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Novenber 2002
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MGM LAUNCHES GEAR SALES

MGM is stepping into the urban outfitter arena. The movie studio will license a clothing line inspired by its blaxploitation films from the 1970s such as "Foxy Brown," "Black Caesar," "Coffey," and "Cooley High." If this works, MGM is planning to release a line using its Western, science fiction and horror films.


JAMES BROWN SAYS "DON'T TAKE THE HOUSE"

Singer/sometime actor James Brown has to pay $900,000 to SouthTrust Bank or the bank can sell Brown's $400,000 home and the 60 acres it sits on. SouthTrust Bank loaned Brown the money to purchase a building in downtown Augusta, GA but apparently Brown hasn't kept up with the loan payments. Brown can stop the sale by selling the building for the amount of the debt and his attorney says he's optimistic about the singer's ability to save his home.


THE COS IS BACK

F"Picture Pages," which appeared as part of Captain Kangeroo and as part of earlier programming for Nickelodeon and was hosted by Bill Cosby from 1978-1992. From its library of 400 four-to six-minute shows, PicturePages Partnership has digitized and converted select episodes into interactive educational games for CD-ROM, DVD, or for play on the Internet at www.PicturePages.com. Children will be able to watch the shows, or use PicturePages activity books and playbooks to play along with Mr. Cosby. "I have a doctorate in education, but much more important than my doctorate is my delight in kids. I devote part of my professional life to entertaining and educating them," says comedian, actor and educator Bill Cosby, Ed.D. "PicturePages" was recently named one of the "Ten Best Educational Products of 2002" and was given a slot among the "100 Best Children's Products of 2002 by child development specialist Stevanne Auerback, Ph.d. Winners of the 11th annual awards were carefully chosen from the hundreds of children's products entered.


HOUSTON SUED BY DAD

Whitney Houston is being sued by her father's company, John Houston Entertainment, for $100 million for breach of contract. The lawsuit began in late August and accuses her of never paying for services rendered when the company acted as her manager. While Mr. Houston is not named in the suit, JHE president Kevin Skinner says that John Houston is a plaintiff. A statement purportedly from the elder Houston says: "I am stating for the record that I am 100% behind the lawsuit against my daughter Whitney and am ashamed at my daughter's staff ... because they want to weasel out of paying my company ... I will not rest until this is over, and I plan to see it through to the end." Whitney's people say they don't believe the letter is legit. A Whitney spokesperson says Mr. Houston's actual statements have been quite the contrary, saying the suit is "the most ridiculous thing [he's] ever heard of."


BELAFONTE BLASTS COLIN POWELL

Harry Belafonte recently ridiculed Secretary of State Colin Powell, comparing him with field slaves who were allowed to live in the homes of their masters as long as they did their bidding. Longtime civil rights and political activist, Belafonte, 75, leveled his criticism at Powell during an appearance on a San Diego morning radio talk show. "Colin Powell's committed to come into the house of the master," Belafonte said. "When Colin Powell dares to suggest something other than what the master wants to hear, he will be turned back out to pasture." Powell responded to Belafonte on Larry King Live, "If Harry had wanted to attack my politics, that was fine ... but to use a slave reference, I think is unfortunate and is a throwback to another time and another place that I wish Harry had thought twice about using."


THERESA GRAVES DIES IN FIRE

Actress Teresa Graves, who starred as a sassy undercover cop in the 1970s television police drama "Get Christie Love!," has died in a fire at her home in the Los Angeles area. Graves was 54. She was found unconscious in a bedroom by firefighters. She was taken to hospital, where she died. According to reports, the blaze began shortly past midnight at Graves' 1,600-square-foot home in Hyde Park. The cause of the fire is under investigation.



INTERNET MOVIE PIRATE BUSTED

After monitoring transactions on the Internet -- particularly on eBay -- the U.S. Marshal's office raided the home of Minnesota resident, Jonathan Zabrocki, where it said it found some 2,000 bootlegged DVDs imported from Malaysia. The action was hailed by MPAA chief Jack Valenti, who said that it represented one of the largest seizures to date of counterfeit DVD movies. In a statement, Valenti added: "The accessibility and borderless nature of the Internet have created a truly international venue for pirates to illegally distribute copyrighted motion pictures under a perceived shield of anonymity. This is a battle that rights holders cannot fight alone. We are grateful for the assistance already provided to the MPAA by law enforcement agencies across the globe and look forward to continued coordinated efforts to combat this new form of high-tech crime."


JONES SPEAKS OUT ON SPEECH

One of the most powerful voices in Hollywood once suffered from a speech disorder, himself. James Earl Jones, best known as the penetrating voice of Darth Vader, had a stuttering problem. He spoke out about it in front of members of Congress recently on behalf of a literacy program sponsored by Verizon called "Verizon Reads." "As a child, I gave up speech. I stuttered badly, and so I retreated and lived in a world of silence rather than speak," Jones told a congressional panel. "But I found my voice in books and I found the expanded vocabulary that is so important for someone who stutters."


OPRAH TELLS SECRET

Media maven Oprah Winfrey will publish an open letter about her rape when she was nine. The letter will appear in the new issue of "O Magazine." "I first learned about sex when I wan nine. I was living in Milwaukee that summer, staying in an uncle's home, when a 19-year-old cousin raped me," Winfrey wrote. "As I trembled and cried, he took me for an ice cream and convinced me not to tell, and for 12 years I didn't."


