Feb 25

The waiting is almost over for Hollywood’s biggest night of the year! With the 84th Academy Awards coming up tomorrow (Feb. 26), it’s time to test your Oscar show know-how. Here’s our Oscar Quiz, with a little gossip, a little trivia and a few blush-worthy moments mixed in:

1) Which of last year’s winners failed to return from the bar fast enough, got locked out of the Kodak Theater during the awards, and missed a costar’s win? A. Melissa Leo B. Colin Firth C. Christian Bale

2) This is Billy Crystal’s ninth Oscar show hosting, but he has a ways to go before surpassing Bob Hope’s record of Academy Awards emceeing. How many times did Hope host? A. 12 B. 18 C. 21

3) This past Oscar nominee crashed the Academy’s Board of Governor’s Ball wearing rumpled cotton slacks and a Hawaiian shirt. A. Johnny Depp B. Bill Murray C. Djimon Hounsou

4) This Best Actor Oscar winner’s acceptance speech, thanking his high school drama teacher, a gay man, is said to have been the inspiration for Kevin Kline’s “In and Out” movie. A. Richard Dreyfuss for “The Goodbye Girl” B. Tom Hanks for “Philadelphia” C. Russell Crowe for “Gladiator”

5 ) Which of this year’s “The Help” acting nominees was the parole board member questioning Danny Ocean (George Clooney) in the opening scene of “Ocean’s Eleven?” A. Jessica Chastain B. Octavia Spencer C. Viola Davis

6 ) Hal Holbrook and Ruby Dee were nominees with a special distinction in the 80th Oscars. What did they have in common? A. They were the last two nominees born before the first Academy Awards. B. They were also both Emmy nominees that year. C. They both did voiceovers for Sears Financial Services.

7) The story goes that she won an Oscar, he was jealous, and it led to their breakup. A. Sandra Bullock and Jesse James B. Sally Field and Burt Reynolds C. Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise

8 ) Which one of these portrayals did not involve partial nudity? A. Gwyneth Paltrow “Shakespeare in Love” B. Catherine Zeta-Jones “Chicago” C. Kathy Bates “About Schmidt”

9) Which Best Actress winner was so mortified to realize she’d forgotten to thank her husband in her acceptance speech, she spent the next year trying to rectify the slight? A. Halle Berry B. Hilary Swank C. Helen Hunt

10) After he dumped her on national TV, she showed up on the Oscar red carpet looking especially stunning. A. Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow B. Billy Bob Thornton, Laura Dern C. Matt Damon, Minnie Driver

11) A long-standing urban legend has it that the 1993 Best Supporting Actress Oscar should have gone to Vanessa Redgrave for “Howard’s End,” but presenter Jack Palance incorrectly announced this actress’ name instead. No truth to it, by the way. A. Juliette Binoche, for “The English Patient.” B. Mira Sorvino, for “Mighty Aphrodite.” C. Marisa Tomei, for “My Cousin Vinny.”

12) Which actress was so flustered by her win she left her Oscar behind in the ladies room? A. Holly Hunter B. Meryl Streep C. Whoopi Goldberg

ANSWERS 1) C: Christian Bale missed out on his “The Fighter” mom, Melissa Leo’s Oscar moment.

2) B: 18

3) B: Bill Murray

4) B: Tom Hanks

5 ) C: Viola Davis

6 ) A: They were born before the first Oscars in 1929

7) B: Sally Field and Burt Reynolds. Bullock learned James was having an affair days after her Oscar win. Kidman won after her marriage to Cruise had ended.

8 ) B: Catherine Zeta-Jones

9) B: Hilary Swank, who won again the next year and thanked now-ex husband Chad Lowe first.

10) C: Matt Damon, Minnie Driver

11) C: Marisa Tomei

12) B: Meryl Streep

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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 22

As martial arts film fanboys and girls are aware, there’s been talk of a sequel to, or remake of Bruce Lee’s iconic 1973 “Enter the Dragon” for five years — at least.  Now, producer Fred Weintraub tells us that he expects “Awaken the Dragon” to be his next filmic undertaking, and it’s actually a prequel to the vintage film.

Who could possibly follow in Lee’s footsteps?

