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February 2003
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NEW JACKSON CHARITY FOR KIDS

Michael Jackson, known for helping children's causes and establishing the Heal the World Foundation in 1992, is talking about his latest project. "I look forward to the new year, to working with you children and to create an organization that will help other children." Jackson's new charity does not have a name yet, but "it's going to be worldwide, kids helping other kids who are less fortunate, with a concert kicking it off."


MARIAH CAREY’S "BASIC INSTINCT" LOOK

Singer/actress Mariah Carey reportedly gave viewers of a Minneapolis TV station a "Basic Instinct" peek. Apparently, Carey was wearing a very short skirt during an interview on the NBC affiliate KARE and while seated in a director’s chair, Carey pulled and pulled at her dress to make it longer but the skirt stayed short. The problem? Carey apparently wasn't wearing any undies. The production crew reportedly yelled, "Stand up! The skirt! The skirt!" and finally threw a coat over her lap. Carey smiled and remarked that she might have to be more careful in the future.


QUEEN’S MUSICAL NUMBER CUT

The film production of the stage musical "Chicago" is missing the second act song "Class," which featured Queen Latifah. The duet between jailhouse boss Mama Morton, played by Latifah and showgirl Velma Kelly, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones is a stage favorite, but was cut from the film because director Rob Marshall told TV Guide the scene didn't test well with audiences. "It bummed me out a little," Latifah said. "I love the song and I felt it was a cool scene with Catherine and I. But I'm here for the team, whatever makes the movie work."


SPIKE GETTING IT ON WITH ESPN

With his latest film, "25th Hour," in theaters, and some Pepsi spots on the horizon, Spike Lee is now working with ESPN. He’s directing commercials for the sports network as part of their "Without Sports" campaign. One of Lee's commercial shows the importance of teammates recalling how a rookie Jackie Robinson was heckled by fans until teammate Pee Wee Resse stepped in.


ALI CENTER IN THE WORKS

Legendary boxer and sometime actor Muhammad Ali will soon be honored with a two-floor, $41 million Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville. The exhibit is expected to open in late 2004, and will showcase artifacts, pictures, and information about the Louisville native from his childhood to champ to humanitarian. The design features six sections: charity, confidence, dedication, spirituality, respect, and conviction. "We want to show the dichotomy of Ali," said Barry Alberts, the center's project director. "We are not suggesting that he was a model and that everything he's done has been terrific."


QUEEN SIZED CURVES

Golden Globe nominee Queen Latifah, has spoken out about the her voluptuous figure. She told Glamour magazine that she's had it with people saying she'd be sexier if she lost some weight. "I'm sexy already, thank you," she said. The Queen says people have complained about "thick" actresses Kim Fields and Kim Cole, too. Latifah says she's never given her weight a second thought and feels it’s good for full-figured women to see other larger women on the big screen and television.


ROSS WAS LOST?

Diana Ross was busted recently for extreme DUI, but she now has a novel defense. The legendary singer was pulled over and arrested for drunken driving in Tucson Ariz. Last month, but now she says she simply was on her way to rent a video and got lost, and that is why her car was swerving. The officer, who arrested her at the video store parking lot, says that Ross agreed to the sobriety test, but fell down laughing when she attempted to stand on one leg. Ross is also trying to block the public video release of her failed sobriety test.


MGM's 'MONK' PIRATED EVEN BEFORE RELEASED

Pirated DVDs of MGM's "Bulletproof Monk" have surfaced in Hong Kong and Malaysia more than four months before the film's official release in the region. Sources said the pirated DVDs are believed to have been manufactured in Malaysia. The sources also said it appears the film was recorded illicitly during a test screening in the United States. The recording has the shadows of heads in front of the camera and the sound of audience laughter and noise, but it is still being sold by vendors in Hong Kong for HK$20 ($2.60).



SNIPES MAKING A MAC ATTACK

Wesley Snipes is set to star in a Bernie Mac's sitcom episode. The episode, scheduled to air during the February sweeps (ratings), is titled "Bernie Mac Rope-a-Dope." Snipes will star as Bernie's wife Wanda's boss. Snipes' character will get into an argument with Bernie when all three meet up for a night on the town. Snipes' character then suggests that he and Bernie settle things in a boxing ring.


UNDERWOOD’S FILM DEBUT ON DVD

The hip-hop cult classic "Krush Groove" made its DVD debut on January 14 from Warner Home Video. Directed by Michael Schultz ("Car Wash"), the film was the feature film debut of Blair Underwood.


EVE SET FOR SMALL SCREEN

Rapper/actress Eve, who co-starred in the films "XXX" and "Barbershop," is headed to the small screen. She will star in a new UPN comedy produced by Edmonds Entertainment, about a fashion designer. The idea person behind the show is Eve herself and she will also co-produce. The unnamed program explores the New York fashion scene.


