‘DWTS’ Pro Tony Dovolani Steps Out in Comedy/Rock ‘n’ Roll Caterer Inspires Reality Shows

Tony Dovolani

 Dancing With the Stars” pro Tony Dovolani got to try out his comedy acting chops in next week’s (Feb. 19) episode of TV Land’s “The Exes” — and loved it.

 The nice guy ballroom champ tells us that his one-time “DWTS” partner, Leah Remini, called him out of the blue.  “She said, ‘All right, you’ve been preparing for acting for a long time and I’m going to make sure you get the opportunity.’  I guess they had put a scene together for her, dancing, and she said ‘How about if I bring Tony?’

“The question was, ‘Can he act?'” Tony recounts, “and she said, ‘I’ve seen him study.'”  They not only brought him in, but gave him more and more lines, much to Tony’s delight.  He points out, “Normally in situations like this, if you’re not good they take your lines away.  So that means they liked what they saw.”

He was definitely required to act, since the script called for him to play a fellow who didn’t know how to dance, that Leah’s character teaches.  “It was such an incredible experience — definitely a favor returned on her part.  She just made me feel like I could conquer the world, and you know that’s a special quality in a person,” says Tony.

He enjoyed getting laughs from the audience, applause from Leah and from the “Exes” cast including Donald Faison, Wayne Knight and David Alan Basche.  One of the show’s producers “gave me a very nice vote of confidence.  He said, ‘Tony you’re very warm on camera.  You’re very likable.  You come across very nice.  I think this is something you should pursue.'”

Not that he has any intention of putting aside his dancing shoes.  The 18th season of “DWTS” is set to launch March 17, and as far as Tony is concerned, there is no end in sight for the show.   “Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly entertained audiences for 70 years — musicals and dance were a part of our culture.  So I don’t see it going away.  Every year we do something new and we twist it a little bit and we mix it up a little,” he says.  He also considers “DWTS” the most positive of programs, because not only does the winner triumph but so do other competitors, in that “they’ve still accomplished something for themselves….It shows how difficult some things are, but  If you work hard, anything is possible.  That’s the message every week, and I think we need more of that on television.”


EAT, PLAY, LOVE:  Shelleylyn Brandler, lovely blond cast member on FUSE TV’s “Warped Roadies,” just might be stepping into her own reality TV spotlight soon.  The rock ‘n’ roll caterer, whose TaDa company hands out all kinds of gourmet grub to music stars from Taylor Swift to Marilyn Manson, has been paged by pal Gene Simmons to star in a prospective cooking show titled “Rock Star Chef.” 

The KISS frontman is “the most amazing mentor I could ask for.  He is busy with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame right now,” she notes, referring to KISS’ induction into that rarified group April 10, “but after that we’re going to get together about it.”  Meanwhile, another producing entity has been pitching a reality show centered on Shelleylyn and her world, called “‘Sex, Food and Rock ‘n’ Roll.’  Food is the new drug.”  She notes, “It’s a matter of finding the right home.”

In the ’90s, she was a concert production runner with a rocker boyfriend — and a knack for snacks the bands began to crave.  “It was my brother who said, ‘There’s Martha Stewart, but there’s no one for the urban, punk, rock ‘n’ roll style.  You could really make a niche for yourself in rock ‘n’ roll catering,” recalls Shelleylyn.  She also recalls lackluster food — at best — being served on rock tours.  “Nobody was caring about food or being a foodie. I remember sitting in my  living room coining the word ‘foodie,’ because I just cared so much,” she declares.  “I wasn’t a great chef, but I knew that on my worst day, I could do better than what some of these professional people were doing.  My turkey sandwiches were made with fresh rosemary bread I made myself — so what I did was always a little better than what I was seeing.”

Along with a generous portion of nerve, she lucked out in terms of timing — just ahead of the explosion of interest in chefs and culinary arts.  Now her credits include nine years of catering for the Coachella Festival, plus The Warped Tour, the Mayhem Tour, tours for Taylor Swift, Beyonce, shows including the BET Awards and many more.  She knows that Miley Cyrus is gluten free and Tobey Maguire is vegan, and she recently learned how to cook Kosher for some orthodox rockers.  And perhaps most importantly, her go-to hangover cure is “menudo, the Mexican soup.”

