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Mar 16

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 14

Jeffrey Tambor, Amanda Peet, David Walton

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

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

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

             And now? Any word on production plans?

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

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

 

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Mar 10

Alison Sweeney NBC photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 09

Courtney Robertson

Dr. Carole Lieberman

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

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

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

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Mar 09

Kai Chase

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 08

Nicollette Sheridan as Edie Britt

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 06

Billy Gardell, Reno Wilson CBS photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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