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Lori Loughlin, Cameron Mathison thankful at Hallmark soiree

Hallmark Channel's screening for "Northpole: Open For Christmas," premiering Saturday, November 21 on Hallmark Channel, part of the network's widely popular Countdown to Christmas programming event. This year the network rolls out 17 original movie premieres in November and December. Photo: Bailee Madison, Lori Loughlin, Dermot Mulroney Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: jeremy lee/Alexx Henry Studios, LLC

Hallmark Channel’s screening for “Northpole: Open For Christmas,” premiering Saturday, November 21 on Hallmark Channel, part of the network’s widely popular Countdown to Christmas programming event. This year the network rolls out 17 original movie premieres in November and December. Photo: Bailee Madison, Lori Loughlin, Dermot Mulroney Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: jeremy lee/Alexx Henry Studios, LLC

Lori Loughlin is feeling immense gratitude as this Thanksgiving rolls around. The actress has the Hallmark Channel’s simply delightful “Northpole: Open for Christmas” original movie, which debuted Nov. 21. She has more of her “Garage Sale Mystery” movies in the pipeline for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. And, of course, she’ll be seen again as Aunt Becky in Netflix’s “Fuller House” redux next year.

We caught up with Loughlin at the Hallmark Channel unveiling of the “Northpole” sequel at Hollywood’s The Grove the other night. “I feel so lucky, I feel so blessed. I’ve been working a lot in really wonderful projects with really wonderful people and I’m so fortunate,” she said. “I can’t even believe, actually, that at my age I’m working as much as I am right now.”

Loughlin, who has been married to designer Mossimo Giannulli for 16 years and has two also-gorgeous teenage daughters, looked smokin’ hot in a red lace Elie Saab jumpsuit at the magical holiday event. How does she manage to stay so slim and fit? “I work out. I do a lot of yoga. I do a workout called Body by Simone,” she said. “It’s like a dance cardio class with some free weights. The combination of those now is mostly what I’ve been doing.”

loughlin jumpsuitShe stars along with Dermot Mulroney and adorable 16-year-old Bailee Madison (reprising her elf role) in the tale of a high-end valuation appraiser who inherits her aunt’s run-down New England Inn — of course not knowing that the place is a secret power station for Santa Claus.

The mood was certainly celebratory, as Hallmark Channel President & CEO Bill Abbott announced that more than 75 million viewers tuned Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas fare last year.
Even Santa couldn’t have come up with a better gift.

A young bakeshop owner’s holiday season takes a surprising turn when she finds a body at a local Christmas tree lot and winds up involved in a dangerous murder investigation. With colorful characters popping up as suspects, shady business practices uncovered at the tree lot and holiday romance in the air, the young baker-turned-sleuth must race against time to track down the killer and save the Christmas season. Photo: Alison Sweeney, Cameron Mathison Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Bettina Strauss

MEANWHILE: Cameron Mathison was also on hand for the “Northpole: Open for Christmas” event — with his and Alison Sweeney’s “Murder, She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery” set to debut Sunday, Nov. 22, on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. “It’s such a treat for me to walk away from the madness of everyday life and make a movie with Alison Sweeney,” notes the “Entertainment Tonight” anchor. “I can hardly wait for the next one to start.”

In fact, the third “Murder, She Baked” movie is already a wrap, and a fourth one is likely to go into production next year. Mathison says that when he went full-time on “E.T.,” it was with the understanding that he would occasionally take on acting assignments.

“It was something we brought in that didn’t take much convincing; it wasn’t make or break,” he recalls. “I think a lot of the ‘E.T.’ audience fits in nicely with Hallmark Channel. It’s a nice supplement.

“All of us on ‘E.T.’ have other things we do,” adds Mathison.

The real juggling challenge is between his peripatetic professional life and his life as a dad to his and wife Vanessa’s 12-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. “I try to be as hands-on as humanly possible,” he says. “When I’m away, we Skype and FaceTime. I am literally on in the background all the time.”

Not at Thanksgiving, though. Mathison and his family will be spending part of the holiday week on SoCal slopes. They’re also planning a ski getaway to Colorado at Christmas.

“It’s a full and fun time,” he says.


Louis Van Amstel relished working on a full-on samba with Tamar Braxton for last night’s (10/12) “Dancing With the Stars” switch-up week performance — but the popular pro says he welcomes getting back to the rather different challenge of dancing with his partner of this season, 68-year-old Paula Deen. He certainly has his reasons. For one thing, he and the Georgia-based foodie have struck up an off-beat friendship. That’s real chemistry the twosome have been showing, ever since their introduction, when Paula planted a surprised Louis’ head upon her ample breast.

There are other kinds of chemistry besides romantic chemistry, he points out.

He’s quick to add that Paula “has come furthest of the older group” of this year’s contestants. “There’s a change in her demeanor, from nervous to less nervous. She’s gone from screwing up big to screwing up less big.” Not surprisingly, Louis disagrees with Gary Busey’s complaints over his axing from the competition two weeks ago, when plenty of viewers anticipated Paula getting cut: “I don’t think it was unfair. He went out exactly where, in my opinion, he should have gone out.”

The other, probably most important reason Van Amstel is happy to be teamed with Paula this season is that it’s a perfect promo for his LaBlast Dance Fitness program. LaBlast Dance Fitness is seven years old now, complete with DVDs, online options and trained LaBlast leaders doing his thing all over the country.

“I really do better with someone like Paula, or Kelly Osbourne, than someone like Tamar,” he says. “My last seven years have been about teaching people to dance and convincing people who don’t think they can dance that they can — people who have to lose a lot of weight, I want to support them. When they see me dance with Tamar, they say, ‘That’s great, but I could never do that.’ When they see me dance with Paula, when they see her transformation, they say, ‘Maybe I can do that too.'”

Paula has lost more than 40 pounds. Osbourne shed 35 in her transformation.

 Van Amstel is hoping to induce more women and men who wish to lose weight and get into shape with his ballroom dance-based program via his Oct. 21-starting “Dance the Pounds Away With LaBlast Fitness” challenge. Participants will have a chance to win money by losing weight via his LaBlast program over four weeks.

Helping people get in shape and get healthy has become much more than a side activity for Van Amstel. It’s now a mission.

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.


Patricia Richardson Admits to Nervousness Over ‘Last Man Standing’ Guesting

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.

Fearless Predictions for Entertainment 2015

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!