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Mar 30

Gladys Knight is not only in the TV spotlight as a “Dancing With the Stars” contestant — she’s also planning for the launch of her first album in six years, “Another Journey,” next month.  Among the helping hands producing the recording is “American Idol’s” Randy Jackson, who won a Grammy for co-producing her “At Last” album in 2001.

“Yeah, I’m still working with big Dawg Randy,” says the legendary Empress of Soul with a laugh.  “That’s my buddy.  I’m finally coming out with that album.  People kept asking me for it.  I really thought I was through with recording, to tell you the truth.”

She says she’s been amazed to hear Gladys Knight and the Pips songs being sung by contestants on “Idol.”  “It does my heart good to know I did something that’s lasted all these years, and that they feel the music we did is worthy enough to choose to perform at such an important moment in their lives.  That’s how I feel about it: ‘This is your time to shine, and you chose my song.'”

Now is her time to shine as a dancer.  Asked for a progress report on her training, she says, “I’m doing pretty good.  I’m kind of shocking myself, because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do this.  I think a lot of it is due to my partner, Tristan (McManus), and how he teaches and how patient he is.”

Is Gladys a natural dancer?  “Noooo.”  She laughs. “You would think so, honey, with all them Pips dancing around me all the time, but they never let me dance, you know?  I used to want to learn the routines of the Pips and in the beginning I did.  Then Pops said, ‘Ok, look.  This is how it is, Baby.  You’re a lady.  So you’ll strut and the Pips will dance.’  And that’s how they set it up.”

The 67-year-old grandmother of 17 has been keeping up her concert tour schedule, training with McManus while on the road.  She is in the midst of a two-week break as we speak, expecting to get back out for gigs in Canada and Mississippi after tonight’s and tomorrow night’s shows.  “Is that crazy or what?  But when I perform, our engagements are set months in advance and there were things I just couldn’t cancel,” she explains.

Where does all her energy come from?  “Well, I try to eat right, and, you know, exercise is always good for you.  I had fallen off the wagon, so to speak, in terms of exercise, but dancing gives me my cardio.  It’s working out pretty good.”

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Mar 29

January Jones expects to keep her schedule clear for awhile to focus on all her attention on her precious guy in life — that guy being her six-month-old son, Xander.

“I promised myself I wouldn’t take any work after we wrapped unless it was something special,” says the blond beauty of “Mad Men” – which returned for its long-awaited fifth season on AMC last week.  “Kids are only babies for a year so I only want to be with him, and get some rest. There’ve been a lot of sleepless nights.  I went back to work quite soon after I had him,” she notes.

One would not guess she’d recently had a baby by looking at the spectacular actress.  As far as having a rigorous workout routine, she says she does not.  I fact, “I haven’t done any exercises yet.  I want to get back into yoga. I did a lot while I was pregnant, but haven’t done any since.”  She supposes her slimness has to do with “not having time to eat, and running around breast feeding.  Also, my mom’s very petite; I’ve got good genes.”

The Emmy-laden drama finished shooting for the season two months ago.  January had pink highlights put into her hair prior to new season premiere events – and fashion-following crowd took note appropriately.

“It’s fun.  I have fun.  I’m a girl.  I like to do silly things sometimes and I love to be able to experiment with things.  I wanted to be able to wake up in the morning and smile at my hair.  You know, as a mom you don’t get a lot of sleep.  I wanted to feel something to feel kind of girly and excited about.  A little retail therapy goes a long way.  Pink streaks go a long way – or, rose gold highlights.”

MEANWHILE:   January feels as if her Betty Draper Francis has been like a different character in each of the show’s seasons.  She credits creator Matthew Weiner for “taking Betty on a different journey each year.  He does that for all the characters, that’s the beauty of his writing.”

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Mar 26

Beautiful “Attack of the Show!” host Candace Bailey groans when asked if she gets to keep any of the dazzling array of new tech toys featured on the popular live G4 show.  “I wish!  It would be nice to have multiple flat screens,” she notes.  But she’s having a blast anyway. “It’s fun.  I get to look at all the gadgets.”

