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August 2002
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JA RULE AVOIDS ARREST

Ja Rule thwarted any arrest that may have come in light of his performance in Jamaica last year. The rapper/actor was in danger of being arrested for last year's use of obscenities in his act on the island. He negotiated a plea bargain and was fined roughly $20.


SMITH PETITIONS INS FOR SLICK RICK

Will Smith recently went to bat for Ricky Walters, better known as rapper Slick Rick, who could face deportation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) because of a conviction for attempted murder 11 years ago. "I have known Rick for over 15 years," Smith wrote a letter to the INS saying, "While I'm aware of his past problems, I've also had the pleasure to watch him develop into a good person." According to the Los Angeles Times, Comedian Chris Rock, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and New York state Sen. David Paterson have also lent their support. Walters, 37, is a legal resident but not a U.S. citizen. He served more than five years in prison for a 1991 shooting in New York and U.S. law requires deportation of any non-citizen who serves more than five years in a U.S. prison. "I don't believe I'm a bad person," Walters told the newspaper. "The whole incident was years ago. I've been out and six years crime-free. All this now seems like an extreme measure."


ICE-T POSSE-POPS

Ice-T will be lending his name to an ice cream. He is set to become the national spokesman for Posse Pops ice cream. The frosty confection is the creation of Rick Brown, who worked at Ben and Jerry's for 20 years. Posse Pops will come wrapped in packaging intended to educate kids on safe sex and discourage the use of illegal drugs. The ice cream is to be marketed and promoted directly to urban kids.


THE CHILL IS BACK

Darryl "Chill" Mitchell, who suffered a motorcycle accident last year which left him paralyzed below the chest, will join the cast of NBC's drama "Ed." Often seen on "Veronica's Closet" and "The John Larroquette Show," Mitchell will play Eli, the manager of a bowling alley in the new show. Mitchell also appears in Disney's "Country Bears" which opened July 26. The movie was filmed before his accident.


SNIPES IN TAX FIGHT WITH FEDS

The feds have filed suit in Tampa, Fla., against Douglas P. Rosile Sr., a discredited accountant who allegedly helped 174 clients evade $29 million in taxes. One of those clients was actor Wesley Snipes, who made $19.3 million in 1997, but claimed no income. According to reports, Rosile and other tax revolutionaries use various justifications that have arisen since the 1998 IRS Reform and Restructuring Act to assert that income taxation is voluntary and should only apply to foreign-owned corporations. Some in the no-tax revolution feel that blacks can claim a $43,209 tax credit for slavery reparations. The New York Times reported earlier this year on the Justice Department's futile efforts to stop the tax revolt.


MAFIA EXTORTION IN INDIA'S BOLLYWOOD

A plot by gangsters in India to extort money from India's Bollywood stars may have been far more widespread than earlier believed, according to the French news agency Agence France Presse. The wire service said that gangsters have issued death threats to some of the countries top stars unless they pay for protection. Although police have provided bodyguards to the intended victims, an attempt was made last month to gun down film producer-director Lawrence D'Souza at his north Bombay office. (He escaped unhurt.) "The attack on D'Souza has once again highlighted the mafia's growing menace to Bollywood," a Bombay police investigator told AFP. Police said that some threatened stars have been too afraid even to register complaints.



ROSS CANCELS GIGS

Singer/actress Diana Ross is canceling all remaining dates for her summer tour. This comes after she'd already delayed the tour after checking into a Malibu alcohol and drug rehab facility in May.


FORTUNE'S TOP 50 BLACK EXECS

This year's Fortune Magazine's "50 Most Powerful Black Executives," includes Earvin "Magic" Johnson, but Merrill Lynch COO Stanley O'Neal, American Express CEO Ken Chenault and AOL CEO Richard Parsons were listed as No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Also in the top 10 are attorney and former advisor to President Clinton, Vernon Jordan, who is now the Senior Managing Director of Lazard, LLC, at No. 9 and Oprah Winfrey at No. 10. "I am honored to be recognized by Fortune Magazine and to be associated with such an accomplished list of African American executives," Johnson said in a statement. He ranked 33rd.


SNOOP DOGG ACTION FIGURE?

Snoop Dogg has reportedly signed a deal with Vital Toys for the manufacture of an action doll in his likeness. The product's release date has not been announced, but photographs of the prototype can be viewed at the company's website, vitaltoys.com.


SAM JACKSON SAYS NO TO RAPPER/ACTORS

Samuel L. Jackson is letting everyone know that he's no fan of rappers who take jobs away from real actors. "To take people from the music world and give them the same kind of credibility and weight that you give me, Morgan Freeman, Laurence Fishburne, Forest Whitaker &Mac247; that's like an aberration to me," Jackson told the Sacramento Bee. Jackson is so turned off he says he won't even look at a script that has a rapper in a starring role. "It's not my job to lend credibility to so-and-so rapper who's just coming into the business." One exception is Will Smith, who Jackson believes, has paid his dues and has transitioned into a credible actor. "I know there's some young actor sitting in New York or LA who's spent half of his life learning how to act and sacrificing to learn his craft but isn't going to get his opportunity ... because of some actor who's been created," said Jackson, who stars in the upcoming "XXX" with Vin Diesel and, oh yeah, rapper/actor Eve.


