Oct 07

Dogs have always been man’s best friend, but it’s only been in the last few decades that we have started behaving as if it works both ways.  That’s an encapsulation of an idea that Betty White expressed last night, when she was honored at the Second Annual American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards — and Betty is one who would know.

The 90-year-old national treasure has been an animal lover throughout her lifetime, of course, going back to the days that, according to her, animal advocates were viewed as “a bunch of zealots” and our beastie besties were strictly considered beneath us.  Now, though, every year we’re discovering more capabilities of these wonderful creatures, Betty enthused.

Kristin Chenoweth presents a new line of greeting cards for dogs — not too seriously — at the Hero Dog Awards

At the Hero Dog Awards, many of these remarkable capabilities were celebrated, as eight Hero Dog honorees and their stories were introduced with the help of emcee Kristin Chenoweth (and her own dog, Madeline Kahn Chenoweth), Joey Lawrence, Jewel, Pauley Perette, Kellie Martin, Denise Richards, Naomi Judd, Mark Steines, Jake T. Austin and other celebs.

For instance, there’s Jynx, the Law Enforcement/Arson Dog honoree.  He was on duty with his handler, Deputy Sheriff Kyle Pagerly of the Berks County Sheriff’s Department, and other officers in rough terrain — and the German Shepherd alone detected a bad guy lying in wait, ready to ambush the law men with a sub machine gun and a cache of other weapons.  Jynx alerted the deputies to the gunman’s presence, attacked the gunman — who nevertheless managed to fire several shots at Pagerly — and then attempted to pull his wounded master to safety.    Pagerly died at the hospital, but the other officers on the scene that day feel they owe the hero dog their lives.   Jynx now lives with Pagerly’s widow and baby daughter.   It was Mrs. Pagerly, only a few weeks pregnant when she lost her 28-year-old husband,  who tearfully accepted Jynx’ award — and a heartfelt standing ovation from the crowd.

There are stories of therapy dogs who’ve saved lives and brought troubled humans out of their shells, stories of courageous canines on the battlefield, dogs who’ve given people with disabilities ways to live normal lives.   Yes, have the hankies handy if you watch the Hero Dog Awards on The Hallmark Channel November 8.  Each honoree is loveable and deserving, unlike other awards shows we could name.

The Beverly Hilton Hotel’s Grand Ballroom, where such galas as the Golden Globes take place, was again the setting for the Hero Dog Awards, with quite a few canines, large and small, there to enjoy the event first-paw.  (Whatever must those doggies have thought of being applauded by a ballroom full of people?)  The crowd feasted upon sauteed tenderloin of beef and seared citrus olive marinated filet of sea bass — and a dessert of espresso almond tiramisu in a chocolate cup, complete with white chocolate hero dog medallions.   For those who watched the first Hero Dogs Awards last year, with Carson Kressley as host — expect a more even program this year.



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Sep 08

Candace Cameron Bure looked simply stunning in a little white dress at the preview party for her “Puppy Love” Hallmark Channel Original movie that premieres tonight (9/8).  But it was her costar who stole much of the attention — and she didn’t even seem to mind.

No, we don’t mean hunky Victor Webster (pictured), who plays Candace’s baseball player love interest in the movie.  It was her other costar (also pictured), Bugsy, who had the crowd oohing and awwing at La Piazza at L.A.’s The Grove.  Bugsy complied with all photo requests, standing, sitting or giving big doggie kisses.

“Growing up on ‘Full House,’ I’m used to working with dogs,” Candace reminded.  And now, as a mom, she’s used to her own full house of animals.  The Bure family pets, past and present, include dogs, of course, plus “a bearded dragon, a Russian turtle, and hamsters,” she let us know.

When everyone walked across the plaza to the Pacific Theater for the screening, Bugsy took his place in the front row to watch.  “What do you think he’s thinking, seeing himself on the big screen?” asked a guest.  We can only imagine.  However, stardom does not seem to have gone to his head.  Perhaps because he has not forgotten his humble beginnings as a rescue dog.

Hallmark is partnering with Petsmart Charities for “Puppy Love,” which certainly depicts how much adopting a rescue pet can enhance one’s life.  Petsmart Charities, as you may well have seen for yourself, has a large ongoing effort nationwide to help rescue dogs and cats find loving homes.

