difference, ’cause it’s one thing to talk about an animal being abused but when it’s someone marching the animal right up in front of you, you can’t deny it.”

Susie’s abuser wouldn’t have been penalized even to the extent that he was if the assistant district attorney on the case hadn’t thought of prosecuting him on grounds of attempted destruction of personal property. Susie had belonged to the abuser’s girlfriend. “If the girlfriend had shown up in court and said, ‘I don’t care that he burned my dog,’ he would have got nothing,” says Lawrence. “I think her parents kept her away because of all the publicity.” Not surprisingly, Susie’s abuser has gone on to other incidents of trouble with the law.

Since news broke of Susie’s Hero Dog win, Lawrence has been deluged with emails. “I get emails from people who want to get the laws changed in their states: How can I do this? We want to do this here. People just want this epidemic of animal abuse stopped. And that’s how we stop it — to make it a national movement to stop animal cruelty. There are states that have great laws, but others don’t. North Dakota and South Dakota don’t. North Carolina was in the top five worst; the laws hadn’t been changed in 100 years. Alabama has pretty good animal cruelty laws now. Because of a dog that was burned that was named Gucci, they have a law called Gucci’s Law. That dog passed away.” Lawrence and Susie continue their lobbying efforts even as the pooch does her humanitarian work, visiting children, the aged, the disabled, always with her silent message that there can be a bright future even for those in despair.

Susie’s story is not only of victory, but of healing. After her pit bull attack, Lawrence, understandably, had a dread fear of dogs. Susie, she says, “got me over that. I felt God was saying to adopt her and ‘I have great plans for you. From this day forward you will no longer be afraid of dogs,’ and I haven’t been. It’s like Susie opened my eyes to where I don’t have to live in fear. Because, you know, she trusted humans again after what happened to her. I thought, ‘If she can trust humans, I can trust dogs.’ So, you know, she really helped me overcome that fear.”

These days, Susie keeps a full slate of public appearances — and there will be even more now that she is the Hero Dog Award winner of this year. There’s already a movie about her, “Susie’s Hope,” that stars Emmanuelle Vaugier. It fared well on the festival circuit, had a small theatrical run, and can now be found on Netflix, at Walmart, Best Buy and other outlets.

“It’s a really good movie and everybody’s loving it,” Lawrence lets us know. “And it’s a really good tool for the work we’re doing.”

A documentary for 2015 is also on the way. Oh, and Susie has a little toy line of her own – including plush therapy dogs that feature the pit bull mix’s trademark pearls and instead of ears, furry little nubs on their heads.

At age five, she is happy and healthy.

Lawrence adds, “I’m glad Susie won because of what she represents.”

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