Category Archives: The Hollywood Exclusive by Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith

The Hollywood Exclusive column by Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith

Hollywood in its Glory Alive in ‘Starflacker’

starflackerKirk Douglas and John Wayne, conspiring to make the most of a so-called “feud” between them in order to grab the attention of the press and public — just as their “The War Wagon” movie was hitting theaters.

Doris Day, generously and graciously forgoing Hollywood glamor to help a press photographer get her photo session done early when the photographer suffered a death in her family — never hinting that she knew the reason for the rush.

Megastar Gary Cooper caught by a journalist in a potentially embarrassing situation — and the journalist keeping it to himself for decades.

Those are just samples from the treasure trove of inside Hollywood antics contained in “Starflacker: Inside the Golden Age of Hollywood,” the memoir by legendary publicist Dick Guttman, known for repping top of the A-list clientele the likes of Barbra Streisand and the late Elizabeth Taylor.

Amid a seemingly-never-ending stream of shock value celebrity tales, Dick’s book is refreshingly positive, full of warmth and wit.

As Renee Taylor noted, it’s a wonderful thing to see a man still in love with both Hollywood and his wife after six decades.

Dick has been known to stay firmly out of the limelight throughout his career. With “Starflacker” (available on Amazon.com) he steps out to serve as historian and guide to a Hollywood that lives in the cherished memories of some, and must seem like a fantasy to those familiar with the more cynical and less free show business scene of today.

A personal story is woven through, with surprises (LSD? CIA?) along the way.

Don’t let the daunting 652-page length scare you. It is a fun read, a trip back in time.

Bob Barker, Still Busy at 91, Sees Progress in Animal Rights Efforts

Bob_barkerBob Barker made history as America’s longest-running television host, with his 35 years on “The Price is Right,” 18 on “Truth or Consequences” and more. But the 91-year-old’s most impactful legacy just might turn out to be his work in animal rights. Having set up endowments for the study of animal law at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Northwestern University, Georgetown, Columbia, Duke and the University of Virginia several years ago, he’s getting word that other colleges are emulating their focus.

“There are universities I haven’t helped at all that are establishing their own courses on animal law,” he says with some surprise.

He’s also heard back from students involved in this field of study — gratifying notice of young people dedicating themselves to the protection of animals. The classes “are very popular, apparently,” notes Barker, who was named an Honorary Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics in 2010. “They are accomplishing precisely what I set out to accomplish. They are getting excellent students and they’re going on to things I had hoped they would.”

In a time when news reports are full of alarming information about the straits of our natural world and the animals therein, he finds there are encouraging signs — starting with increased public awareness of heretofore little-seen problems. “The animal rights movement is like a snowball,” he declares. “It’s rolling and getting bigger and bigger and there’s no stopping it now. Things are really happening. I’m so optimistic.”

His activism has taken him from lobbying against cruel rodeo practices in Canada to circus rescues in Peru. The latter, current efforts with Animal Defenders International, he terms “the biggest and most complex animal rescue ever attempted. It’s going so well the Peruvian government has requested that ADI help rescue monkeys and other animals in Peru from the illegal wildlife trade — which is something we’re all concerned with, those of us in the animal rights movement.”

One can’t help noticing Barker’s sharpness and energy during an afternoon’s chat. It’s remarkable for a man his age. The WWII naval aviator’s piquant humor was recently on display when he was seen joking in a TV interview that people talk a lot about the atomic bomb ending the war, but it was really him and his Corsair.

Perhaps not surprisingly, he attributes his healthful zest to his vegetarianism.

“I’ve been vegetarian about 30-35 years. My wife became a vegetarian and I decided I would, too,” he says, referring to his beloved Dorothy Jo, who passed away in 1981 after 36 years of marriage. “I became a vegetarian and I’ve never been sorry about it. I did ‘Price is Right’ until I was 83 years old, and ‘Price’ is an hour show and not sitting at a desk; there’s a lot of moving around and physical activity in it. I don’t think I could ever have done it if I hadn’t become a vegetarian.”

He goes on, “I became a vegetarian out of concern for animals, but I soon realized that the people who preached the healthful qualities of being a vegetarian are right and it’s been good for me.”