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Jul 08

 By Stacy Jenel Smith

Ernest Borgnine in The Hallmark Channel’s “Love’s Christmas Journey”

Ernest Borgnine will be remembered for his Oscar-winning performance in “Marty,” his popular TV series “McHale’s Navy” and his work in “From Here to Eternity,” “The Wild Bunch” and dozens of other films — but I’ll remember him best in his latter day role as the Great Old Guy.  He loved to tell his stories and show off his vigorous enthusiasm for life even in its waning years, and it was a gift to take in that energy whenever the chance came along.

The 95-year-old charmer was still working — and quite capable of working a room — pretty much to the end.  I asked him, just before his last birthday in January, what was the secret to his robust longevity. 

 ”My secret is: keep laughing.  That’s the idea,” Borgnine replied, in one of his big jovial declarations.  “If you can keep laughing and keep smiling, one way or another, by golly, you’re bound to find other people around you laughing, too.”

He went on, “I’ve had my times when I just felt terrible, just awful, you know?   But hey, there’s always something that comes along that makes you feel good.  That’s what matters, really — it’s how you approach life.  You can be like the people who go around with a cloud over their heads for the rest of your days and it’s terrible.  Or you can wake up in the morning and say, ‘Hey, man!  I’m alive and God has had a good look at me and blessed me.’”

Among his recent work was his portrayal of a man whose wife was dying in the final episode of “ER.”  He played it with such honest simplicity, it was a four hankie job, for sure.

“It was hard in the sense that it never happened to me and to make it look like it was real, I had to really dig into my heart and my head,” said Borgnine, who is survived by his wife of 39 years, Tova.  Their marriage was his fifth, and he made it clear that with this one, he’d gotten it right.  “We thank our lucky stars, because after all this time and everything that’s happened, we love each other all the more every day,” he said in ’09. 

Borgnine won an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor on a Series that year — while returning “ER” stars George Clooney, Eriq LaSalle and Noah Wyle did not.  When I pointed that out to him, he smiled and said with a twinkle, “I know.  I shouldn’t gloat, believe me.”  (Michael J. Fox won that year.)

Later, when Borgnine made his notorious remarks against the gay love story in “Brokeback Mountain,” I was among the many who cringed as if it had been our own elderly relative who’d said it.  He’s not a mean guy, we wanted to say.  He’s from another time…  We wished he hadn’t’a.  But he had.

Borgnine said that of all his many movie production memories, none surpassed his experience in making the 1977 miniseries, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’  He played the Roman Centurian in the production that starred Robert Powell — and recalled that while they were shooting the crucifixion sequence, at one point he was required to look at a dot positioned for correct eye line as if he were viewing Jesus on the cross, and then he would react. 

He asked director Franco Zeffirelli if someone could read the line, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” so that he could get into the moment for his performance.  Then, he said, “They turned the camera and I looked up at the dot…but suddenly I saw the head of Jesus Christ, and it fell to one side as he died.  I started crying like a baby.  When they finished shooting, I looked around and everybody was crying.’”

However, he added with a slight laugh, “Zeffirelli said, ‘Ernesto, that was very good.  Can you try one without so many tears?’

“That’s been written about in books,” added Borgnine, who came out with his autobiography in 2008.  “It’s the one thing I carry with me the rest of my life.’”

In the last couple of years, Borgnine took on a number of smaller roles in fare such as The Hallmark Channel’s “Love’s Christmas Journey.”  And then there was his final starring vehicle — writer-director Elia Petridis’ indie film, “The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez.”  The dramedy, which has been seen by festival audiences, has him as an old man bitterly disappointed that he never became famous — who suddenly finds himself the center of attention among the Latino workers in his nursing home when they learn of an incident in his past. 

“I doubted very much if I could pull off something like this,” he admitted.  “Carrying a picture is a whole lot different than just being in a picture.  You have to think ahead to where things are going at all times.  But this young man was so enthusiastic and confident, it made me feel confident.  He said, ‘No one else in the world can do this.  You’re brilliant.’   He was just a dream to work with.  I learned so much.  I can’t say enough,” he said of Petridis. 

Borgnine got an extra job while in the midst of shooting – performing the marriage ceremony for Petridis and his fiancee. “The state of Washington allows this kind of ceremony, so, so help me Hanna, that’s what happened.  It was wonderful,” he said.

He confessed he loved it when crew people on his movies asked questions about the old days in Hollywood.  He would regale them with tales of the times when the studios cranked out Westerns by the dozen.  

“We need those Westerns again.  Doggone it, I miss that so much.  I used to have so much fun making Westerns,” he told me. 

