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.