Also, “I work out every day. I lift some light weights and I do a lot of stretching and I get on the elliptical machine, and that’s good for my heart. I’m very conscientious. I think that as you get old — at any age your diet and exercise are important, but as you get older you MUST exercise and you MUST eat a healthy diet or you’re going to be shuffling around.”

Barker is certainly a shining example of the benefits of such a lifestyle.

He laughs. “I’ve never been described as a shining example of anything before, but I like it!”

Although he pops up on TV from time to time — as in his April 1 “Price is Right” appearance as “Drew Carey” and his recent turns on “The Bold and The Beautiful” — Barker makes it clear he’s having “a very successful retirement” and isn’t interested in any more regular gigs.

He’d rather make his calls and do his talks about animal welfare. Occasionally, animals call on Barker. One of the organizations he helps is the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center that does work on behalf of wolves. “They have a wonderful wolf out there called Wiley, and Wiley and I just struck it off,” says Barker. “He seems to like me and I love Wiley. I have a big picture of Wiley, and I told my new housekeeper, ‘He’s going to come visit.’ She said, ‘A WOLF?!'”

He laughs. “This gentleman from the rescue center brought Wiley to the house. I sat on the patio and talked to him, then Wiley went to her and she thought it was wonderful. He ran all over the house and she loved it. Wiley is a good friend, I’ll tell you. He’s just so big and friendly.”

Considering all the characters with whom Barker contended on “The Price is Right” all those years, it’s no wonder he can handle a wolf.

Chris and Heidi Powell Tackle Couples’ Extreme Weight Loss

CHRIS POWELL, HEIDI POWELLSeason five of “Extreme Weight Loss” launches tonight, May 26, and this year there will be a couple of new variations on the popular theme of long-term weight loss journeys.

“This season we’re dabbling with something that Heidi and I have been wanting to do for a long time and that’s work with couples,” reports trainer and lifestyle makeover specialist Chris Powell, referring to his wife and fellow trainer, Heidi. “We have three engaged couple who want to make a change before they start the next chapter of their lives together.”

“We not only get to work with them in achieving their weight loss goals,” adds Heidi, “Chris gets to give the bachelors advice and I get to give the bachelorettes advice. We tell them what’s worked for our marriage and what hasn’t worked — so it goes further than weight loss.” She laughs brightly, “It’s weddings and weight loss.”

Literally — as those particular weight transformations each ends with an on-camera wedding. In fact, notes Chris, “I got to marry one couple. It was such an honor.” He admits, “I was more nervous for that than anything I’ve done this year. It’s like, it wasn’t about the show, it was about that they’d become such wonderful friends of ours and we wanted that moment to be perfect for them. It was an honor and it was a blast.”

This energetic, seemingly sweet-natured, attractive and — of course — mightily well-toned pair have four children and a unique lifestyle in Aurora, Colorado, balancing their reality series with such activities as their weight loss boot camp at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.

And yes, they really are friends of their show’s participants. Season four’s Bruce from Salt Lake City, for example, comes and stays with Chris and Heidi and their brood every month. They’re like an extended family.

“They are! We call them the extended Powell Pack,” affirms Heidi. Their kids “have all these extra aunts and uncles. They love it — more people to love them.”

The beautiful blond fitness expert, also seen on the ABC.com Web series “Meet the Powell Pack,” has always worked with “Weight Loss” participants behind the scenes — but only last year began co-hosting the prime time show. Being seen as a training twosome obviously works well for the Powells, since Heidi is not only back this year, but in more episodes.

Another difference this season? “I will say this season’s cast is female dominant,” notes Heidi. “I do feel this past year there has been more need for a woman’s perspective and more involvement in my own experience. Many times I think it’s so much easier for women to open up to other women who have been there.”

To look at Heidi, a walking example of perfect female form, one wouldn’t think extremely overweight women would find her relatable.

“The thing that people don’t realize until they get to know me is that I struggled with my own eating disorder for a long time,” responds Heidi, who met Chris when they were both going through tough times.

(He was coming out of a business failure, she was a newly divorced mother of two.) She goes on, “Really, anorexia is almost the exact same thing they’re dealing with except on the opposite end of the spectrum — very, very similar. The difference is, my eating issue wasn’t as apparent as their eating issue. And mine wasn’t limited to anorexia. I also struggled with bulimia.”
If Heidi hadn’t been afflicted with the disorder that causes victims to purge their bodies of food, her binging would soon have caused her weight to balloon. “I would have been the same weight they were,” she says of her and Chris’ clients. “So I do understand, in so many ways, what they’re dealing with and what those triggers are that make you not only eat food but binge eat food — eat until it doesn’t even look good or taste good but you keep eating because it’s there.”

