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September 2002
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CHEADLE MOVES TO SMALL SCREEN

Variety says Don Cheadle has signed on for four-episodes of ER as a med student. The
first airing will be in November.


SPIKE AND MIKE REUNITE

Remember the Spike Lee/Mars Blackmon and Air Jordan commercials? Well, Mike and Spike are getting into the ad business together once again. It's for Jordan's "Two3" men's clothing line. Nike's Jordan division has hired Lee's SpikeDDB ad agency to create the first commercials. "I've been working very hard to do business with Michael. We have a long history," says Lee. The Jordan division's move to hire a shop outside of longtime Nike agency Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, shows it wants its "autonomy," Lee says.


AALIYAH'S FUNERAL BILL UNPAID

Time magazine reports that the funeral home in the Bahamas that prepared and transported singer Aaliyah's body has accused Virgin Records of skipping out on the bill. A spokesperson for Butlers Funeral Homes and Crematorium in Nassau told the magazine that Virgin backed out on a verbal agreement to pay for the transport of the bodies of Aaliyah and eight others killed in the August 2001 small plane crash. The funeral home is reportedly owed $68,000 by Virgin. And Robert Spragg, the attorney for Aaliyah's parents, told Time that Aaliyah's family was told they'd be reimbursed for funeral expenses but they haven't received anything either. Virgin's side of all this, according to Time, is that the two executives who allegedly made the promises are no longer with the company.


BABYFACE IN BABY SCANDAL

A former Edmonds Entertainment Group (EEG) employee, Joie Binns, has sued rapper/soundtrack artist Babyface, his wife Tracey Edmonds, EEG and others for sex and pregnancy discrimination. Binns claims she was fired from the Edmonds company because she became pregnant by one of the label's artists. Binns also claims that some people in the company even urged her to abort the child. Babyface is calling the suit "malicious," and his counter-suit reads: "Ms. Binns knows full well that Kenneth Edmonds had no contact with her nor any involvement in her employment nor termination." According to the cross-complaint, Binns didn't file the lawsuit until first sending it to Edmonds Records, presumable looking to extort money from the company. Furthermore, the cross-complaint alleges explicit sexual activities of Binns on company time, on company property.


KING OF POP IS POP AGAIN

People magazine is reporting that Michael Jackson showed up backstage at a recent Siegfried and Roy show in Las Vegas with his son Prince Michael, daughter Paris Michael and a 6-month-old baby he referred to as his third child. The magazine says that Michael introduced him as Prince Michael II. There's no confirmation yet on who the baby's mother is, though ex-wife and mother of his first two children, Debbie Rowe, has not been ruled out. Reportedly, the two are still close.


OSCAR MOVE IS FOR RATINGS

Amid widespread reports that the academy had decided to move its Oscar ceremony to February from March in order to shorten the sometimes nasty campaigns among nominees, Academy spokesperson John Pavlik said: "The basic reason for doing this is to improve the position of the Academy Awards with regard to ratings and viewership. The ratings have been dipping in recent years, and this is just one of a number of things we're trying to get those ratings up." But Miramax Co-chairman Harvey Weinstein said that the date change will work against smaller films released late in the year. Academy voters, he says, may not even see them. "This shorter awards season is going to favor the bigger movies, which means favoring the bigger studios."


SNOOP DOGG OFF THE HIGH

According to AllHipHop.com, Snoop Dogg has given up weed and liquor. "I said 'Let me stop smoking dope so I can get a better vision of myself. So I can see who I am and what I mean to the world. What I mean to my kids and to life in general,'" Snoop said. The rapper/actor says he's been clean for over a month.



"BAD BOYS 2" SHOOT A NIGHTMARE FOR RESIDENTS

The filming of "Bad Boys 2" got the ire up in some South Florida residents last month. When the filmmakers tied up the main road between downtown Miami and Miami Beach for a movie scene, the usual 15-minute commute stretched to more than an hour due to the closure of the MacArthur Causeway. In exchange for four days of motoring hassle for more than 90,000 cars a day, government officials who approved the four-day closure were promised a payout of $20 million to the local economy. But not all those affected felt the hassle was worth the money. Robin Statfeld wrote to the Miami Herald, saying, "Apparently those charged with governing and managing our city are so blinded by dollar signs and Hollywood lights that they cannot see how unconscionable it is to close the MacArthur Causeway for four days."


SNOOP DOGG JOINS KERMIT

Snoop Dogg; he makes albums, plays the gangster, does music for porn videos ... and now he'll be on "A Very Merry Muppet Christmas" movie. Snoop recently went to Vancouver to record his part with Kermit. "...I seen the script. It's tight. It's just kids' stuff, ya know. And I got three kids. Yeah, me and Kermit The Frog. Imagine that," he said. The show will also star Whoopi Goldberg. It's the first-ever made-for-television Muppet movie.


CUBE RESPONDS TO JACKSON

Ice Cube responded to Samuel L. Jackson's recent comments against rappers starring in lead roles in movies by saying, "Everyone should be allowed to spread [his of her] wings." In light of his use of free speech in the past, the rapper's comments on this issue were notably subdued.


