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Mar 24

A funny thing happened to the “Buried Life” guys as they were ramping up the launch of their What Do You Want to Do Before You Die? book next week.  The quartet, who became famous via the MTV show that centered on their zany bucket list exploits, were getting ready for an appearance at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University, and noticed that their Twitter feeds were getting numerous tweets with the hash mark #SaveRichard.  It was an effort by students to get the fired-up four to help find a kidney donor for fellow student Richard Bland.   And so they are. 

With “Buried Life” Twitter attention,  #SaveRichard was soon the top trending topic in Atlanta, then became No. 1 in Georgia,  and a matter of hours later, landed at No. 3 worldwide, according to group leader Ben Nemtin.  The next day, the guys were on hand at a rally to support the ailing student at Kennesaw State’s common area, along with press.  Also, “We posted a You Tube page,” Nemtin adds.  If massive attention can bring Richard the help he needs, he certainly will get it.

As fans are well aware, good deed doing is standard procedure for the “Buried Life” boys – along with such shenanigans as crashing the Iowa State Fair Parade, trying to steal a lock of Robert Pattinson’s hair, and getting to play basketball with President Obama (yes they did).  Now they’re massing their vast Twitter and Facebook forces to help them get their new, captivating tome high onto the Best Seller lists so as to fulfill the “Write a Best Seller” item on their famous list. 

It is a worthy book.  A collection of followers’ shared “Buried Life” goals and dreams, What Do You Want to Do Before You Die is touching and funny.  “I have so many favorites – the girl who wants to be the first woman president, the guy who wants to be the best father to his future children,” says Nemtin.   It’s full of inspiring quotes and eye-catching images as well.  And it has tens of thousands of user reviews on book sellers’ sites already, another testimony to the power of their following.              

So, what of the purported new, improved version of the “Buried Life” series they’ve been prepping?  “It’s coming along really well.  We’ve been in the editing bay, putting it together.  I can’t talk about details,” says Nemtin, “but we’re finally on the home stretch.”

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Mar 20

            “Dancing With the Stars” pro Tony Dovolani has had a wide variety of celebrity partners through the past 13 seasons of the ABC show, returning Monday (3/19) but never one he’s felt more in common with than Martina Navratilova.

“We completely relate on every level,” Tony declares.  “We’re both living the American Dream.  After coming here from other countries, we both love the American way.  We’ve both competed for the U.S. in international competitions.”

Dovolani came here from his native Kosovo at age 15, and is certainly at home here.  “Put it this way.  My kids are totally American,” he says.  His many achievements outside “DWTS” include 2005 and 2006 World Rhythm Championships.  Of course, 59-time Grand Slam title winner Navratilova also came here as a teen; she famously asked the U.S. for political asylum at age 18 and was subsequently stripped of her Czechoslovakian citizenship.

Beyond the shared Eastern European roots and elite competitions, Dovolani deeply admirers Navratilova on a personal level.  Asked how she compares to past partners such as Chynna Phillips, Wendy Williams, Jane Seymour, Kate Gosselin and Melissa Rycroft, he points out, “None of the others have gone through what she’s gone through.  She has a different soul, a different way,” he adds of Navratilova, who is also a breast cancer survivor.  “It’s not just that she’s a gay activist, but she came out at a young age at a time very few people came out, and she said, ‘Accept me for me.'”

As the Health and Fitness Ambassador for AARP since 2007, again Navratilova is challenging social barriers.  In fact, she’s made it clear that one of the reasons she is taking on “DWTS” is her hope to inspire other 50+ people to get out of their comfort zones and try new things, in addition to staying in shape.  They’ve been practicing four or five hours a day, he says, working to overcome the fact she’s not a natural when it comes to dance.

“I asked for an athlete because I wanted to see what it was like to work with one of these champions,” he says, “and I couldn’t be happier than to have gotten Martina.”

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Mar 19

Leelee Sobieski certainly goes against type in her first-ever regular series role — playing an Iraq War MP-turned-tough cookie rookie cop in CBS’s April 15-debuting “NYC 22″ police drama.  She’s convincing, especially in moments like when she gets a juvenile thug in an armlock to make sure he understands the importance of treating her with respect.  But as soon as the director called “Cut” in that scene, she was saying “I’m sorry!  I’m sorry!” the actress recalls.