“I’ll never forget the time when we had visitors from France and England out on one of those sets, standing behind the camera, ready to watch me do a scene where I get on a horse.  I came out and said, ‘Okay, where’s the ladder?’  Ha, ha.” 

As a put-on, prop people brought out a ladder, much to the surprise of the onlookers, and Borgnine climbed up saying, “John Wayne uses one of these.  Didn’t you know?  Well, I’m not going to let out any trade secrets.”                             

With that, Borgnine burst into one of those big laughs of his that made you want to join in. 

Hey man!  You were alive, and God blessed us all.

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Jul 01

(Note from Stacy Jenel Smith:  I am so proud of my daughter’s new iBook.   It just became available today!  It’s definitely a storybook from the heart, as she was inspired to create it after losing a pet of her own when she was 12 years old.)


“Busway to Heaven,” a children’s picture story book that reflects how children need the comfort of knowing where their pets go after they pass.  Of course, they go to pet heaven!

A fanciful and fun look at doggie and kitty paradise, with text and illustrations by Darcy Smith, this is a book of comfort and love for anyone, any age, who is mourning the loss of a beloved pet.

Now Available at the iBook store!  iPad and Mac users, go to the iBook  store and search Busway to Heaven




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Apr 23

Billie Holiday, Corky Hale 1957 photo courtesy Ray Avery

“A Birthday Tribute to Billie Holiday” is being performed Wednesday (4/25) at L.A.’s Catalina Bar & Grill nightclub in honor of what would have been the immortal jazz legend’s 97th — by her one-time pianist, Corky Hale Stoller.

It seems impossible that Stoller could have played for the star-crossed “Lady Day,” who died in 1959, but the energetic musician started her career as a teen. She won over Holiday, who started calling her “my little girl” and they performed together in Hollywood and Las Vegas. “In those days, Las Vegas was so glamorous. Everyone dressed up to see a show,” Hale recalls.  “Now people go to see shows dressed in sweatsuits.”

Holiday invited her on a tour of the Philippines, too, but “at that time she was married to husband number four, Charlie McKay, and I was scared to death of him,” Stoller says of Holiday’s abusive spouse.

Stoller also played for Liberace — as a harpist, and with white blond hair to look grand for the black and white cameras at his suggestion — on his television show.   She was a musician at the renowned Cocoanut Grove nightclub. And she has a plethora of stories of the fascinating times and personalities she’s known. Small wonder a biography of Hale is in the works.

Today, her life is divided between music, politics — as a mover and shaker in the Democratic Party — and philanthropy.   Tomorrow (4/24) will mark the grand opening of the Stoller-Filer Health Center in L.A.’s Watts/Willowbrook area, a Planned Parenthood facility under the auspices of Hale and her husband, Mike Stoller of Leiber & Stoller songwriting fame.  It’s their second such health center.


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Feb 29

Davy Jones 1945-2012


Sad news about Davy Jones.  Interviewed him recently, and he was full of energy and plans:

Interview with Davy Jones of The Monkees – Music – AARP.



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Feb 27

Jean Dujardin confessed to dropping the French F-word, Meryl Streep divulged her plans for imbibing, Octavia Spencer admitted her fears and Christopher Plummer copped to being a naughty boy — backstage at last night’s 84th Academy Awards.

The Best Actor winner for “The Artist” answered a lot of questions in rapid fire French.  He said, through his translator, that he has a few ideas he wants to develop for movies he would do here in America.  He also let us know that his canine compatriot, Uggie, had already gone to bed.  But the chatter stopped abruptly when reporter Joal Ryan asked him if he had, in fact, let loose with the French equivalent to the F-bomb during that last outburst of his acceptance speech.  He weighed his translator’s explanation a moment, and then said, with the look of a guilty little boy, “Ah.  Yes.  Sorry.”

Will leg flashing become the next hot pose?  Instantly dubbed “Jolie-ing” (in the spirit of Tebowing and Bradying) backstage at the Oscars, it’s the stance taken by Oscar presenter Angelina Jolie to show off her glorious gam through the slit-up-to-there of her black gown.  (Fierce or fatuous?  You decide.)  It was when the three cowriters of George Clooney’s “The Descendants” — Jim Rash and Nat Faxon (alumni of The Groundlings) and director Alexander Payne — lined up on stage imitating Angelina that the pose burst into the pop culture humor space.  Bur writer/actor Rash (a.k.a. the guy from “Community”) insisted backstage that they had no intention of belittling the movie sex goddess.  “It was a loving tribute:  ‘Oh, she’s standing great.  We’ll stand like that, too.’”  The trio agreed:  “She’s supremely hot.”

