Tag Archives: Halle Berry

Stars Who Overcome Illness Give Inspiration and More

Olivia summer nightsIt’s fabulous to see Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts out on the international 14 On Fire Rolling Stones tour at age 72, more than three years after recovering from throat cancer.

It’s fantastic that Fran Drescher is on Broadway in the revival of Cinderella, nearly 14 years after successfully battling uterine cancer – and becoming a tireless advocate for cancer patients.

We honestly love the fact that 21 years after beating breast cancer, Olivia Newton-John is busy as ever. beginning her “Summer Nights” residency at the Flamingo Las Vegas next month. She was on hand for the opening of Australia’s Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Center in 2008, has put out music releases as cancer fundraisers. Her “Hope is Always Here” song for her 2009 “Kaleidoscope” television special was performed by figure skating great and fellow breast cancer survivor Dorothy Hamill.

Knowing that such admired and diverse famous personalities as Edie Falco, Colin Powell, Eddie Van Halen. Gerald McRaney and Kylie Minogue have faced down cancer gives countless patients all the more resolve.

The fact is, when it comes to battling debilitating or life-threatening ailments, celebrities find themselves in the unique position of being able to quite literally help millions by their own examples.

It is an act of courage and enormous generosity toward their fans and the general public when they choose to share, inspire, fund-raise, lobby on behalf of cures. Melissa Etheridge, at the White House last week for the Women of Soul celebration, is the embodiment of that courage. No one who saw it is likely to forget her flipping off her breast cancer with her 2005 Grammy show performance of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” her head shaved bald rather than showing a chemotherapy hair loss.

Going public with an illness can be a career-ender, which is why it’s unusual for performers to be as open as Etheridge. Or Tom Green.

That the king of tacky taste was chosen by fate to get hit with testicular cancer – which predominantly strikes men between the ages of 15 and 35 — turned out to have unforeseen pluses. Who else would have turned the occasion into an MTV “Cancer Special”? The show caused a surge in testing for testicular cancer, which Green told Playboy wasn’t “the main plan.” Still, he added, “I hope the show made kids realize that testicular cancer isn’t embarrassing. It’s #$@!% hilarious. Feel your balls!”

Drescher told us she never made the decision to tell the world of her disease. “I was outed by the tabloids while I was still in the hospital. I turned that into a positive, because it forced me to come to terms what had happened,” she said. “Some people make believe they never had cancer. They keep it a big secret. With me, everyone had heard about it before I had a chance to digest it.”

Fran found that in her case, “There is a silver lining of cancer. Being a survivor has given a purpose to my life and an importance to my fame that works in astounding way I could never have imagined.”

Fran has received many messages from cancer patients and their loved ones thanking her for the inspiration in her best-selling “Cancer Schmancer” book. She’s become the unlikely pal of legislators, lobbying for legislation on behalf of cancer prevention education and cancer care, particularly for women’s cancers, which she believes have received far less attention and research funding than other forms.

Many stars have come through the trials of illness or disability with insight and appreciation, and their words have staying power.

“My teacher told me at the age of 10 that when I grew up, I was going to be given a gift. Diabetes turned out to be it. It gave me the strength and toughness I needed for my life,” said Halle Berry at a Diabetes fund raiser.

Michael J. Fox’s 2003 No. 1 New York Times best-seller, “Lucky Man,” takes readers on a journey through his self-indulgent days as a young star through his denial of his illness to his final acceptance and then advocacy for Parkinson’s sufferers. He’s often bitingly funny and never allows himself to get maudlin – and makes it clear he really does believe in the title. His “Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist” (2009) and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future: Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned” (2010) give readers incalculable inspiration along with the laughs. His Michael J. Fox Research Foundation proudly states it has granted more then $450 million in research since 2000. Fox’s ongoing acting career, his roles on shows including “Rescue Me” and “The Good Wife” in addition to his own NBC sitcom are a further testimonial to his grit and gifts.

Meredith Vieira and her husband, CBS News journalist Richard Cohen, have made an art of surmounting the insurmountable. He literally wrote the book on it: “Blindsided: Living a Life Above Illness: A Reluctant Memoir.” Cohen has had multiple sclerosis since age 25 and has gone through two bouts of colon cancer. He is also legally blind. But his is a full life anyway, rich with accomplishment and family love.