“He was really so cute — like a little angel kid.  It’s very hard when you have to do some stuff like that.  I’m always going around giving everyone hugs,” admits Leelee.

She tells us she didn’t have to think twice about taking the role. Executive producers Robert DeNiro and Jane Rosenthal were a lure, “of course.”  Also, “I’ve always loved Richard Price’s writing,” she says of the esteemed author, whose credits include Lush Life and The Wanderers, as well as scripts for “The Color of Money,” “Sea of Love” and HBO’s “The Wire.”  Price created “NYC 22″ in addition to being another executive producer.

Leelee has major personal considerations as well.  “It’s wonderful to be able to shoot in New York.  My husband and daughter and I live here.  My whole family is based here — my mother, mother-in-law, grandmother-in-law, brother and sister-in-law are all here and a lot of friends, too.  And I liked that it was an ensemble piece,”  The schedule allows her to spend days at home with her little girl between shooting.

Raising a two-year-old “is much harder than doing the acting,” she lets us know with a laugh.

The “Joan of Arc” star gleaned “interesting little things to put into my character” from talking to real NYPD officers, both women and men.  “I went up to a lot of cops on the street.  The female officers have to be really strong.  I hadn’t realized that, for a police officer in first few days on the job, some of them almost felt like they were playing the part of a cop, too,” she notes.  She also learned that the gun belt, “is really hard on women who have hips.  It goes from side to side; it’s moving around a lot.  It digs into your headphones.”

With the first season’s episodes of “NYC 22″ in the can, Leelee is currently focusing on “just being a mom, and then also, I like to paint.  I think I might even eventually segue into doing that as my main thing,” she discloses.  The silence and solitude of painting seems worlds away from the art of acting, but Leelee observes candidly, “I think I’ve never been too flashy of an actress or whatever.  And it’s really not so different; it’s also a great outlet for emotions.  There are lots of actors who enjoy painting, a lot of directors that paint, too.”

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Mar 16

Sad to hear that Jennie Garth and Peter Faciinelli are breaking up after 11 years of marriage.  Rumors about what’s behind the split of the couple have been all over the internet, but we can’t help remembering Jennie expressing some of her frustrations in this column last year.  She told us she was looking forward to the end of the “Twilight” movies, saying, “I can’t even remember what life is like with a husband.  I will be very happy.”

She told us that Peter “tries to go no more than two weeks at a time” without seeing her and their three daughters, 14, 9 and 5.  And, “It gets harder the more time he’s gone.  It’s more of a challenge to keep everybody connected, and for the girls, they miss him so much, it’s kind of heart-wrenching to see him come and go.  But there’s no other way to keep him doing what he does and keep their lives normal…We could become a traveling circus — go with him wherever he goes and homeschool the kids.  But they’re enjoying having regular quiet lives and we like them to be able to have that.”

Garth talked, too, about the stresses of “Twilight” in their daughters’ lives, particularly their eldest daughter, who could never be sure whether classmates wanted to befriend her – or get closer to the actor who played Carlisle.

And, she said, “I’ve really been focusing on the family and the girls and keeping things normal for them.  Whether it’s a sacrifice or not, I don’t know — but it’s definitely what I want to be doing.  I want him to take this time for himself and make the most of it.  And besides, with him as the breadwinner, that dynamic works for a marriage.”

Now they’re divorcing, and Jennie’s CMT reality show, “Jennie Garth: A Little Bit Country” is set to premiere next month.  And so much for normalcy in a Hollywood marriage.

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Mar 14

Jeffrey Tambor, Amanda Peet, David Walton

 Jeffrey Tambor is having a blast playing an unsuccessful actor on NBC’s March 21-debuting “Bent” comedy.  Since he’s always one of the busiest actors in town, it’s a stretch, though he certainly knows the territory.  “Actually, my character teaches, too, and I teach, in fact, so we could poke fun at that whole thing a little bit — gently,” he tells us.  “And he thinks he’s 52 years old, so here we go.” 