Rash was asked whether he thought his winning an Oscar would help “Community” survive.  He hopes so.  “I guess I should take this into their offices,” he noted, holding up his statuette as he talked about the brass at NBC.  “It’s good to let people know where they stand with you.  It’s a good accoutrement to any outfit.”

Best Supporting Actress for “The Help,” Octavia Spencer, was asked about what was going through her mind as she was making her way up the stairs to the stage — while receiving a standing ovation from the Hollywood luminaries in the theater.

“Really and truly, I was just trying not to fall down, because I had an incident where I fell at an awards show,” she admitted.

Asked about what she thinks her win will mean to aspiring young actresses of color, Octavia said, “I hope it’s a hallmark of ‘More’ for young aspiring actresses of color — and by color I don’t just mean African American.  I mean Indian, Native American, Latin American, Asian American.   I hope in some way I can be a sort of beacon of hope.  Especially because I’m not a typical Hollywood beauty,” added the amply-upholstered actress.  She paused a moment, then joked, “You guys are supposed to go, ‘Oh, no — you ARE!’  Crickets, guys.  Work with me here.  Work with me!”

But seriously, “I believe you have to believe in yourself and you have to work very hard — and never think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, because I promise you, there would be Viola Davises and Jessica Chastains and Emma Stones who ARE the best thing since sliced bread.  So, take it seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.”

Spencer hopes to expand beyond acting in her career.  “I want to be a producer.  I want to be an activist.  I want to be proactive in bringing about work for men, women, boys and girls — anyone who is good at what they do and deserves a shot at it,” she said.  “I want to have a presence behind the cameras and in front of them, to be a jack of all trades and be decent at them.”
Spencer was asked about the recent L.A. Times article regarding the movie Academy’s membership — as having an average age of 62 with a heavy majority of white men.  What did she think of that?

She hemmed and hawed a little, saying, “I haven’t really thought about it.”

Did she have any thoughts on the Academy being proactive to geta more diverse membership?

Spencer drew a breath, then said, “I can’t tell the Academy what to do, honey.  They just gave me an Oscar.  They continue to do what they do.  I really don’t know.  I have no wisdom there….I’m sorry to cut you off, ma’am, but I saw where you were going and I didn’t want to get on that bus, no pun intended.”

Asked by a military reporter about her advice to new recruits for overcoming their fears, she said, “I haven’t really overcome my fears.  I’m scared to death right now.”  She added, “I don’t take what men and women in the military do lightly.  I’ve not served in that capacity, so I would not offer advice.”  But she did offer advice from Emerson:  “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Chrisopher Plummer, who thanked his “long-suffering wife Elaine, who deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for coming to my rescue every day of my life” in his acceptance speech as Best Supporting Actor for “Beginnings,”  was asked to elaborate backstage.   “Of course I’m a naughty boy,” he let us know.  “I’ve been bad all my life.   She puts me in line.  It’s extraordinary.  She rescues me every day of my life — what could be clearer?”

Asked about Hollywood’s propensity for awarding straight actors for playing gay roles, and whether there’s a double standard involved,  Plummer opined that no,  “I think actors are universally the same, gay or straight.  A gay actor can play a straight guy, a straight actor can play a gay guy.  We’re actors.  It cancels out all sexual differences and misunderstandings of sexual differences.”

Meryl Streep, in an expansive mood, let the press know that she doesn’t take her Oscar attention for granted by any means (even after three wins out of 17 nominations).  When a reporter asked her if she was going to give Katharine Hepburn a run for her money, Meryl asked, “Did she have more?”

“Four” said the reporter.

“Oh, well,” she answered with a dismissive flick of the wrist.  (She’s such a good actress, one could almost believe she didn’t know Hepburn’s Oscar total.)

The Best Actress Oscar winner for “The Iron Lady” responded  more seriously when was asked about juggling her career and family life.  She said, “You can ask every working woman that question and get a million different answers, because it’s the juggle and the challenge that we all have.  But honestly, in my life, in the arts, I don’t go to work every day, so my day has been more flexible than other working women.  Even when I was young and broke, I was only working, ever, for four months at a time, and then I was unemployed.  My children never knew when I was going to be home, which was very valuable.”
After the laughter died down, she went on, “It’s an ongoing struggle — women have to do it all.  The more flexible work becomes, the more engaged dads become, the better.”