Breast cancer survivor Suzanne Somers sums up how life feels with a drastically changed perspective: “The birds are singing more sweetly and the foxes don’t scare me. Everything has slowed down. Cancer does that for you,” she told People magazine. “That’s the first of the blessings. Worrying about work and all those things that were so urgent seemed so stupid. I just want to live.”

Halle Berry-Gabriel Aubrey Case Deemed ‘Super Bowl of Paternity Actions’

Halle Berry

With Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubrey throwing their ugly custody fight into the public arena, “This year, this is going to be the Super Bowl of paternity actions,” in the opinion of leading family law expert Debra Opri.  The case, she believes, will serve “as a road map to people who have a child and aren’t married — of how to do it right and how not to do it.”

To recap:  Aubrey filed a paternity petition Dec. 30 to establish his parental rights with two-year-old daughter Nahla.  It was thought at the time that the former couple had worked out a stable arrangement for sharing time with their daughter.  This week, through her rep, Berry let it be known that she had dropped out of Garry Marshall’s “New Year’s Eve” to prepare for a custody battle, and that she had serious concerns about the well-being of Nahla while she’s in Aubrey’s care.  (Side note:  “New Year’s Eve” is a giant, all-star ensemble film, so you have to wonder just how big a time investment would have been involved in the first place.  Katherine Heigl is already set as replacement.)  Quotes from reps and “close friends” about jealous and vindictive behavior on both sides have been flooding the internet, TV and other media since — along with photos of Aubrey and his Autumn romance, Kim Kardashian.

“The first thing the court is going to say is, ‘Work it out.  You’re going to be doing this for a long time,'” according to Opri.  “The bottom line is, this should not be a public war between two strong-willed personalities.  This should be two parents sitting down and saying to each other, ‘What is the best way to handle this for our child’s sake?’  Make it work, folks.  Grow up.”

Debra Opri

Opri notes that issues likely to come up as the case is hashed out include the fact “Halle has to make a living, and her career is limited, as far as lead actress parts, to a finite period of time to get that money in.”  Nevertheless, “She shouldn’t get to say, ‘My daughter is with me, bug out.'”

On the other hand, “The father should be going out of his way to work around the demands of Halle’s career, such that, if he needs to come to her on a movie location to see the child, or if a nanny has to fly with the child for him to see her, he needs to make the effort for that to happen.

“In this mood, in the State of California, she needs both parents,” continues the attorney, who successfully represented Larry Birkhead, natural father of the late Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter, Dannielynn — as well as Liza Marquez, ex-girlfriend of David Caruso, with whom he has two children.

Just what kind of custody arrangement Berry and her French-Canadian male model ex-boyfriend had, if any, before his filing is a matter of speculation.  Opri notes, “If they came to an agreement prior to his filing, that may have ticked her off.  But the court’s litmus test is, ‘Is it harmful to the child, what he has done?'”

Meanwhile, another public custody fight involving a celebrity and an unwed father’s rights is moving forward — that of peppery “Top Chef” hostess Padma Lakshmi and venture capitalist Adam Dell, the father of her daughter, Krishna, 11 months.  (His brother is Michael Dell of Dell Computers fame, while her noteworthy associations include her ex-husband, novelist Salman Rusdie.)  Dell claims that Lakshmi is attempting to sideline him and foster a relationship between Krishna and Lakshmi’s new beau, 70-year-old billionaire, chairman and CEO of IMG, Ted Forstmann — including referring to Forstmann as “daddy.”

Opri says, “When in doubt, look at the new relationship and how that new relationship is angering the other parent.”  Indeed.

Whichever ex is in the right or in the wrong in either case, it’s a shame to see the legal combatants carrying on warfare in the court of public opinion — something that’s never in the best interests of the children.

‘Whites Only’ Oscars? Not If These Tour De Force Turns Are Remembered

Helen Mirren, Felicity Jones, Djimon Hounsou

Will the 2010 Oscars be a whites-only club? Gregg Kilday and Matthew Belloni projected the possibility in the Hollywood Reporter back in September, and as this awards season has moved forward, indeed, the focus has been on a collection of Caucasian colossi.