“No one.  That’s why it’s a prequel,” Weintraub replies.  He adds, deadpan, “Unless I get Bruce to come back from that Shaolin temple in Korea where he’s been teaching Elvis.”

Right now, Weintraub is hitting the promotional trail for his new “Bruce Lee, Woodstock and Me” memoir — a fun read that offers a ringside table to some watershed moments in pop culture history in which Weintraub was personally involved.  Besides the madness that went on behind the camera in China while making “Enter the Dragon,” there’s Weintraub’s years as owner of New York’s famed The Bitter End nightclub.   There, he stood up for the rights of controversial singers including Pete Seeger, got into hot water when Lenny Bruce spewed obscenities from his stage, and helped start the careers of stars like Woody Allen, Joan Rivers and Neil Diamond.  There’s also the wild tale of the making of “Woodstock,” the movie that saved Warner Bros. — and Hollywood — in 1970, which was Weintraub’s first feature as a Warner Bros. VP.  And more.

In early April, he’ll be back at The Bitter End, now celebrating its 50th anniversary year.  “I’m going to do a signing.  I’ve talked to Robert Klein, Judy Collins — I spoke to Woody.  I don’t know who’ll come, but some of them will come,” he says.  “It will be like home week for me.”

MEANWHILE:  Weintraub, who does lectures, is used to being surrounded by eager film students asking questions.  “People ask, ‘What’s happening to the movie business?  Is this the end?’  And I say, ‘It’s the beginning!  This is the time of the greatest opportunity ever.  In five years, there’ll be 10 million people paying $2 to see a new movie on its first night on the internet.  I found the business fun.  It’s still fun,” insists the octogenarian filmmaker.

“I’m a great advocate of anybody in the business getting a liberal arts education.  Don’t just learn how to edit, how to use a camera.  Know art and music — all of it.  Every producer I know who was successful had other interests besides making movies.”


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Feb 20

Wes Bentley

With a string of high-profile movies on the way — including Summit Entertainment’s “Gone” thriller that opens Friday (2/24) — Wes Bentley has built up a wave of fresh career momentum.  He has a wife and a one-year-old son he adores at home.  He looks great.  Life is good.   It’s hard to believe that between 2002 and 2009, the actor who rocketed to fame with the 1999 “American Beauty” hit the depths of addiction — alcohol, cocaine, heroin.

Coming off a week of following the sad news of Whitney Houston’s death, talking with Bentley has an alternate universe feeling about it.

“It’s upsetting,” he says, asked about the late pop icon.  “I can’t speak to exactly where she was, but probably in a sad place.  Doing that to yourself means you still haven’t found the right support or settled the emotions in yourself you need to settle.  That kind of unrest is difficult to live with.”

Has he settled his own unrest?

“I have a great support system, and I have certain programs to help me,” he replies.  “There’s a big barrier between me and my vices — a lot of phone numbers of people I can call, a child and family.  There are a lot of reasons between me and falling back into that again.”

Bentley went public with his own story in 2010, telling of the years he barely worked and spent his time in clubs, hotel rooms, and drug dens.  To see where he is now can offer a positive example for others trying to break the addiction cycle.  “I hope so,” he says.  “That’s the only reason I ever talked about it.”

That and, as he’s admitted, to help get his career going again.

The actor is in the much-anticipated March 23 release adaptation of Suzanne Collin’s novel, “The Hunger Games” — complete with an elaborately-defined beard that won its own fan following thanks to the trailer and advance publicity.

Now he has “Gone,” playing a police detective dealing with Amanda Seyfried’s character, a woman racing against time to rescue her sister from a serial killer.  “I was attracted to this for a number of reasons — I’m a fan of (director) Heitor Dhalia, and also Amanda.  I love working with her,” Bentley says. “And I like stories that empower women.”

Their scenes are intense, but, “We were laughing between scenes all the time,” Bentley says.  “Amanda is funny.  There’s a scene where I ask her to give me her number so I can get in touch with her — she typed in the number 1.  She also introduced me to the honeybadger video while we were on that shoot.”

Bentley is also in Seyfried’s forthcoming “Lovelace” movie about porn superstar Linda Lovelace, playing the photographer who did the poster for ‘Deep Throat.’”

“It’s a great scene.  He’s one of the more sensitive men to her in the story,” the actor says.