TUCKER TOO EXPENSIVE FOR FRIDAYS

When asked about the next installment of Ice Cube's "Friday" series, comedian John Witherspoon answered, "Everyone is back in "Friday After Next&Mac226;" except for Chris Tucker. He's making $20 million (per picture) so he ain't coming back. When you start making $20 million in Hollywood, you never go back, and you never go homeless."


ICE-T HEADING DOWN THE ISLE

Rapper/actor Ice-T is reportedly on his way down the aisle with 23-year-old model Coco, who, despite her name, is a voluptuous blonde. Ice-T says he met her on a January video shoot and said it was "lust at first sight, and then it was love." No word yet when the 44 year-old will actually tie the knot, but he's already said he wants pimp-turned-preacher Arch Bishop Don Magic Juan to perform the ceremony. Ice-T said it was the preacher who told him to "put a ring on that, playa." But all is not well with respect to Ice-T's love life. The New York Daily News recently reported he is being sued for child support by Linda Marie Sanchez. Sanchez is claiming DNA tests prove Ice-T fathered her child, and she's seeking 17 percent of Ice T's adjusted gross income. Ice-T also has children from his relationship with Darlene Ortiz.


"BLAXPLOITATION" ACTORS ANGRY AT CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS

Some "Blaxploitation" movie stars have condemned civil rights organizations for undermining the black film phnomenom of thirty years ago, claiming the black critics eventually put hundreds of black actors, directors and crew members out of work. Fred "The Hammer" Williamson, who starred in such films as "Black Caesar," "Bucktown," and "Hell Up in Harlem," says angrily: "NAACP and CORE - they're the ones who created this terminology: black exploitation. That has to be clear, on the record. It came from them. It didn't come from the white press. ... Who was being exploited? All the black actors were getting paid. They had a job. They were going to work. The audience wasn't being exploited. They were getting to see things on their screen they'd longed for." Likewise Pam Grier ("Coffy," "Foxy Brown") condems the black critics who said, "Oh, my god, we shouldn't show pimps to white America. ... They'll think we're all like this."



SERENA PLAYS FOR BIG SCREEN

Recently, Serena Williams told the Associated Press about the steps she's taking to get her to the big screen. "I'm trying to get some parts," she said. "A lot of people want me, but my schedule right now is kind of conflicting with my acting.'' Williams said she'd love to work with Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins or Morgan Freeman. "With my time schedule, I'd have to have a small role,'' Williams said, "but I'd like the movie to be all about me, so maybe I can get hurt in the beginning of the movie and I can just stay in a coma until the end.''


BENET CUTS LOCKS, SEEKS COUNSELING

Eric Benet has cut off his dreadlocks and is sporting a new short afro look as the singer and wife Halle Berry undergo marriage counseling in an effort to save their short-lived marriage.


SHAQ SHOOTS PILOT

Los Angeles Lakers, Shaquille O'Neal is filming the pilot for a CBS series about a high school basketball team and he may return to the series from time to time for guest appearances. The show is about a pro teammate of O'Neal's whose playing days are over, so he takes a coaching job at a high school. No word just yet on who will play the coach. The show could be picked up for the new fall season, but is expected to premiere in spring.


SNIPES TOOK THE HITS FOR REAL

Though a fifth degree black belt in the martial arts, Wesley Snipes told the World Entertainment News Network that he set his skills aside and actually took a beating from "Undisputed" co-star Ving Rhames. Snipes says the fights in the new film are real because he wanted to know how it feels to take a hit from a heavyweight. In addition to real hits, Snipes said he went through a real boxer's training regimen to prepare for the film, admitting that he suffered days of pain to play the role of the jailed boxer who fights a heavyweight champ. (Rhames outweighs Snipes by a good 30 pounds.) He said that the bumps and bruises took a while to heal, but that now he feels he's in the best shape of his life. Some would say it's a good thing for Rhames that Snipes kept both feet on the floor for their fight scenes.


MICKEY MOVIES GET A MUSIC UPDATE

Disney is hiring popular music artists to put a facelift on some of Disney's classics. Ashanti, Usher, Christina Aguilera and N'SYNC a just a few signed up for the project. Ashanti will cover the "Pocahontas" theme "Colors of the Wind," originally performed by Vanessa L. Williams. Usher will redo thetheme from "Tarzan." Others featured on the set are the Baha Men, Smash Mouth and Jessica Simpson. The project is being called "Disneymania" and is due out on Sept. 17.


REMEMBER WILLIAM WARFIELD

William Warfield's rich baritone gave us many great movie songs but the one most people will remember is "Ol' Man River" from the musical "Showboat." The singer died last month in Chicago. A singer and a pianist, Warfield was as a professor of music at Northwestern University. His career covered both the big and small screens. In 1984 Warfield received a Grammy for his narration of Aaron Copeland's " A Lincoln Portrait."


MOVIE SEQUELS MIMIC TV SERIES

DreamWorks co-production chief Walter Parkes has repotedly complained that the major studios are now booking forthcoming sequels into theaters as if they were plotting a TV schedule. Future "Men in Black" sequels are now set to open on July 4th holidays while "Harry Potter" and "Lord of the Rings" sequels are set for the Christmas holiday season. Parkes' wife, Laurie MacDonald, co-production chief at DreamWorks added: "It is so competitive, very often you have a release date for a concept for a movie that hasn't even been written. Inevitably, this pressure will lead to a less good film being made."