NAOMI CAMPBELL LOSES APPEAL

British beauty, Naomi Campbell has been ordered to pay a huge legal bill amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. After winning a judgement against the tabloid newspaper the "Daily Mirror" for revealing her struggle with narcotics, a court of appeals revearsed the lower cout's decision. Campbell had been awarded $5,450 -- and hundreds of thousands in court costs -- against the Daily Mirror in March for breaching her privacy, but a three-judge appeals court panel overturned that decision, saying the newspaper simply reported the truth and that the story was "justifiable in the public interest." The court said that Miss Campbell had been deceiving the public when she said that she did not take drugs and that the Daily Mirror simply reported the truth about the situation. The new ruling means Campbell will have to pay the court costs of the trial, which Mirror editor Piers Morgan put at $1.1 million.


SHERYL LEE RALPH IN BROADWAY HIT

Just over a year ago Sheryl Lee Ralph was transitioning from "Moesha" to the CBS Drama "The District" when a chance conversation backstage at "The Hollywood Squares" changed her acting direction to Broadway. "I was doing Hollywood Squares with Whoopi Goldberg and I remember sitting in a room with her and Luther Vandross. Whoopi asked me if I would ever consider going back to Broadway and I said well sure if it was the right project and she said, 'Well you know I think I have something you'd be great in.' And sister was right!" The Broadway hit "Thoroughly Modern Millie," staring Ms. Ralph, was recently nominated for eleven Tony awards and Ralph says being a part of the show "Is really wonderful."


MAYA GETS HARMONY AWARD

Poet, writer, author and film director Dr. Maya Angelou has won the Team Harmony Lifetime Achievement Award. The award recognizes those individuals who have dedicated their lives to addressing the elimination of prejudice, bigotry and hatred in our society. Previous award recipients include: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), Leonard Zakim, former executive director of the New England Anti-Defamation League and co-founder of the Team Harmony Foundation, and former President Bill Clinton.


HONEY HONORS TOP WOMEN

"Honey Magazine" has named its Top 25 Women in Entertainment. Making the first annual list were Felicia D. Henderson, creator of "Soul Food" the series, Mara Brock Akil of "Girlfriends," Tracey Edmonds of Edmonds Entertainment, Melandi Massey of BET, Kimora Lee Simmons of Baby Phat, Ava DuVernay of The DuVernay Agency, and Mona Scott of Violator, among others. The list is in the November issue of Honey.



UN AMBASSADOR DIONNE WARWICK

Now that her marijuana controversy is over, Dionne Warwick has been named by the United Nations as a Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) Ambassador. The mission of the UN's FAO is to spotlight world hunger. "Being of service to the underserved and a voice for the voiceless has been my mantra for many, many years," Warwick said, "and now to be able to continue this personal vision in an official capacity as an ambassador of the FAO section of the UN. Well, watch out world."


PHIEFER INTO SNEAKERS

Actor Mekhi Phifer, who stars in the Eminem film "Eight Mile" and on the TV drama "E.R." likes sneakers. So much so that he now owns two Athletes Foot stores in the Los Angeles area.


P. DIDDY DOES SOUNDTRACK

P. Diddy, along with others, recently put pen to paper to write material for the soundtrack of the upcoming "Wild Thornberys Movie" soundtrack. Others to appear on the set are Brandy, Bow Wow, Paul Simon, Angélique Kidjo, the Baha Men and others. Diddy's "Dance With Us" will be one of two singles off the soundtrack, due November 26, according to a Jive Records spokesperson.


DMX AN AUTHOR

Rapper/actor DMX has released an autobiography. The book is titled "E.A.R.L - The Autobiography of DMX." He worked with journalist Smokey Fontaine on the book, which chronicles the rapper (whose real name is Earl Simmons) and his rise to fame. "E.A.R.L." hit book shelves on Nov. 5.


D.L. SIDES WITH BERNIE MAC

Comedian and actor D.L. Hughley has weighed in on the Wayans vs. Mac controversy on the Mac-man's side. In Marilyn Beck's "Celebrities" column, Hughley criticized Damon Wayans who suggested that Bernie Mac could air his sitcom, "The Bernie Mac Show," at another time. Mac's show airs at the same time as Wayans' "My Wife and Kids." "Damon is a clown for even suggesting that BernieMac could decide where he wanted his show to be placed on the schedule," said D.L. "Bernie has to go where Fox says to go. It's the network that decides where a show is placed on the schedule. This is a business decision. It's insane to think otherwise." Wayans had commented that racism caused the networks to air the two shows against each other, but Hughley says Wayans is "playing the race card only when its convenient for him."


REAL BARBERS TAKE SIDES ON "BARBERSHOP"

In a strange, only-in-Hollywood twist of events, the National Association of Cosmetologists has filed a $60 million suit against Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton for intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, and negligence stemming from their demand for apologies from MGM, which produced the comedy "Barbershop." The barbers say their businesses have been significantly hurt by the duo's comments. "We, as blacks, have to let the movie studios know that when he [Jackson] is wrong, we're willing to speak out for ourselves," says the 50,000 member group's chief executive, James Stern. If you recall, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton threatened the studio with a boycott for scenes deriding Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks and demanded they be removed from the film. MGM refused to cut the scenes. "By threatening to boycott MGM studios, they put a black eye to our subject matter of barbers and cosmetologists in the state of California," Stern said. Sharpton responded by saying he had not received a copy of the lawsuit and called the allegations ridiculous. "Every movie critic would get sued," he said. "We haven't addressed their business. I addressed the film."


UNIVERSAL PUTTING MOVIES ON INTERNET

Universal plans to put "The Scorpion King," "Big Fat Liar," "Brotherhood of the Wolf" and other first-run features on the Internet for a four-month test of a video-on-demand service, using the CinemaNow service. In a statement, Holly Leff-Pressman of Universal TV Distribution said, "Working with CinemaNow allows us to explore the demand for both the downloading and streaming of our content to an established audience while testing the quality and security of the environment."