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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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Dec 06

Marty Allen and Karon Kate Blackwell

Marty Allen, who normally goes to the gym five days a week, broke his hip about a week and a half ago, but that is not keeping him out of commission.  He got a hip replacement, and says, “I’m already walking with a cane and I’ve started exercising with this physical therapist who comes over.”  

The chubby cutup who rose to fame with former partner Steve Rossi way back in the 1960s classic age of comedy expects to be in shape to play a gig Saturday (12/10) at the Louie Anderson Theater at Palace Station in Las Vegas.  “And the next night, we fly to Milwaukee for another one.”  He says, “You know how old I am?  People get hysterical about it.  I turn 90 in March.”

Allen & Rossi “What’s My Line?”

Allen’s onstage partner is his wife of 27 years, Karon Kate Blackwell.  “She’s a phenomenal singer.  She plays piano like Jerry Lee Lewis.  And she’s a great straightwoman.  Our act is kind of George Burns and Gracie Allen and I’m Gracie.”  They keep a full calendar of performance engagements, he says, including a lot of cruise ship performances.  “We’re constantly working.  We don’t do vacations.  We play to older crowds, younger crowds, anybody.  Our act is one of the few clean acts out there.  We do topical humor,” he lets us know.  For instance, they have a current bit in which Marty dons a colorful wig and plays Daddy Gaga, father of guess who. 

Allen gets out to see buddies like Don Rickles and Shecky Greene perform, and keeps his eye on the contemporary scene.  The comedy world is vastly different from his earlier career, he allows, but he still sees a lot to like.  “There are different people of today who are really good.  Craig Ferguson is very funny.”

And he likes that gal who’s a couple months older than he is, Betty White.

Allen & Rossi: The Hollywood Palace

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