            Tambor, 67, plays the live-in dad to David Walton’s character in the romantic comedy in which the very-charming Walton and Amanda Peet star.  He hadn’t worked with either actor before, but discovered some common ground in that Peet is an avid “Arrested Development” fan.

             This past October — after years of rumors and denials — “Arrested Development” creator Mitchell Hurwitz confirmed that he is going to do a feature film version of the cult hit TV show, and not only that, but it would be preceded by 10 additional episodes.

             And now? Any word on production plans?

             “Honestly, and I’m not being deceptive, you know as much as I do,” insists the man known to “Arrested” viewers as George Bluth, Sr. and his twin brother, Oscar Bluth.  “I know it’s being done.  That’s what I know.  We were back East, together at The New Yorker Festival when we heard the news, and everyone is very excited.  I know that it’s almost completely written, or written.  And that’s what I know.  I’m just waiting to hear, waiting to hear.  If you hear anything else, please give me a call.”

             In fact, Tambor has been way too busy to get lost in pining away for the “Arrested Development” cameras to roll this summer.  The father of four young children, in addition to two grownup daughters, he’s been doing multiple projects.  “I’m leading a very interesting life.  I do animation [voices] for Disney.  I do ‘Yo Gabba Gabba,'” he referring to the Nickelodeon preschool show.  “And coming out this year on HBO, I have ‘The Phil Spector Story’ with Al Pacino and Helen Mirren, who are just jaw-droppingly brilliant.”          

 

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Mar 10

Alison Sweeney NBC photo

“The Biggest Loser” is wrapping up shooting for its currently-airing season this week, and host Alison Sweeney admits “I’ve been counting the days” ’til it’s over.  That’s because Alison, a master multi-tasker, has taken on a workload that’s nearly impossible.  There’s “Biggest Loser,” her ongoing starring stint on “Days of Our Lives,” plus the “Hollywood Girls Night” TV Guide Channel show she’s executive producing along with her on-camera chores.

Planning her schedule has been like “a thousand-piece puzzle that only fits together one way.  It’s all been happening at once,” she tells us.  “I try to avoid this, but one time did I have to do all three shows in one day, with the Hollywood Moms coming for dinner.  That was a long day.”

In case you weren’t aware, the Sunday night show, in which she partners with Ali Landry, was inspired by their real-life social circle of celebrity moms, who had fun getting together at each other’s homes and dishing on the industry, men, their kids, men, friends and men.  “We want to keep it all positive, fun and light-hearted, just like it is when we talk to our girlfriends off-camera.  It’s not often you’re in the middle of an outrageous conversation or a catfight.  We behave as we would if we came to someone’s house for dinner,” she says.

Sure.  Not surprisingly, though, the show’s teaser promos stress the spilling of secrets, and such attention-grabbing bits as this week’s guest Kendra Wilkinson talking about building a “sex room” in her home with hubby Hank Baskett.  “Kendra is a highlight — the way she opens up about her married life, her background, what her life has been like as a Playmate, how she’s comfortable with her body,” Alison says.  “She had great stuff.  I kept asking her questions.  I HAD to know more.”  Robin Givens is also on this week’s show.  Future shows include Brooke Burns and champion dancer Cheryl Burke.

Alison brushes off reports that she and Landry annoyed their real-life friends by going off on their own to sell the show last year.  “Obviously, I just think there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” she says.  “It’s a wonderful show, really positive, and most important for us, it’s celebrating our friendships.”

The busy actress-host-producer-director also has her husband and two small children at home.  Finding family time “is definitely a big piece of the puzzle,” she says.

She credits nutrition and exercise tips she’s picked up through her years on “The Biggest Loser” for the fact she has the energy for all this.  “These are tools you can use for your whole life, not just when you’re losing weight,” she points out.  And…are you ready?…she’s also training for the L.A. Marathon March 18.