He’s currently shooting the apocalyptic Western-thriller “The Time Being” with Frank Langella, “who I just love.  We get along great together.  We’re kindred spirits, and very similar actors.  It could be a pretty heavy movie, and we both like to joke around right up to the point of action, and then we’re both very focused and prepared.  It’s an adrenaline rush.”

Bentley feels he’s found balance in his life.  The celebrity that once overpowered him is no longer an issue.  “I feel like I always wanted to do good work, and I’m doing that.  I’m staying focused on the core of what is important to me — my family and being a good person.  The rest is, you know, just another part of life.  I don’t let it overwhelm me anymore.  I’ve definitely seen a lot, gone through a lot — and no uncomfortable feeling with fame can compare to the stuff I’ve been uncomfortable with in life.”


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Feb 19

Donis Leonard, Jr. and Glynn Turman Showtime photo

Don Cheadle’s “House of Lies” has already been picked up for its second season, and costar Glynn Turman is quick to applaud Showtime for its support of the series that has Cheadle as a slick, smart, ruthless and debauched management consultant for greedy Wall Street giants.

“They’re so behind it, pumping and putting it out there,” he notes. This being Black History Month, Turman looks at “House of Lies” through the lens of race. In his opinion, “It’s not being treated like a ‘black show.’ If there is a show with a black lead, it’s not usually given the push that other shows are given. But with this show, the wheels that make things a success are really spinning.”

Turman has a permanent place in black cinema history, thanks to his role in the classic 1975 “Cooley High.” He’s observed changes in film and TV with regard to African Americans since then, and he’s observed slips backward. The day of the African American network comedy, for example, has pretty much gone away.
The bitingly satirical “House of Lies” — which is, in case you didn’t know, a very wild Showtime show full of sex, drugs and profanity — is in a category unto itself.

Turman, who plays Cheadle’s retired shrink dad, feels the show, “does a wonderful job in presenting Don and his family, me included, as human beings. The issues we see him struggling with have less to do with him being black than him being human. That’s one of the things that’s so refreshing about it. The color issue is so secondary to his relationships with his coworkers, his boss. His coworker is a beautiful young blond white girl,” he notes, referring to Kristen Bell. “His ex-wife (Dawn Olivieri) is a white woman….They’re not ignoring his color. When issues come up, they tackle the issues.”

Cheadle’s wily character is also not above playing the race card, if it’s to his advantage. As Turman notes, “This is a guy who says, ‘This can work for me. I can use this.’ I think that’s so timely.” Its occupation with Wall Street “hits right on the sore spot of the country. I think everybody’s still in shock after seeing it,” Turman adds with a laugh. “People are saying, ‘Can they do that?’”

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Feb 16

As Whitney Houston’s loved ones prepare to lay her to rest, the circus that has been surrounding the pop music icon’s death shows little sign of abating.  It’s become a show unto itself.

For instance, among the hundreds of beautiful and thoughtful statements from her colleagues, there’ve been a few that stopped us short.  We love Tony Bennett, but every so often he says something way out there, like entreating the folks at Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party to fight for legalization of drugs like they have in Amsterdam (per Tony’s declaration) “so they have to get it from a doctor, not just some gangsters that just sell it under the table.”  Tommy Chong chimed in later, on Twitter, that if only Whitney had stuck to pot, she’d be with us still.

The media frenzy went beyond the pale immediately, and relentlessly continues.  We blanched at the “Entertainment Tonight” email announcement with the subject line:  ET EXCLUSIVE PHOTO – WHITNEY’S BODYBAG, touting the show’s footage inside the coroner’s van.  That’s the kind of thing we expect from leader of the wolf pack TMZ, of course, which provided – among dozens of other things — images of the gurney with the singer’s covered body being wheeled out of the hotel.  And then there’s CNN, with Tweets like this:  “View stake-out camera at funeral home where #Whitney Houston body is expected to arrive in New Jersey. Watch live:”  Perhaps not the best choice of words.

There are worse things than the ghoul patrol, though.  Such as, perpetual “look at me” blowhard Bill O’Reilly and his completely unnecessary and cruel comments about Whitney being a drug addict and wanting to kill herself.