Bailey kept busy with acting gigs after her stint as a Nickelodeon “U-Pick Live” host – with her regular role on the series “Jericho” and numerous guestings.  “And then I thought, ‘Why am I not hosting anymore?  I should try to get back into it.”  Her appetite is certainly being satisfied now, with the four-night-a-week, hour-long comedy and news show aimed at gamers, digital media and pop culture enthusiasts.  She’s been cohosting since January, 2011 along with Kevin Pereira and Sara Underwood.  She’d like to do more acting, but the time demands of “Show” are pretty constant; their next “dark” week off isn’t until August.  Bailey says they generally do a table-read of the day’s material at 12:30, go into hair and makeup at three o’clock and go live at 4 Pacific.

“But we get three day weekends every week,” she notes.  Another plus:  she likes her cast mates.  “Kevin is such a giving host.  He’s so funny.  I like to laugh and he’s always cracking me up.”

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Mar 24

Christian Slater tells us he and the rest of the “Breaking In” team have all been “holding our breath” waiting to find out the fate of the Fox series — that was cancelled last May and then un-cancelled in August.  The comedy has been struggling, unable to hold onto the viewers of its lead-in, “New Girl.”  Having been around the cancellation block several times now, the star is bracing himself.

“It all comes down to ratings and people tuning in.  That’s what the networks care about.  It all comes down to America either saving it or killing it — and then having to deal with everybody saying, ‘Oh, I really loved that show.’  Definitely that’s what happens. I’ve done this three times now, and people say, ‘Oh, why’d they take it off?’” he imitates. Slater, of course, is referring to his 2008 series, “My Own Worst Enemy,” and 2009 drama show, “The Forgotten.”

You have to hand it to him.  Despite the frustrations, he’s certainly been doing his all to promote “Breaking In.”  He’s on Jimmy Fallon’s show tonight (3/23) and appeared on Ellen Degeneres’ show a few days ago, in addition to chatting with media.

“I enjoy it.  It’s a funny show, a funny premise,” he says of his comedy about a team of hackers and thieves that tests high-end security systems by breaking into them to find their flaws.  Asked if he hesitated to return when the show was “un-cancelled,” he says, “Only because I had just relocated to Miami, I was really kind of unsure of whether I wanted to come back to L.A..  That was really it.  There wasn’t any anger or sadness regarding the show in any way.  I basically had just moved.  That was the only issue for me.  I enjoyed doing it, and as long as I had the opportunity to do more work with those guys I was happy,” he says of creators Adam Goldberg and Seth Gordon.

As far as the revamp of the show, with Megan Mullally coming in to play the team’s unwanted new corporate boss, Slater says, “Certainly when they told me that’s who they were going after — and then when they got her — it was very exciting.  She’s great.  I’m a huge fan of her work on ‘Will & Grace.’  She is definitely a very funny woman, and she’s brought so much joy and really works very hard, very diligently to get all the material as good as it can possibly be.”

Ahead on the show are love triangle elements that have to be dealt with, Slater says, “And there’s a lot of sendups to movies from the past – ‘Indiana Jones,’ ‘Back to the Future.’”  The episode that just aired borrowed from the cult hit feature that started it all for Slater, “Heathers.”  Unfortunately, the show again sustained a post-“New Girl” viewer drop-off.  By the time you read this, Slater may well know whether or not he’ll be heading back to L.A. for more shooting – or not – as it’s decided whether this will be a 10 or 13 episode season.

Either way, he’s looking forward to settling in as a Miami resident, getting some sun, and going fishing.

Why the move?  Why Miami?  “I thought I’d like to have a little distance between myself and Los Angeles.  I started coming out here last year and was going down to the Florida Keys, which I really enjoyed, then I started migrating up north to Miami.  I just liked the size of it,” says Slater.  “It’s not all inundated with show business.  It’s just nice to have a little bit of normalcy.”

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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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