WRIST WATCH:  Despite all the heavy breathing, cat-fights and sexy bodies on display on ABC’s “The Bachelor,” obvservant viewers may have noticed that The Bachelor Juan Pablo Galavis wears the same bracelet all the time.  That’s all the time as in every scene and every photograph, from poolside with his daughter to the hot tub with one of his wannabe wives, to when he’s modeling teeny tiny swim trunks and handing out roses.  No, it’s not a high-end accessory — it’s a Step by Step Foundation bracelet.  This band is a symbol of an international non profit (www.stepbystepfoundation.com) that helps children in need around the world.  It was founded by Juan Pablo’s friend Liliane Stransky who is also from Venezuela.  We’re told he has been an active supporter for three years now.  Now, there’s some exposure anyone can feel good about.


Oscar nominees class of 2014Leonardo Di Caprio was peppered with questions about the salty stuff in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Cate Blanchett pretended not to know that she’s been nominated for Oscars six times, and Jonah Hill declared that he’d paint Martin Scorsese’s house if it meant the chance to work for his favorite filmmaker again.  Those were among the stand-out moments from interviews given as guests congregated at today’s 86th Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon.

Always a favorite event on the awards season calendar — where nominees can chum around with each other sans pressure, join for a “class photo” on risers set up in the grand ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and go home with a certificate and a commemmorative sweatshirt — the luncheon saw stars and filmmakers in great spirits.

Matthew McConaughey happily noted that he’s been enjoying this Oscar season, his first as a nominee, as much as possible, aware that even if he’s nominated again in the future “There’s only one first time.”  The “Dallas Buyers Club” Best Actor nominee pointed out that he had chosen to get out there and support the film as much as he possibly could, so the fact it was recognized with six Oscar nominations was particularly rewarding.

(Can one draw a correlation between the star working hard to support a film and its being recognized?  Most certainly yes.)

McConaughey’s cast mate, Best Supporting Actor nominee Jared Leto was asked about the fact his mom has been seen accompanying him to several events this season — and warmed to the question immediately.  “We were born very poor, you know, in very humble surroundings. And my mother always wanted to do something better with her life. She wanted something better for her children, and she was a dreamer. She was a worker…So I think the biggest inspiration she taught me was to dream, and then do the work that it takes to make dreams a reality.  So it’s been fun to bring her around, and you get these opportunities to stand up in places like this and say something…Of course, I could spend every opportunity at every event thanking my mother.  She’s the best.”

Di Caprio was quizzed about the immorality of his “The Wolf of Wall Street” character, a ruthless stock scammer who becomes an addict, uses prostitutes and seems to, as Di Caprio himself put it, have “no moral compass.”

Nominated for Best Actor in the film (which is up for Best Picture as well), Di Caprio admitted, “There’s a lot of disgusting behavior in this movie [but] it was very much a function of this culture we wanted to accurately portray.”

According to him, Best Director nominee Martin Scorsese, “just goes in and says,  ‘I’m not going to judge these characters.  I’m going to portray them for what they are.’  And he purposely didn’t cut away from the victims of this kind of behavior…We kind of looked at it like a giant Hieronymous Bosch painting — pure debauchery,” he added, referring to the Dutch artist who dealt in themes of immorality with fantastical images.  “Put in the context of the kind of movie we wanted to make, and that was very much a cautionary tale, makes it okay.”

Did he really watch with his parents, as had been said, he was asked.  “That was very much just a joke,” answered Di Caprio.

Jonah Hill was not joking when it came to his feelings about being paid scale for his role in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and whether he’d negotiate a better deal if he did another film with Martin Scorsese.  “I wouldn’t care, honestly,” replied the Best Supporting Actor nominee with a laugh.  “Martin Scorsese is my favorite filmmaker of all time.  ‘Goodfellas’ was the reason I want to make movies, spend my life making movies, dedicate my life to that.  The money is never really a concern to work with someone like Martin Scorsese.  I would paint his house if I needed to.”

Bradley Cooper, a Best Supporting Actor nominee for “American Hustle,” was asked if he planned to bring a lucky trinket to the Oscars.  “Hm.  I’ll have to think about that,” he said.  “Any suggestions?”  The room broke into laughter when the female reporter came back with, “Yes, some women would like to.”

Cate Blanchett may well have been relieved not to be asked about Woody Allen and his current personal traumas for a change.  She obviously enjoyed talking about the fashionable clothes she wore in “Blue Jasmine” with E! Online.  “They all had to go back immediately at midnight.”  Even the Chanel jacket?  “Everything, yeah.  I think the entire costume budget was less than the Hermes bag” — which, of course, was borrowed.

Of her Best Actress nomination, the six-time nominee and 1-time winner (“The Aviator”) confessed, “This one certainly took me by surprise.”