And then we have the Barney Fifes of the horde, transforming into swaggering amateur forensic scientists and detectives before our eyes.  Going all noir on us, we heard one declare the other night, “It’ll be weeks before we get the tox reports, as they say in the biz.”  And how about those on-air interviews with seemingly anyone and everyone associated with Whitney — or not.  Among our favorites: a local news interview with a backup singer who extolled the star as an angel, but finally admitted she’d never actually talked to her.

Although Brian Grazer and Don Mischer are keeping details of this year’s Academy Awards show under wraps, you can be sure Houston will be duly acknowledged on the Feb. 26 Oscars as well.

This ridiculous and sublime, beautiful and awful response to Houston’s passing is appropriate, because it certainly is in keeping with her life of extremes.  Consider these highlights and lowlights:

1985: First album, “Whitney Houston,” released, becomes best-selling debut album with 13 million sold.  Wins Whitney first of multiple Grammys.

1987: Second album, “Whitney,” becomes first album by a female to debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s pop chart, garners four No. 1 singles.

1991: Whitney’s rendition of the National Anthem, recorded at the Super Bowl during the Gulf War, becomes Arista’s fastest-selling single in history.

1992: Marries R&R/rap hybrid artist Bobby Brown of “My Prerogative” fame.  “I may be a B-Boy and she’s America’s Sweetheart, but it’s love,” says Bobby.  In November, “The Bodyguard” is released, goes on to gross over $400 million, yields best-selling soundtrack in history.

1993:  “I Will Always Love You” becomes longest-running pop single in the rock era.  Daughter Bobbi Kristina is born.

1995:  Two hours late to perform at a White House Dinner for Nelson Mandela, testy onstage – “stuff happens” — when she keeps audiences waiting more than an hour.  Whitney and Bobby separate for two months.  “We will work our problems out,” she tells Vibe magazine.  “…He doesn’t like to be disrespected.  He has a temper from hell.”

Brown enters Betty Ford Center in October, facing legal woes including allegedly beating a man over a woman; kicking a security guard, urinating in a police car.  In December, he’s seen drinking beer at a party preceding release of “Waiting to Exhale.”

1996:  Bobby denies reports he called Whitney gay, a rumor that’s dogged her for years, while in rehab.  Whitney makes “The Preacher’s Wife” with Denzel Washington.  Image-repairing interviews include TV Guide, which says she shows no sign of being the “diva-in-distress we’ve heard so much about” as Whitney talks about her Whitney Houston Children’s Foundation, the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards.

1997:  A no-show at the Essence Awards, where she was to be honored.  Reports out of Honolulu of Bobby hitting Whitney denied.  Produces and plays Fairy Godmother in “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” with Brandy.  Kevin Ammons’ book, Good Girl, Bad Girl contends that her throat problems stem from too much pot smoking, that she spikes her pot with cocaine.  Italian police investigate two-inch cut on Whitney’s face after Mediterranean yacht trip with Brown.

1998: “My Love is Your Love” album a hit, earns some of Whitney’s best reviews ever.

2000:  In January, Houston leaves a bag allegedly containing a small amount of marijuana at a Hawaii airport, which leads to a petty misdemeanor drug charge.  She avoids jail time by promising to pay $4,000 and agreeing to voluntary drug testing over the next few months.  Whitney’s rep as pop’s “Lost-It Girl” worsens when she’s very publicly let go from the Academy Awards two days before show time for flubbing the lyrics to “Over the Rainbow.”  She tells Jane magazine that meeting a president and meeting a junkie are the same: “They’re just men, you dig?” Brown spends 26 days in jail for violating his probation for a 1996 drunk driving incident, in which he had tested positive for cocaine and marijuana.

2001:  Whitney’s anorexic-looking form at Michael Jackson’s 30th Anniversary concert special taping for CBS shocks fans.  Reports have it that her emaciated arms and shoulders are digitally filled in by the time the show airs on television

2002:   In August, her father, John Houston, sues Whitney for $100 million, claiming she owed him the sum for his salvaging of her career following her marijuana arrest in 2000 and his helping her land her $100 million recording contract with Arista.  The action reportedly devastates Whitney.   In December, she exhibits flippant and unapologetic attitude in chat with Diane Sawyer on ABC’s “Primetime Live,” including her weird claim that she wouldn’t do crack cocaine, because it’s a cheap drug and she makes way too much money.