SMITH'S ACT WITH RESTRAINT

Smith and wife Jada Pinkett-Smith have filed a restraining order against Mike Cooley, 66, the couple's former property caretaker. The Smith's filing alleged that shortly after Cooley's dismissal last year, Cooley threatened to sue them and also threatened to go to the tabloids and tell all about the Smiths' private lives unless they paid him what Will Smith called "outrageous and unwarranted" sums of money. The couple said the harassment began a month ago. Cooley reportedly approached their children as they played in a park, but was escorted away by a bodyguard.


OSCARS MAY MOVE TO FEB.

Starting in 2004, the Oscars may be held a month earlier. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) board voted June 25 to move the date of the ceremonies to February, and director of communications John Pavlik said, "Internally, it’s do-able. It’s difficult, but we can do it." But many in Hollywood doubt the shift will actually take place.


COSBY "WITCH" HUNT

Bill Cosby may be witch-hunting. Gladys Rodgers, who has lived with the Cosbys at their Philadelphia home since 1993, was evicted last month, she says, because Cosby's spiritual adviser accused her of being a witch. Rodgers told the Philadelphia Daily News that the adviser, "said he found short pieces of hair feathers, sparkles, and traces of blood," and interpreted it all to mean she was using such items to take control of the house, and of Cosby. Rodgers says the spiritual adviser came into Cosby's life after Cosby's son Ennis was murdered in Los Angeles in 1997. There's been no comment from Cosby yet, but Rodgers says she is not a witch, she is a Methodist.



JAMES EARL JONES A KENNEDY HONOREE

James Earl Jones, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul McCartney, Broadway star Chita Rivera and musician James Levin will receive the 25th annual John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts honors this year. President and First Lady Laura Bush will recieve the award winners at the White House on Dec. 8. They will be receive their awards the evening before from Secretary of State Colin Powell at the Kennedy honors dinner.


OPRAH IN HALL OF FAME

Oprah Winfrey has been named as one of this year's inductees into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame. The 11th Annual awards ceremony will be held Nov. 11 in New York. Other inductees this year include Kelsey Grammer, CBS News Chief Bob Schieffer and Don Imus.


TAYE DIGGS TO SAY, "I DO"

Bachelorettes are in tears. Taye Diggs has announced his engagement to longtime girlfriend Idina Menzell. The two were recently in Jamaica making plans for their impending nuptials. No word on a wedding date yet, but you can catch Taye and his fiancee in the film, "Just A Kiss," in theaters on Sept. 27.


BLOCKBUSTER FIGHTING FOR DVD SALES

Feeling the heat from competition, Blockbuster is facing off against other companies who market DVDs at lower prices. The Los Angeles Times noted that companies such as BestBuy, Circuit City and Wal-Mart pose a significant challenge to Blockbuster sales. Wal-Mart recorded $905.5 million in DVD sales while Blockbuster sold a measly $160 million. But on the bright side for Blockbuster, Daily Variety reported that spending overall on home video purchases and rentals was up 13.3 percent to $8.79 billion during the first half of the year.


GLOVER EYES TV SERIES

Danny Glover has inked a deal with CBS to develop and star in a television series slated for next year. While he has been a guest-star and worked in TV movie roles, it will be Glover's first try at a television series. Glover is also on tap to develop a second project for CBS but no one is saying yet what that might be.


ABFF ANNOUNCES FILMMAKER WINNERS

The sixth annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) announced the winners of its 2002 competitions during the recent ABFF Awards Show co-hosted by Robert Townsend and Shaun Robinson in South Beach, FL. Formerly known as the Acapulco Black Film Festival, the annual celebration honors artistic excellence in Black cinema and features competitive film showcases, workshops, panel discussions and forums.

"Florida is proud to host the American Black Film Festival," said Governor Jeb Bush. "Our state's cultural diversity as well as our connection with the film industry make this the perfect venue to celebrate African-American achievement in film."

This year's awards included: HBO Short Film Award – "Quest to Ref," directed and written by Benjamin Watkins; Lincoln Filmmaker Trophy – "The Riff," directed and written by Mark Allen; Blockbuster Audience Award for Best Feature Film – "Civil Brand," directed by Emmy Award winner Neema Barnette. The Audience Award for Best Performance by an Actress went to Monica Calhoun for her performance in "Pandora's Box." The Audience Award for Best Performance by an Actor went to Clifton Powell for his performance in "Civil Brand." Actors Chris Tucker and Keenen Ivory Wayans presented Robert Townsend with ABFF's 2002 Career Achievement- Male Award. Costumer Ruth E. Carter, a two-time Academy Award nominee, won the Career Achievement Award-Female. Mekhi Phifer won the "Rising Star" Award.