Meryl was asked whether she’d have a couple whiskeys in the tradition of real-life “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher, to celebrate winning her third Oscar.
“I’m going to start with a couple,” she said.

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Feb 24

Wendi McLendon-Covey

There are about a dozen gifting suites handing out swag to Oscar nominees, presenters and other stars this week.  Perhaps the most popular destination for prestige pampering — certainly one of the busiest — is the Roger Neal Style Hollywood Oscar Suite at the L’Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills.

As of yesterday (2/23), some 200 stars and 10 nominees had already visited the suite, including Wendi McLendon Covey, Oscar presenter and “Bridesmaids” star, with her friend, Oscar nominee for Best Screenplay honors for “Bridesmaids,” Annie Mumolo.  We’re told they loved
their Raju Rasiah Beverly Hills rings, and their GM Collin SKincare Paris kit.

Richard Middleson, “The Artist’s” executive producer, came with his wife Katherine.  She fell for a Shekar Rahate gown, saying she felt it was perfect to represent the movie.  Shekar customized the dress just for her in 24  hours.

Oscar nominee Eimear O’Kane, (Live Action Short Film), found her jewelry and handbag for the Oscars at the suite from Timmy Woods.

Penelope Ann Miller from “The Artist” came away with a stay at Belleek Castle in Ireland, as well as a collection of Classified Cosmetics

Stars ranging from Rene Taylor to Lorenzo Lamas to Eric Roberts enjoyed their Bob Marley Coffee and Lorimar Winery wine.

The pampering offered to stars at the RNSH suites ranged from manicures to waxing, facials, “instant eye lifts” and massages.

The gifting suite practice, which took a hit a few years ago when the IRS decided to demand its share, is in full-swing again this awards year.  All this giving out of designer clothing, luxury trips, expensive gadgets and myriad edible and drinkable goodies are a win-win for the stars and companies involved.  The celebs get to load up on fabulous freebies, while product makers and designers get valuable celebrity endorsements at relatively low cost.  It’s also standard to see a charity or eco-minded tie-in for the suites.  In the case of RNSH, it’s The Andy Transplant Foundation.

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Feb 11

Just when we thought…she might be finding the magic again. As this is being written, word is breaking that Clive Davis is going through with his annual pre-Grammy party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel tonight. We can only imagine, if that is so, the event will become an instant memorial for the star among the music industry crowd — just hours after she was found dead at the hotel. Davis was Houston’s mentor, friend, supporter and – to us, on more than one occasion – her defender. He must be devastated at this news. It’s been a sad story to cover for years, the decline of a true superstar, gifted with an angel’s voice, because of drugs.

So many music stars have taken to Twitter to pour their hearts out.  Rihanna said it was strange to be at the Grammy rehearsals, and all she could think of wwas Whtitney Houston.  Vanessa Williams Tweeted that the Grammy producers were in hyperdrive, putting together a tribute for tomorrow night’s show.   Sharon Osbourne wrote that she won’t be going to Davis’ party or Mart Burnett’s — and rebuked Piers Morgan for not thinking enough about Houston’s daughter and family.   Many others wrote about their favorite Whitney Houston songs, about how she had inspired them, about how much they loved her voice.  

Meanwhile, Harvey Levin Tweeted that TMZ was already getting stories about Houston partying hard last night, and The Wrap had word that Sony plans to release her final film, “Sparkle,” this coming summer as planned.



Dec 22

Marty Ingels sent us this.   Speaks for itself:

Shirley Jones and her loquacious character of a husband, Marty Ingels

“It’s beginning to look

a lot like Christmas”

(Marty Ingels Version)


It’s beginning to be a plastic Christmas

 As the snow begins;

It’s expensive and very hard to lean on your credit card

And wait till all the scary bills come in.

But it’s critical that you give on Christmas,

Make the season last;

And you gotta be Santa Claus to everyone else because

They’ll promise you the Ghost of Christmas Past.

* * *

There’s stuff for Dotty & Billy & Martin & Millie

And everyone workin’ at Sid’s;

There’s Lois & Winnie & Mrs. McKinney;

The Cohens, The Franks and the Quids…


* * *

So I celebrate all my Loves at Christmas –

( Thirty Three, I fear; )

And I know as I shop the mall, I’ll be paying for it all

Till it snows next year.


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