What do the Powells advise someone who is, perhaps, dealing with an extremely stressful situation and unconsciously trying to handle it by shoveling in food? How do they short-circuit that drive?

“Any time you’re using food as a coping mechanism, there is something much deeper that has to be dealt with,” says Heidi. “Myself included. For everyone it’s different. For some people it’s the need to love and forgive someone. It might just be insecurities they need to overcome within themselves. My responsibility, and Chris’s responsibility is helping them get to the root, and once we do that, we can identify that food is the coping mechanism you have using that you’ve trained your body to use for years. It’s easier to trade addictions — maybe we go from food to a healthier addiction, maybe exercise, or whatever it is. Awareness is the key to everything.”

Chris elaborates, “To actually achieve long-term transformation is to get to the emotional root of what is driving that behavior in the first place. It’s by far the biggest challenge. Some people get there in a couple of weeks, for some it takes months. Some, it could take a whole year. It really depends on the individual and their journey.”

In a television landscape full of “reality” shows that have nothing to do with reality, “Extreme Weight Loss” does seem to show moments of genuine disappointment and outright failure. The folks working to drop half their body weight or more over the course of a year have been known to rebel, go off the plan, regain weight, try to hide their eating. Sometimes — many times — they miss their weight loss goals along the way.

“This is the reality of rehabilitation,” stresses Chris. “This is what it’s like for people to change. We need people to know it’s not easy. The most important part is the emotional and psychological battle. It’s not all hugs and high fives. We want people to watch the show and find hope and inspiration, but also realistic expectations. We want to give them the tools they need to know, hey, life’s gonna be tough but I’m tough enough to push through.”

The Powells have been “decompressing” between promotional chores, as their children’s school year, and their season five filming, just came to an end. Heidi notes that twice a year, they take family trips that are work-free.

“We made a pact; we put the phones down and just spend time with the kids. In October we took them to Hawaii and in March, we took the family to California. Other than that, the kids kind of dig traveling with us when we’re working, too. We enjoy our time together.”

Jazmyn Simon of Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Ballers’ Loves Playing With the Boys

Jazmyn SimonIf you’ve seen any of the HBO promos for Dwayne Johnson’s June 21-debuting “Ballers,” you know the half-hour dramedy about a retired pro football player looks like a high octane, chest thumping, head bumping, heart pumping, flash-with-cash testosterone fiesta.

Jazmyn Simon is the sole female star in the cast of the show, a position that could have quickly gone sour. However, the fact she starts laughing when asked about that lets us know right away that hers is not a tale of woe. “It was the best thing in the world,” insists the 5’5″ beauty, who plays the wife of 6’6″ Omar Benson Miller. “It was like a clinical study of the male habits of these guys. After awhile, they stopped treating me like a girl and just started treating me like a little sister. The ‘representative’ them leaves, and then the real them arrives, and I have to tell you, men are hilarious.”

Well, yes. Of course.

“On our show, half the guys are married and half are single, and when you get a group of handsome single guys in Miami, you get to see funny stuff. I got to see guys hitting on girls — that they would not normally allow me to see. It was amazing.”

Amazing as in pickup lines that make you roll your eyes?

“I rolled my eyes all the time, do you hear me? I rolled my eyes,” she declares. “All I’m doing is rolling my eyes with these guys.”

She also notes, “They took great care of me. Any time the cast and crew went out, they made sure I had a production assistant walking me to my car. I loved it. And not only was I a little sister, I was like a big sister. One guy, Donovan Carter, is younger than me and we got extremely close, we spoke a couple of times a day every single day, before and after production.”

And to hear her tell it, Johnson led the way in gentlemanly ways. “Any time I walked in the room, he’d stand up give me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and then make sure I sat down before he sat down. His parents raised him right,” says Jazmyn. “He is just an exceptional person, by far one of the nicest people around. I’m laughing because it’s crazy how someone could be so handsome and so talented and such a big name and still remain so humble. He’s kind. He’s approachable.”