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Mar 09

Courtney Robertson

Dr. Carole Lieberman

Dr. Carole Lieberman, M.D., the psychiatrist who literally wrote the book about Bad Girls (Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets), offers up a bouquet of insights about “The Bachelor’s” reviled Courtney Robertson, who got a hold of current title single guy Ben Flajnik to the dismay of other bachelorettes including Good Girl Lindsay (aka Lindzi Cox).  Dr. Lieberman has defined a dozen categories of Bad Girls, but they apparently share the characteristic of having been hurt, hardened their hearts, given up on love and then begun using men for various purposes.  “They’re not embarrassed or vulnerable themselves, which is why Courtney was so easily able to manipulate him.  She was so demonstrative, so sexual, she acted as if she was madly in love with him.  She could be more brave, audacious and bold about making a play for him because it really didn’t mean as much to her as Lindsay.  She really wasn’t in love with him, she just wanted to win the show.  Bad girls use sexuality to trap the men, like Courtney suggesting they go skinny dipping, which was very seductive.”

Ben, meanwhile, fit into the category of Sitting Ducks, says the shrink.

As much fun as it is to diss Courtney, there is a sobering side effect when it comes to impressionable young viewers’ finding role models in Bad Girls.  “Whatever dysfunction is in the home, the media worsens the situations by glamorizing them.  Look at the Kardashians.  They’re all Bad Girls.  They make it look like being bad is cool.”  Not to mention profitable.

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Mar 09

Kai Chase

A new version of Michael Jackson’s last days will be coming to light by year’s end, with the release of Fit for a King, the first cookbook from celebrity chef Kai Chase.

We were chatting with Chase about the March 18 Drawing Hope International Gala Masquerade event in Beverly Hills, for which she is providing some of her trademark cultural fusion cuisine.  (Tandoori Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Fruited Marsala Couscous, anyone?)  However, the culinary master, who has cooked for luminaries including Mary J. Blige and President Obama, was also Jackson’s personal chef, and as soon as his name comes up, the conversation shifts.  Chase makes it clear his impact on her life was profound.

She tells us, “When you read the book, you’ll see how things were different” as far as the portrayal of Jackson’s world.  “I was feeding him and his children.  He was going to rehearsals and the recording studio.  He was energized, looking good, feeling good.  I want to talk about the fun times  — the practical jokes played on me in the house, me and the kids planting gardens.  I was seeing him every day and working with him every day.  He talked to me about a lot of things, as a boss and as a friend — how to move on with your career, write books, this and that.”  However, “I was let go at a certain point,” recalls Chase.  She was back at the mansion the day Jackson died.

Since then, her list of celebrity clients has grown, and “a lot of things are really coming to the forefront right now,” notes the beautiful chef, who listens to Jackson’s “Keep the Faith” song because “it keeps me inspired and motivated for greatness.  The blessings keep pouring down.  Sometimes I think he has something to do with that, and imagine him and God high-fiving.”

Chase is also offering an at-home cooking lesson to be auctioned off at the fund-raiser for Drawing Hope, which helps survivors of rape and sexual abuse in some 150 countries.  Celebs excpected to be on hand for the event range from Garrett Morris to Kyle Massey to honoree AnnaLynne McCord of “90210.”

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Mar 08

Nicollette Sheridan as Edie Britt

There was a time when Nicollette Sheridan’s court battle against “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry and ABC would have meant career suicide.  The blond bombshell has branded herself as a troublemaker.  She’s shown an edgy, prickly side on the witness stand.  She’s invited scrutiny from the public and the media — the kind of scrutiny that involves repeated references to her 48 years of age and to her career having faded before being revitalized in 2004 by her “Desperate Housewives” role of Edie Britt.

Yes, there was a time we would have expected her to be expelled by the industry over this fight — relegated to the dinner theater circuit like Suzanne Somers when she fell from network grace after tiffing with “Three’s Company” over her demand for a 500 per cent pay raise and a piece of the show decades ago.  There would be no win for Sheridan’s career, whether or not she wins some or all of the $20 million she’s aiming to get following her claims of assault against Cherry and subsequent wrongful termination.  (Cherry’s jovial quips eliciting laughter from the jury this week — not a good sign.)