Where are the faces of color? Minority stars have been busy cranking out big commercial movies this year rather than Oscar-type fare, goes the prevailing industry wisdom — Denzel Washington in “Unstoppable,” Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson in “Iron Man 2.” The dearth of African-American, Latino and Asian players in the critics’ awards picks is either 1) just a coincidence or 2)another result of the recession, as distributors fail to pick up independent films that feature minorities, and studios “play it safe.”

Before we get too carried away with this theme, however, the picture could still change. There are Oscar-worthy performances by non-whites in this year’s crop of films, performances that merit more attention than they’ve been getting, starting with Djimon Hounsou in Julie Taymor’s “The Tempest.”

Two-time Academy Award nominee Hounsou plays the enslaved island native Caliban as quite literally a force of nature, the offspring of a witch and the devil. The actor studied Butoh, an ancient form of Japanese dance that represents nature, to prepare for the role. He moves with raw, animalistic grace. He went through five hours a day having makeup applied to his nearly naked body, a process the actor admits always left him in a terrible mood — which he used in his performance as a not-quite-human being consumed by rage.

Taymor continues to have the artistic audacity to follow her own creative instincts rather than playing to critics’ or audiences’ expectations, which has resulted in a “Tempest” that’s excited passionate responses both negative and positive. That this film, with its flawless performances and unforgettable stark imagery, will stand the test of time is without doubt, whether the Academy pays more attention than critics’ groups or not. “The Tempest” opens tomorrow
(12/10).

Meanwhile, would Kimberly Elise be getting more notice for her heart-wrenching portrayal of a woman who submits to abuse in “For Colored Girls” if it weren’t for the fact that Tyler Perry directed the film, and critics don’t like Perry?

The flaws of Halle Berry’s “Frankie and Alice” — also opening, in limited release, tomorrow (12/10) — have been widely enumerated, but there is no ignoring the daring performance of Oscar-winner Berry as a severely emotionally damaged woman with two alternate personalities.

Almost certainly, Javier Bardem, another Academy Awards nomination veteran, will be remembered for his portrayal of a terminally ill criminal in “Biutiful,” which already won him Best Actor honors at the Cannes Film Festival. That, at least, will add a dash of Spanish flavor to the mix.

When Celebrities – Like Bret Michaels – Show True Grit, the Whole World Benefits

By Stacy Jenel Smith

Bret Michaels Celebrity Apprentice NBC photo

Will Bret Michaels make the live finale of “Celebrity Apprentice” tonight – exactly one month and two days after the brain hemorrhage that could easily have killed him?  And within days of his “warning stroke” and the discovery of a hole in his heart?

If anyone can pull off such a feat, rock and reality star Michaels is a good bet.  He learned to battle through physical challenges from the time he was six and was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.

“When you’re five to eight years old and you find out you’re going to have to take insulin for the rest of your life, its pretty depressing. It’s heartbreaking,” he recalled in an interview a couple of years back.  “But I just looked at it and embraced it.  I said, ‘I’m still going to go out and enjoy my life. I’m still going to make music and ride motorcycles and get tattoos.’ I just gotta work a hell of a lot harder to take care of myself.”

Michaels says being able to go to a camp for diabetics as a child made all the difference in his world. “My mom was one of the counselors and later I was a counselor at a diabetic camp in Pennsylvania. I go back there every so many years to say ‘This is how I did it. This is what you gotta do.’”

He’s also actively raised funds for kids to go to such camps in various ways.  In 2005, an unorthodox campaign — with the mark of Michaels’ creativity now familiar to “Apprentice” fans — involved selling a controversial t-shirt that had a photo of him shirtless on the front and the words, “Bret Michaels Diabetic,” along with the number of injections he’d taken as of the day they shot the picture – some 253, 210.  And then the words, “Fear Nothing: Survive It.”

Michaels is displaying that same kind of courage and grit getting through his current crisis, and in so doing, he’s serving as an inspiration to millions.

