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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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Mar 06

Songwriting great Mike Stoller celebrates his 79th birthday March 13, but he’s keeping up a schedule that could frighten a younger man.  Stoller’s activities are diverse as can be — from participating in planning meetings for the Democratic Convention, to book signings of his Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography at Graceland during this summer’s Elvis Week.  It’s the 35th anniversary year of Elvis’ passing.

“It’s extremely gratifying when people talk about how much our songs have meant to them,” says Stoller, who lost his writing partner of 61 years, Jerry Leiber, last year.

The man who cowrote more than 20 songs for The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll admits he’s been asked all too many times, “What was Elvis really like?”  It’s a complicated answer, he says, and “I usually avoid the question if I can.  It’s either that, or they ask ‘What was your favorite song that you’ve written?'”  That one’s easier.  “My favorite song is the one I’m working on at the moment, always.  But Jerry and I would always say our favorites were Big Mama Thornton’s  ‘Hound Dog,’ or Peggy Lee’s ‘Is That All There Is?’  That gives you kind of the breadth we enjoyed.”

Stoller will be fielding questions today (3/6) with his wife, Corky Hale Stoller, who has her own illustrious musical history.  The couple are kicking off a new “In Conversation” Speaker Series at the Museum at Eldridge Street in New York.

Mike Stolle.

He also has, newly in release, the cast album CD of his The People In The Picture Broadway show, starring Donna Murphy.  According to Stoller, there are plans underway to bring the work, on which he collaborated with Artie Butler and Iris Rainer Dart, to other cities around the country next year.  The story time-travels from present day, back to pre-WWII Yiddish theater.  “It was a very moving story, very touching.  Audiences in general really seemed to like it, they had tears in their eyes,” he says.

And then there’s the prospect of Stoller being present for the upcoming unveiling of the Edith Piaf stamp, since he and Leiber wrote the legendary singer’s biggest-selling record, “L’Homme a La Moto.”  That would require a trip to Paris — but that, he acknowledges, wouldn’t be bad.

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Mar 05

Louie Anderson, whose funny, wrenching1991 best-seller, Dear Dad: Letters from an Adult Child became a touchstone for countless readers coping with alcoholic, abusive parents, is in discussions to bring the work to the stage.

“That’s something no one knows about yet,” reveals Anderson.  It would likely be a one-man show in which he’d “read the letters, perform the comedy, make it current,” he tells us.

The lingering impact of the emotion-charged Dear Dad is such that “as recently as yesterday someone wrote me on Twitter and said how much it had helped them.”  But, he notes, it would be nice to present the material in a new and different way.

Tonight (3/5) Anderson unveils his “Louie Anderson: Big Baby Boomer” standup special on CMT.  “It’s my best work in a long time.  I felt 25 again when I was doing it,” he says of the show — in which he takes on some of the absurdities of his (and many people’s) relationship with food.  “It’s kind of the drug of the new century,” he finds.  “What I try to do is not trivialize it, but talk about what lengths I go to, trying to be a healthier person with less results than I like,” he says.

He feels right at home on CMT, where, he points out, “They have a lot of great comedy.  Jeff Foxwortthy, Larry the Cable Guy — all the Blue Collar stuff.  The group of people who like them are also my fans.  I’m just really thankful that, probably since the beginning of my career I’ve had a lot of country fans, because I have a completely clean show. My first gigs were with Barbara Mandrell, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton and Glen Campbell, because I had a clean, family-friendly show.  It’s just my style, what I’m comfortable doing,” says Louie, who is the comic in residence at Las Vegas’ Palace Station Hotel.

“I mean, on the rest of the menu of comedy, there’s so much to choose from, you can get your fill of naughty, nasty and ‘Oh, my God, did he say that?!’  It’s just not in my wheelhouse to do that,” he says with a shrug.  “I want you to be able to watch with your kids, your mom and dad, your grandma, those people you know.  You’ve heard a lot of talk lately about how television has gotten nastier.  I still think there’s as big an audience for people who want family-friendly TV.”

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Mar 03

(Daddy’s  Song, by Harry Nilsson, from “Head” 1968)

Will the WWII-era stage musical that the late Davy Jones wrote ever be produced? Last year, the former Monkee told us he’d written a show in the tradition of Hello Dolly, West Side Story — and the vehicle that started it all for him, Oliver! “This has got 12, 13, 14 amazingly great songs,” he enthused. “Each character in the show will have a great song to sing.”

He didn’t have a title, but the energetic performer did start to perform the show for us, even singing part of a song: “I’m going to move away from this town. I’m going to go where no one’s going to find me. And when I do, they’ll understand, they’ll know who – who I really am….”