“American Hustle’s” Amy Adams, looking ravishing in red, talked about her style approach and how sometimes in the past, her gowns had been more a reflection of a character than of Amy herself.  “This year when I’m on the red carpet, I guarantee I will be wearing a dress that I would wear — not a character.”   We’ll see!

“12 Years a Slave” nominee Lupita Nyong’o looked exquisite and acted poised today, not at all like an actress brand new to the awards season circus.  She told press “I couldn’t have dreamed this up.  It’s been an adventure, a very exciting one — a very rewarding one, and a very revealing one as well.”

Winners will be decided when the 86th annual Academy Awards are doled out March 2nd.<\

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Leeza Gibbons: The Best Time in Life is Now


Leeza Gibbons and Bill Rancic celebrate the 500th episode of their “America Now” show tomorrow (2/5) — a rare feat “in this environment, with the marketplace so competitive,” as she points out.  “Anyone who gets to stay on the air is incredibly blessed these days.  We’re the little show that could.”
The installment features segments about how to erase one’s self from a website, a tire-shining product, and ways to prevent bullying-by-text for youngsters.  “If you can put the information to use in your life right away, that’s what we want.  There is so much programming in this genre, we’ve asked ourselves, ‘How are we going to figure out where that sweet spot is?’  For us, it always comes back to: Can you take this information and apply it to your life right now?  And if you can, then it’s our story.”
The consumer-friendly program also happens to be a perfect fit for Gibbons at this time in her life.  It’s been 12 years since she launched her Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation and 11 since the actualization of her dream to help families of Alzheimer’s patients with her Leeza’s Place support programs — programs she wished she’d had available when her own mother, who passed away in 2008, was going through the disease.  With locations in California, Florida and Illinois, Leeza’s Place offers services including memory screenings, information workshops on Alzheimer’s and caregiving, even caregiver spa days.  Online resources at leezasplace.org are available to anyone.
“It is the most inspiring, rewarding, challenging work I’ve ever done.  I absolutely love it,” declares the energetic South Carolina-born TV host/author/entrepeneur/philanthropist.  “You know, the world of non-profits is not for sissies.  It’s a world I didn’t know anything about, and it’s not my core strength.  It’s hard to sustain a non-revenue-generating nonprofit, a psycho-social support program — it’s really hard,” she admits.  “The business models have changed dramatically.  What I’ve learned from being 10 years on the ground with these incredible families is, the greatest service we can offer right now is to connect them to each other.  That’s why I’ve become very inspired to put together this, what I call the Care Connection, care connectors — being the conduit so the person who’s been through it can reach out and help the next person along.”
She adds, “I am feeling inspired to take some nontraditional approaches with it.  I don’t know whether I will be changing my seat at the table.  I’m going to do whatever it takes to serve the family caregivers out there.  That is my passion.  So far, we’re doing that pretty nicely.”
She has an upcoming “America Now” segment that will give a Virtual Dementia Tour to help viewers empathize with those who have cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition to the non-profit work that is closest to her heart, Gibbons continues to be busy with her product lines, including her popular scrapbooking collection — another inspiration from the tough times of her mom’s memory loss, when Leeza wanted her daughter and two sons to see their grandmother as the woman Leeza knew.
She also is finding time for personal time with fourth husband, Steven Fenton. “It’s really, really important,” she says.  In fact, “I’m leaving tomorrow to take my husband on a birthday escape to Ixtapa.  We’ve been taking lots and lots of trips.
“I took some time to hit the reset button on my life, and that’s why I wrote the book about it (Take 2: Your Guide to Creating Happy Endings and New Beginnings) calling for another take in my own life.  Because I think where we get stuck is, we fall in love with that person we used to be.  Or that job we used to have or the big paycheck, or the marriage, or when we were skinny, or when we didn’t have to work, whatever.  It’s very easy to fall in love with the former version of yourself.  And that just breeds chronic unhappiness, So, my real mantra and the way I sign my notes is Ever Forward.  For me, it was a chance to look at: How do I move forward honoring the person I am now?  To take inventory and take all those dreams for a test drive, and decide which ones still fit.”
Moving forward, the one-time “Entertainment Tonight” mainstay tells us, “I really feel like this is the best time of my life.  Even though it looks like a lot, and it is, I guess that’s the benefit of having done things for awhile — you do them really efficiently.  I have the world’s best schedule.  I love doing the show.   I’m crazy about Bill Rancic.  He’s like working with your mischievous kid brother.  We get along so great.
“Life makes a lot of sense for me right now,” she concludes.  “Things have presented themselves in a way that I’m able to offer my energy and my skills and my heart to the things that I care about the most.”
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