Singles flop and “Just Whitney” album stalls.  Whitney had reportedly taken a $20 million cash advance from Arista against future royalties.

2003:  John Houston dies in February.  Houston is reportedly so disoriented at her 40th birthday party in August that she has a hard time taking off her jacket.

2004:  Whitney enters rehab.

2005:  “Being Bobby Brown” reality show airs June 30-Sept. 8 of ’05 and viewers watch in horrified fascination.  As EW’s Michael Slezak put it:  “Changing the channel isn’t an option.  Not after Bobby discusses using his fingers to help wife Whitney Houston with her constipation.”  The show spawns new Whitney catch phrase:  “Hell to the No.”  Her “Kiss my a—“ clip plays repeatedly on E!’s “The Soup,” which designates it as Clip of the Year.  Whitney declines to appear in a second season, and prevents DVD release in 2008.

2006:  Splits from Bobby Brown, gets custody of Bobbi Kristina.  Brown sues to change their divorce agreement and tries to get spousal and child support.

2009:  A comeback, as she wows the elite at Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party with her performance and the buzz grows for her first studio CD in seven years, “I Look to You.”  Davis godfathers the album and a first class set of contemporary producers lend their talents.  The album is released in August at No. 1, with largely positive reviews, but not raves.  Eventually sells 2.5 million units.

2010:  The rollercoaster heads downward again, as Whitney’s first world concert tour in 11 years goes wrong.  She’s described as a “hot mess” during Australia concerts.  In Birmingham, England she gives what headlines scream was an “appalling performance,” 20 minutes in length, filled out by her backup performers and video clips.  Cancels concerts due to “upper respiratory infection.”  But by October, she and her mother Cissy look great at Alicia Keys’ Keep A Child Alive benefit.

2011:  Whitney goes back into rehab in May.  In August, she celebrates her 48th birthday.  In November, she wraps “Sparkle” with Jordin Sparks.  Word is, the film could mark another comeback.

2012: Feb. 11, Whitney is found dead in a fourth floor suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.  Feb. 12, Whitney paid loving tribute at the 54th Grammy Awards.


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Feb 15

Billy Ray Cyrus

Even with publication of Billy Ray Cyrus’ Hillbilly Heart memoir more than a year away, it’s a safe bet that the book will engender emotional responses — for and against.

The tome, Cyrus purportedly opens up about his own rebellious youth, his rise to fame with “Achy Breaky Heart,” and the role that religious faith plays in his life.  And of course, there’s the eye-catching part:  that he writes “with great candor” about the challenges of raising his talented wild child daughter, Miley.   Uh-oh.

Having been continuously accused of exploiting Miley’s success for his own career gain ever since “Hannah Montana” made her a Disney Channel It Girl in 2006, Billy Ray’s had more than his share of print misadventures.  There was the infamous Vanity Fair story of 2008, with the cover picture of a bare-topped, 15-year-old Miley amid rumpled sheets and an eyebrow-raising father-daughter inside photo spread.  There was his notorious GQ interview of a year ago, in which he criticized “Hannah Montana” and the people handling Miley’s career — in addition to comparing her to the late Anna Nicole Smith while airing his worries about her many episodes of questionable behavior.  When her widely-reported response was hurt and anger, he talked some more about wanting to repair his familial relationships in People.  And then there are the stories of his own interesting relationship histories, including fathering children with two different women in the same year.

No wonder Billy Ray comes off extremely guarded — wounded — in interviews, unless he happens to be talking about such safe topics as his music and charitable causes.

Which brings us to the other Billy Ray, the patriotic guy who has visited countless troops here and in Iraq and Afghanistan, has supported various worthy causes and has played roles in uplifting fare.  To his fans, he’s gotten a bum rap in the media.

Now, with his Amazon book deal, the public will get a chance to hear the whole Cyrus story from Billy Ray himself.  No prejudiced journalists spinning his words negatively or taking them out of context.  No photographer surprises.  It will be all his way, in his hands.  Miley, gird yourself.