Davy said, “The music is finished, the book’s finished.” He expected to direct the show, because “I know every character, I know how it should sound and I know how the actors should be speaking. And that’s all there is to it.” He said that he and a partner, Chris Andrews, were looking for “OPM” — other people’s money — to get it mounted, and that they would probably launch it regionally. “Florida, Ohio — every time I’ve talked to a theater administrator about it, they’ve said, ‘Oh, please bring it here.”

Whether his dream will go on now that Jones has passed away of a heart attack at age 66 remains to be seen. It certainly shows that, even though last year’s Monkees reunion tour was cut short, Davy was not slowing down. He was full of talk about his daughters, his horses, his homes in Pennsylvania and Florida. In words that seem especially meaningful now, he also gave his own take on the old saying that today is the first day of the rest of your life: “Today is the only day in the rest of your life,” he said, and added, “Life is very interesting, if you want it to be interesting.”

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Mar 02

Melissa Gilbert

Former child star Melissa Gilbert credits her back surgeon for the fact she’s become one of this coming season’s contestants on “Dancing With the Stars” — and not just because he healed her broken back.  “It actually started with him, because my final day [of post-operative appointments] was the day that Jennifer Grey won.  He’s her surgeon too,” recounts the amiable actress.  “He started saying, ‘Now YOU need to do it.’  I said, ‘I’m glad you think my back is healed enough so that I can do that.  If I injure myself, though, you have to operate for free,’ and he laughed.”

You can count on the show highlighting her story of conquering tough physical challenges.  As you may recall, Melissa toured the country through much of 2008 and 2009, playing Ma Ingalls in the popular stage musical version of Little House on the Prairie.  For months, she was in extreme discomfort, but somehow, she finished the tour.  When she returned home and went to the doctor, “I found I had broken my back.  I knew the disc was herniated.  I didn’t know the back was actually broken.  If I had, I’m sure the

doctors would have said ‘Don’t go.’

“After the surgery, it was a really long recovery, and I didn’t get cleared to work really until February of 2011.”  Gilbert, who has written about her past battles with alcholism, enlisted the help of Dr. Drew Pinsky to guide her as she dealt with her intense post-surgery pain, due to her concern she might become addicted to opiates.  She would take her Dilauded, Percocet and muscle relaxers, and then take two days away from the pills “and just tough it out.”

By summer, she was pain-free.  And, “There’s nothing I can’t do.  I can do Pilates.  I can run.  I can jump.  I can do yoga.  I can do whatever I am asked to do.”  Including “Dancing With the Stars”!

There’ve been rumors — and tabloid stories — of her taking on the show before.  Last year also saw the breakup of her 16-year marriage to Bruce Boxleitner, and “The National Enquirer wrote some ridiculous story about me healing my heart by doing ‘Dancing With the Stars.’   They had me studying tape of other stars who had done it — which was funny, because at the time I was shooting my movie at the time,” she says, referring to last December’s Hallmark Channel movie, “The Christmas Pageant.”

As for why she’s taking on the show, Melissa tells us: “It’s just because it seems like a real challenge for me.  And you know me — if something scares me, I’m gonna do it, and this kind of scares me because I’m now part titanium.”

IF YOU ASK US:  It’s been a tough year for Oscar.  This year’s show was book-ended by the Los Angeles Times expose that delineated the Academy membership as 94 per cent white, 77 per cent male, and with a median age of 62 — and the New York Times piece that laid out a variety of indicators showing that the Oscar show’s glory days are over.  (And the ultra hard-campaigning Harvey Weinstein’s relatively little-seen films winding up at the forefront of the Oscars again and again hasn’t helped ratings.)   Scathing reviews such as the Hollywood Reporter’s “Oscars Become Badly Paced Bore-Fest” had to have hurt — and a little extra salt in the wound came in Forbes’ report that Best Original Screenplay winner Woody Allen not only wasn’t present, he watched the NBA All Star Game instead.  Of course, with Woody, nobody was surprised.

The rest of America — businesses and individuals alike — has had to get used to once-unthinkable cutbacks, shakeups and forced reinvention to survive in these tough times.  Now it’s the Academy’s turn.   Most obviously, it’s time to take the craft awards out of the primetime Oscar show — and to make a concerted effort to diversify membership.  Take all the negativity surrounding the 84th Oscars and use the energy for positive, deep and meaningful change, not just a few more young faces on the show.  It can work!  After all, America, like Hollywood, loves a good comeback story.