When so often the media is focused on negative role models of the celebrity world, it’s worth noting that there are dozens of personalities, like Michaels, who set examples of courage and perseverance every year.  Speaking of those who’ve faced diabetes as just one example, we have the likes of Halle Berry, Mary Tyler Moore, Gary Owens and Nick Jonas, who has played his touching “A Little Bit Longer” song not only in concerts around the world, but at diabetes fund-raisers.

Michael C. Hall, Christina Applegate and Cynthia Nixon have joined the ranks of cancer survivors who advocate for early detection, along with Olivia Newton-John, Melissa Etheridge, Tom Green and a number of others.

Uterine cancer survivor Fran Drescher found that in her case, “There is a silver lining of cancer. Being a survivor has given a purpose to my life and an importance to my fame that works in astounding way I could never have imagined.”

Michael J. Fox continues the fight for a Parkinson’s Disease cure.

Basketball great turned movie theater mogul Magic Johnson has been living with HIV for 19 years now, and providing hope for long and productive lives to others dealing with the disease.

Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen, whose astonishing comeback from the automobile accident that cost him an arm inspires in itself, is constantly active in helping other amputees – particularly Iraq War veterans — through his Raven Drum Foundation.

The examples go on and on.

Even more than five years after his death, the late Christopher Reeve continues to inspire.

No one who was present for the 68th Annual Academy Awards – or watched at home – is likely to forget the heart-stopping sight of a lone figure in a wheelchair, revealed on an otherwise bare stage when the curtains opened.  Reeve, who’d been thrown from  a horse 10 months before and was left paralyzed from the neck down, had the audience of glamorous stars on their feet, some in tears as they applauded.   He then made a joke at his own expense and went on to deliver a compelling introduction about the power of socially-conscious films.  If you ever need a reminder of what courage and the power of the human spirit to triumph over adversity look like, that 3 minute, 12 second clip will do it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffSy3-PJ5QI

In his “Still Me” memoir, the cinema “Superman” recounted his rehabilitation, admitting that initially, he considered suicide because he thought his life was over.  However, he:

  • wrote two best-sellers,
  • directed two telefilms,
  • produced and starred in a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,”
  • received multiple Emmy nominations for his acting and directing work,
  • traveled across the United States giving speeches,
  • established the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to speed spinal cord injury research and aid sufferers,
  • co-founded the Reeve-Irvine Research Center,
  • was instrumental in pioneering a new form of therapy that has accounted for a number of paralyzed patients becoming able to walk again,
  • made the cover of Time,
  • won a Grammy,
  • and shattered ratings records for CW series when he guest starred on “Smallville.”

Those were all among the accomplishments by the late, great Christopher Reeve after his accident.

Chandra Wilson Plans a Breather for Family Time

Chandra Wilson

With “Grey’s Anatomy” wrapping production of its current season, Chandra Wilson tells us, “For the sake of my kids, I will say publicly that I’m doing nothing for two months” over hiatus.  “That makes them really happy.

“I’ve worked straight for three years,” adds the mother two daughters, who were born in 1992 and 1998, and a four-year-old son.  “It’s nice to stop and go to PTA meetings and be there for their finals and regular stuff that needs my attention.”

Still, she adds, “I’m so grateful for those opportunities, from start to finish.  That’s the balance all working moms have to deal with.”  Her non-“Grey’s” activities in the past three years have included her Broadway run in “Chicago,” and her Emmy-nominated performance as a homeless woman in the Hallmark Channel film “Accidental Friendship” — and “Frankie and Alice,” the feature she shot with Halle Berry that wrapped early last year.

“It was a meaty subject, a meaty character,” she says of the movie that has Berry as a woman afflicted with dissociative personality disorder — with an alternate personality who’s a racist white woman.  “I play the sister of Halle’s character and, as with a lot of mental cases when they go undiagnosed, she’s just viewed as ‘the crazy one’ of the family.  It’s a big deal for the family, which has built up a lifetime of resentment, to finally come to terms with it and learn that something clinical is actually going on with Frankie.”

However, she notes, she hasn’t heard anything bout “Frankie” in a while, and “I don’t know when it will be released.”