We will see Johnson as we haven’t seen him before, according to her. “If I drive down the street, I’m going to see, like, three different billboards for movies he has coming out right now,” says Jazmyn, speaking of the star who has “San Andreas” opening May 29, is among the stars of “Furious 7” (released last month, the blockbuster has a worldwide box office gross of $1,467,817,000 so far) and has several films in the works in addition to “Ballers,” which wrapped its first 10 episodes in Miami this past March.

“I can honestly say he’s an action star up until this point. He does a lot of muscle — ‘Hercules.’ On this show, Dwayne is acting his a— off. He is acting. It’s not Dwayne being a muscle man, it’s Dwayne being the actor, and he’s really so great.”

As for her own role — is she like a little or big sister on camera as well as off?

Jazmyn is quick to reply in the negative. “She’s definitely not sisterly. Julie is sexy and sassy and ambitious and funny, but not sisterly. She is a very ambitious woman who wants the best for her family. She is married to a retired football player, just navigating life after the game of football. When you’ve spent so much time navigating one thing, and then you have to open a new book, it’s chapter 1. It’s post-football. She really wears the pants in her family, which is a good strong character for a woman.”

It’s also a surprising character in this context.

“It’s such smart writing, because it’s true, you generally don’t see that in this context. If I say, ‘She’s married to a football player,’ you automatically thought of something. You thought of a tight skirt, high heels, an expensive purse and an expensive car and there’s nothing wrong with that. They have a lot of money and they know how to spend it. But you don’t really see strong, smart and professional. My character is a doctor, so not only is she sexy and funny and ambitious, but she is very smart and she has a career. So you’re going to see her and her husband figuring out life after football.”

“Ballers” was Jazmyn’s 200th audition — and what a show, what a part to land!

“It feels like a dream. It feels surreal,” she says of the series, which was created by Stephen Levinson (“Entourage”) and is executive produced by Johnson, Levinson, Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”), who also directs.

“I’m so grateful, I count my blessings every day.”

Last Call for ‘Late Show’ with David Letterman Bud Tom Dreesen

dreesenComedian Tom Dreesen is feeling bittersweet about his last “Late Show” visit with old pal David Letterman, which is coming up Thursday (4/16). “We’ve known each other since 1975, and we were two young comics at the Comedy Store,” he says, referring to the famed L.A. nightery. Jay Leno was there, he remembers, and Robin Williams and Michael Keaton, “and the girl waiting tables was Debra Winger.”

Dreesen and Letterman “became fast friends — we played basketball, jogged together. The first time he hosted ‘The Tonight Show,’ I was his guest.”

Dreesen recalls Letterman being “funny and witty, but never comfortable” on the nightclub stage, but the first time he saw him do television, “I thought, ‘oh my God. He’s home. You know, he broke into TV in Indianapolis as a weatherman. In a studio, he was right at home.”

Network executives saw that as well, recalls Dreesen. “If a network sees something in somebody, they know right away.”

Don’t be surprised if Dreesen shows up with photos highlighting some of his early days with Dave — as part of the Comedy Store basketball team and such.

Starting with his and Tim Reid’s trailblazing Tim & Tom biracial comedy act, Dreesen’s made standup his metier throughout his career.

He spent 14 years touring with Frank Sinatra as the show business icon’s opening act. Now he’s touring with his “An Evening of Laughter & Memories of Sinatra” one-man show in this year, marking the centennial of Sinatra’s birth. He also spent years as a “Tonight Show” mainstay.  Tomorrow (4/15), however, Dreesen will be doing something entirely different from all that — serving as the keynote speaker at the 150th anniversary of the passing of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois. Dreesen’s topic will be Lincoln’s humor.

“He was a master of the art of storytelling,” notes the comic. “And he enjoyed having a laugh and giving a laugh. You know, he lost two sons during his presidency. His wife had emotional problems. And he went through the darkest times of the Civil War. If he hadn’t been able to find ways to laugh, he probably wouldn’t have made it.

“Laughter causes a chemical change in the body. When you’re laughing, you’re not thinking of your problems. Endorphins are released.” Dreesen points to research done at UCLA with the late Norman Cousins that showed a correlation between humor and healing. “Abe Lincoln didn’t know about that, of course, but he knew the value of humor.