However, this is 2012, when good things happen to bad boys and girls.  Charlie Sheen’s wanton carryings on, his beating up of women, his drug use, his arrests, his widely-booed Violent Torpedo of Truth stage show and all his internet strangeness got him a much-anticipated new FX TV series, “Anger Management.”  Recent morgue worker Lindsay Lohan’s “Saturday Night Live” guest-hosting stint last weekend garnered the show its second highest ratings of the season.  Also in the news is “Jersey Shore” low-life Snooki, famous for stumbling around intoxicated in public and so forth; as reports of her pregnancy swirl through the media, she sports a half-million-dollar engagement ring.

Nicollette, in fact, might not be bad enough.  She’s going to need to step up her game and do more than show exasperation.  She did slap her attorney, but only as a demonstration of what she says Cherry did to her.  Maybe she should slap him for real, and get rid of those sedate dark courtroom clothes.  Show cleavage.  Show disrespect.  Show up drunk.  Have a wardrobe malfunction on the courthouse  steps.  Take a tip from Lindsay, who cleverly painted “f— you” on one of her fingernails knowing the cameras followed her every move as a defendant.  It might not be too late for a “Mark Cherry Sucks” tattoo in an eye-catching spot, for example.

If Nicollette and/or her handlers are clever enough to use all this attention to burnish her brand as a still-hot-looking diva cougar, maybe it could actually help her career.  Maybe there will be a new show in it for her.  At the very least, surely Donald Trump would save a seat for her in his “Celebrity Apprentice” board room.

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Mar 06

Billy Gardell, Reno Wilson CBS photo

With just four more episodes to shoot  for this season, “Mike & Molly” is heading towards its highly-anticipated wedding episode.  In fact, there might be two weddings in the offing, if Joyce and Vince (Swoosie Kurtz and Louis Mustillo) also tie the knot.  Considering that the TV landscape is littered with the bones of series that jumped the shark after the main characters wed, is there concern about “M&M’s” handling of wedded life?

Not according to Reno Wilson.  “I just think it opens up so many more stories,” he says.  “They’ve got to get a place to live — or are they going to be married and stay in the house with her mom?  What about children?  You know, there are so many storylines with people on the show, honestly, in my opinion, it’s just going to add to it.”

Besides, adds the man known as Carl McMillan to “M&M” watchers, “As Billy (Gardell) and I always say: ‘Just say them words.’  We have the best writers in television, and we trust them fully.”

Wilson and Gardell, in case you didn’t know, have a friendship that dates back six years, to their former “Heist” series, before they were cast as best friends on the Mark Roberts-created “Mike & Molly.”  In fact, Wilson tipped Gardell to the sitcom when it was in the works.  After reading the first 10 pages of the script, he phoned Gardell and said, “This is our show.”  They also played pals on an episode of “Las Vegas” as big winners.  In real life, “Our kids are growing up together.  We shot a little movie with our kids.  We hang out at each other’s houses every so often and have barbeques.”

Meanwhile, there’s Carl’s own romance, with Holly Robinson Peete’s character.  “I’m really happy that Carl has love in his life.  It’s the first time he’s encountered an actual woman he doesn’t have to blow up, who doesn’t have a nozzle,” Wilson jokes.  “I really like that through this relationship, they’re showing other pieces of Carl, some sensitive sides, and where that bravado and machismo came from, that kind of insecurity.”  He’s also loving working with Peete.  “She’s a force of nature, all the things she does.”

AND:  Wilson doesn’t know when “Bolden!” — in which he plays the young Louis Armstrong — will be making its way to screen.  The film is about jazz legend Buddy Bolden (Anthony Mackie), and boasts a cast including Wilson, Omar Gooding and Jackie Earle Haley.  Wilson, who grew up in a household full of musicians, and reveres Satchmo, feels that “I did some of the best work of my career” in the film that was made three years ago, and has yet to see the light of distribution.  “I was doing a one-man show about him when I got this movie, this opportunity to play this icon,” says the actor, who performed seven songs for the film directed by Dan Pritzker.  “I try not to think about it too much.”

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