ALSO TELLING ALL:  Debbie Reynolds has a gloves-off memoir coming out in 2013 also — “Unsinkable,” which is being described as her “definitive memoir and tell-all.”  By the time it’s released, the Hollywood icon will be 80.  Publishers Lunch (which is its own entity, and not related to Publishers Weekly as we said the other day) points out that Debbie published her first autobiography in 1988, and quotes her observation, “When I read the optimistic ending of that book now, I can’t believe how naïve I was when I wrote it.”

Marty Allen and Robin Williams

FUNNY BUSINESS:  Robin Williams and Mort Sahl were among the Marty Allen admirers who turned out to see the pudgy veteran comic perform at Marin County’s 142 Throckmorton Theatre the other night.  He performed along with his wife, singer/comedian Karon Blackwell.  Marty says, “Karon and I are like the new Burns and Allen, except I’m Gracie.”  Marty turns 90 on March 23.

CLOSING UP ‘HOUSE’:  Considering that Hugh Laurie said way back in May of 2011 that the end of “House’s” eighth season would likely be its swan song — “That’s as long as they’ve got me for” — it’s surprising that anyone is surprised the show is readying for its final farewell.  Laurie also made no secret of the fact he missed his family in the U.K. and yearned to spend more time on his music.  However, he certainly appreciated the success of his rightly-acclaimed show.  As he told this column, “It’s not quite winning the lottery, but close to it. When you realize the number of projects that die in pilot stage, the number of pilots that never become shows, the number of series that never last more than a season, well, I look back and feel like we walked through a mine field.  We had a very modest beginning.  I never realized how fragile we were as an infant show or the fact we were in sort of intensive care for awhile.  And yet we managed to survive.”

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Feb 14

Jay-Z and Beyonce photo

Recent months have been hell for stories of celebrity splits, from Heidi and Seal to Katy and Russell, Demi and Ashton to Johnny and Vanessa and more.  But today being Valentine’s Day, let us take a moment to shine some light on love in the celebrity leagues — where the gestures are grander, the gifts are more lavish, and imaginations can soar unfettered by bank balance considerations.

 Jennifer Aniston’s vast legions of fans, who’ve suffered with America’s Sweetheart through the Brad Pitt split and painful John Mayer period, can take heart in her declaration that she is now in a “joyful and peaceful place” with Justin Theroux.  If our Jen can find a good man at last, darn it, then there’s hope for all the lovelorn.  Last year, she gifted her hunky beau with a $12,000 jacket that had been worn by James Dean.

Who doesn’t feel heart-warmed by new Mom & Dad Beyonce and Jay-Z, whose investments in expressions of love perhaps outstrip the GNP of a small country by now.  A few examples:  When Beyonce turned 23, Jay-Z blew a half million dollars on a huge hip hop party, complete with live mermaids (okay, they weren’t really mermaids, but not because he couldn’t afford real mermaids!) and an ice sculpture that read “Beautiful B.”  For her 25th, he not only gave his lady a big party in New York, the hip hop mogul reportedly spent $1 million to buy her a 1959 Rolls Royce convertible.  In 2010, she bought him a Bugatti Grand Sport, for a reported $2 million.  His new gigantic sapphire pinky ring, worth an estimated $500,000, is believed to be Beyonce’s gift of thanks to Jay-Z for being such a good daddy to baby Blue Ivy, who is four weeks and three days old today (2/14).  In a related story, Blue Ivy is said to already have more than $1.5 million worth of toys, in addition to her trademarked name and hit record release.  (Jay-Z’s “Glory” included her first sounds, making Blue Ivy the youngest artist ever on the Billboard charts.)

Romantic might not be the first word that leaps to mind when you think of fried-sounding heavy metal icon Ozzy Osbourne and his potty-mouthed rock matriarch cum talk and reality show queen, Sharon.  But the couple has been wed 30 years this year. They’ve made it through drug and illness nightmares that could have rendered asunder a less devoted pair.  That’s plenty romantic enough.  And how about this?  Ozzy buys pearls for Sharon on Valentine’s Day every year.  She tells the story of how he was performing in Japan the first year they were a couple, and he went into a shop and bought her a strand of pearls there – despite the fact they had no money at the time.  The bill arrived three weeks later, as she related in a U.K. Rate the Music interview, and “I’m like, ‘Oh Ozzy, we’re going to have to work for like six months to pay off this bill!’   So, it’s now become a tradition — pearls.”