Barbara Bain

HELLO, AGAIN:  Esteemed veteran actress Barbara Bain is enjoying her turn in Claire Chaffee’s comedy, Why We Have a Body as directed by cast mate Tanna Frederick.  “It’s an extraordinarily heightened approach, a bit like a cartoon — fanciful.  It makes me think of Terry Gilliam’s films,” says the actress, who rose to fame as the sexy and soignee spy Cinnamon Carter in the original “Mission: Impossible.”  She adds, “It’s hard to believe this is Tanna’s first directing job.  My reaction was kind of, ‘Wow, look at what she’s done with this material.’  I was very impressed.”  That’s saying a lot, particularly since Bain has been spending much of her time in recent years directing plays as well as acting in them.

Bain is playing the globe-trotting, not-so-wonderful mother of two grownup daughters who are going through turbulent times in Why We Have a Body,  which is running at Santa Monica’s Edgemar Center for the Arts through April 8.  One daughter’s a career criminal, the other is married, but having a lesbian affair.

Meanwhile, she’s also in the indie film “Nothing Special” with Karen Black, about a woman trying to have a normal life while dealing with bipolar illness.  The film’s awaiting a distributor.  And she has a series of six one-act plays at the Beverly Hills Playhouse ahead on her agenda.

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Feb 29

John Benjamin Hickey and Laura Linney Showtime photo

Showtime’s “The Big C” is already half-way through shooting of its third season, reports John Benjamin Hickey — with a roster of guest stars including Victor Garber, Tammy Blanchard, Allison Janney, Broadway star Brian d’Arcy James of “Smash,” and Susan Sarandon as the self help guru “joyologist” with whom Laura Linney’s and Oliver Platt’s characters become involved.

“Laura and I turned to each other today and said, ‘We should buy the casting director a new car.’ We have such extraordinary people,” reports the Tony-winning actor, who plays Linney’s bipolar, homeless brother Sean. He credits writer-producers Jenny Bicks and Darlene Hunt for the show’s sharp writing “and real level of class. But at the end of the day, it’s Laura that attracts the A+ talent. She’s as good as it gets.”

Hickey has what may be his wildest season yet, which is saying a lot considering what viewers have seen so far involving the anti-establishment, environmentalist Sean, who has been known to eat out of garbage cans and who lacks social filters, yet sometimes makes profound sense. This season — debuting April 8 — Sean gets a land line and winds up intercepting a fledgling gay phone sex business, and soon has himself a new occupation.

“He’s completely straight, but he has no homophobia or hangups and no problems with doing the virtual sex. It’s really, really funny,” Hickey claims. “We’ve created a comic universe for it to exist in, where it’s outrageous without ever being salacious. There’s a whole new level of ‘Sean-ness’ about it.”

Hickey also has a recurring role on “The Good Wife,” and may well turn up on “Modern Family” one of these days.   His long-time partner, Jeffrey Richman, is among the Emmy-winning writers on that series.

“I want to do the show. They asked me to do a couple of things a while back, but the timing wasn’t right and I couldn’t make it work. There’s something overwhelming about it because I’m such an unbelievable fan of that show. Every single cast member is extraordinary. I would be so thrilled, I would have to do a lot of yoga to calm my nerves.”

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Feb 29

 “2 Broke Girls” keeps defying the critical loathing aimed its way by being a ratings success — not to mention winning a People’s Choice Award for favorite new comedy — and costar Garrett Morris is quite cheerful about that.  “We’re not trying to be politically correct.  We’re not trying to be ‘Family Matters’ or ‘Facts of Life’ and be acceptable to everybody.  We’re not saying everyone is going to like us,” says the funny man who rose to fame on “Saturday Night Live” and now plays diner cashier Earl.  “We have a different approach.”

According to Morris, we haven’t seen the end of Earl’s interaction with the fetching Jennifer Coolidge (he found her so hot, he landed in the hospital on the Valentine’s Day episode).  But as far as Earl’s future, he says he’s happy to “let the writers surprise me.

“I’m enjoying myself.  It’s one of the best atmospheres I’ve been in in my life.  The ladies are great,” he says of Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs.  “We change up sometimes and have one script one day and the next evening, another script, and they just jump in with energy, kicking any challenge.”

Morris, who was a music arranger and singer with Harry Belafonte before “SNL” — and had success in vehicles including “The Jamie Foxx Show” afterward — just celebrated his 75th birthday this month.  Besides being “Girls’” Earl, he gets great enjoyment out of owning and operating L.A.’s Downtown Comedy Club, and the fact young comics can hone their standup and be seen there.

As we speak, he lets us know that he just got word of a colleague’s death, which puts him in a reflective mood.  “I’ve been very fortunate.  There’ve been ups and downs, I haven’t been an angel.  In my career, I’ve had moments worthy of criticism, I’m aware of that,” he says.  “When you lose people or you’re ill for a minute, then you look around and see you’re still here, you have to thank providence, or God or whatever.  To live life fully and do what you want to do is such a gift.”

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