Speaking of odd, Shirley Jones and Marty Ingels still strike folks as the unlikeliest of couples – the loud and often grating comic and the genteel Oscar-winning actress and musical star.  They weren’t supposed to last but it’s been 35 years this year since they became husband and wife, and they say they’re a testimony to the power of laughter.  Ingels also knows the power of a spectacular gesture – having pulled such shenanigans as having a mariachi band performing out on their lawn for one of their anniversaries.  He also once purchased an entire candy store in Beverly Hills as a gift for “Shirl,” who happened to like a particular type of candy sold there.  Sweet!

Of course, it doesn’t always have to be about money.   “Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna told us his favorite romantic moment “was in 1975.  My love Arlene and I were touring with a play in Europe.  We were like hippies, without much money in our pockets.  We went up to the top of the Eiffel Tower on October 3 and did a kind of personal marriage thing.  We had to go back to Chicago to make it legal, but it’s that October 3 date we celebrate, that we consider our anniversary date.  Even more romantic was a date that came 25 years later — on October 3.  We were with our two daughters and went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and recited our vows again.  What made it more special was that our daughter Mia, who was about 14 at the time, was wearing the same blue jean jacket Arlene had worn that first time.”

And  then there’s Julie Benz of “Dexter” and Charlie Sheen’s upcoming “Anger Management” series.  She recalls, “In fifth grade, Peter Esselman wrote me a letter that said he would love me even if all my hair fell out and I regurgitated all over myself.  And he drew a picture of me with no hair, regurgitating on myself.   That’s love.”

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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.



Feb 09

Tia Carrere NBC photo

 Season five of “The Celebrity Apprentice” doesn’t debut until Feb. 19, so contestant Tia Carrere has to be circumspect about what she reveals regarding her journey on the show.  But it can’t have been too hard on her — considering that now she’s now contemplating opening her own business back in her native Hawaii.

“The great thing was I found out I’m a really good team player.  I’ve never been in a corporate environment before,” says the actress and Grammy-winning musician who rose to fame in the “Wayne’s World” movies.  “I was pleased that I was able to anticipate people’s needs and be a self-starter.  Most important, I promised myself going in that no matter what, I would maintain my integrity.  There is no reason for being backbiting and manipulative.  Other people are — but I guess that makes good TV, doesn’t it?

“I was surprised.  Some of these broads are tough,” adds Carrere.  She’s part of an eclectic group of 18 including Arsenio Hall, George Takei, Cheryl Tiegs, Penn Jillette, Clay Aiken, Victoria Gotti, Aubrey O’Day, Lisa Lampanelli, Adam Carolla, Victoria Gotti, Lou Ferrigno, Michael Andretti, Debbie Gibson, “Real Housewives of New Jersey’s” Teresa Giudice  and Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider.
 Carrere reports she was a last-minute addition to the cast.  “They had asked me for the past few years, and I’d always kind of shied away from it because I knew it would be difficult.  I was the last one to jump on.  I didn’t have time to think about it.  It was, ‘Let’s just see if make money for my charity,’ which is After-School All-Stars.  It’s a group Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced me to nearly 20 years ago when we did ‘True Lies,’ that provides fitness and enrichment programs for kids all across the country.”

 Even if she’d had the time, however, “You can’t prepare for this.  What I like about the show is that we’re so exhausted and overwhelmed with the tasks we’re asked to do, people’s true personalities come through,” she notes.  “Yeah, people put on this happy face, but when push comes to shove, all that wears off.  I got some interesting insights about people:  ‘Oh, you really went to that place?  How disappointing.”

It’s already a ridiculously busy year for Carrere, who has just started filming her new  recurring role on the USA Network’s “In Plain Sight,” and is also juggling hosting-producing chores on two more shows she says are going into production soon. “One is called ‘Forsaken Places’ and the other is called ‘Street Stars,’” she says.  “I’ve got to go to Vancouver, and Albuquerque — and there’s another movie that I might do that would mean going to Montreal and Louisiana.”

Carrere admits she finds it “very hard” to be away from her six-year-old daughter for long stretches, but credits her ex-husband, British photojournalist Simon Wakelin for stepping up. “Bianca’s daddy is terrific about being right there.”

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