TRUMPET AWARD FOR SPIKE AND DR. J

Dr. J and Spike Lee were both honored with a 2003 Trumpet Award along with other honorees Lt. Col. Marilyn Wills, Vernon Jordan, Thomas W. Dortch Jr. of 100 Black Men of America, Destiny’s Child, and Pam Grier. The Trumpet Awards were founded by the Turner Broadcasting system in 1993 to recognize black leaders in entertainment, sports, politics, and journalism. TBS will broadcast the awards ceremony on Feb. 22.


PATTI LABELLE GOES NASA

Patti LaBelle is now definitely out of this world. The legendary soul singer has been asked to record the theme song for NASA. The organization has picked the track "Way Up There," written by Tena Clark, as its anthem and wants LaBelle to record it. MTV reports that the song will also be used as the theme for the 100th anniversary celebration of the Wright Brother’s first flight.


FAREWELL TO NELL CARTER

Actress and singer Nell Carter, best known for her role as the matronly housekeeper in the 1980s television sitcom "Gimme a Break," died on Thursday, January 23, of natural causes at the age of 54, her publicist said. Carter was found in the early morning at her Beverly Hills home by one of her adopted sons. The cause of death has not been established yet but Carter suffered from diabetes and she was very open and spoke often about her weight problems and her battle with substance abuse. The actress also underwent brain surgery twice in 1992 to repair an aneurysm. The tiny, 4-foot, 11-inch actress won both a Tony and Obie award in 1978 for her role in the Broadway musical "Ain't Misbehavin,"' and gained a widespread audience with her starring role in the six-year-long sitcom "Gimme a Break," for which she also sang the title song. Her many film credits included such films as "The Grass Harp" (1995), "Perfect Fit" (1999), and "Hair" (1979).


DVD KID AQUITTED - PROSECUTION APPEALS

Norway's economic crime police have appealed the acquittal of a teenager charged creating and circulating an online program that cracks DVD security codes. Jon Lech Johansen, 19, was found innocent of violating Norway's data break-in laws Jan. 7 in a ruling that gave prosecutors two weeks to decide whether to appeal. The unanimous verdict said Johansen, known in Norway as "DVD-Jon," could not be convicted of breaking into DVD films he legally owned, or for providing a tool others might use to copy their own privately owned films.


ORLANDO JONES GETTING CHATTY

Comedian, actor and former 7-Up pitchman Orlando Jones has signed a deal with FX Network for his own late-night talk show. Jones welcomed the opportunity saying he feels that there is a void in the television community for "urban" talent to hit the couch. "I feel like a lot of [African-American] artists don't have anywhere to go," he said. "I don't see Nick [Cannon, co-star in the upcoming marching-band drama "Drumline"] sitting comfortably on Leno or Letterman, any more than I see Ludacris fitting into that pantheon," he told TV Guide.


SPANISH POLICE LAUNCH BIGGEST DVD RAID IN HISTORY

Attempting to crack down on CD and DVD piracy, Spanish police have uncovered numerous sweatshop operations controlled by a Chinese mafia in Madrid. The sweep netted $1 billion in bootlegged CDs and DVDs -- the biggest haul in European Union history. Police also discovered workers forced to live "like semi-slaves," rarely allowed to leave the buildings they worked in and sometimes beaten with sticks if they faltered in their work.



BERRY A SURPRISE NOM AT BAFA

A surprise inclusion in the category is last year's Academy Award winner, Halle Berry, who is nominated in the leading actress category for "Monster's Ball." Because the film did not hit last year's deadlines to qualify for the BAFAs, it is included this year.

EU CLAMPS DOWN ON PIRATES

The European Union has announced tough new measures clamping down on illegal copying of music, movies and software. The new proposals make copying a criminal offense and are part of the EU campaign to fight pirated CDs and DVDs, as well as illegal downloads from the Internet. The measures are designed to harmonize laws against copyright crime to ensure that they are similar in all EU member states.


QUEEN CLEARED OF DUI

Queen Latifah pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless driving stemming from a November incident. In exchange, the judge in the case cleared Latifah of DUI charges on the promise that she would be on three years&Mac226; probation, undergo 12 hours of alcohol education counseling, and pay a $300 fine.The rapper/actress said in a statement, "I am delighted the L.A. City Attorney has dismissed both DUI charges against me, and I have taken full responsibility for reckless driving." Latifah was pulled over in Hollywood last November after making an unsafe lane change, and then failing a sobriety test.


SMITH DROPPED BUT STILL BUSY

According to reports, Will Smith has been dropped by Sony Music because his music just isn’t selling like it used to. But not to worry. Billboard reports that Smith has just signed a deal with Dreamworks SKG for a "multi-platform offer." The deal apparently includes options for recordings, television, films, video games, and animation.


RICHEST BLACKS FOR 2003

Black Fortune Magazine has compiled its annual 100 Richest Black People for 2003. New to the list are Venus and Serena Williams, and the estate of Tupac Shakur, business executives Richard Parsons and Kenneth Chenault. The top five, in order, are BET founder Robert Johnson, talk show host Oprah Winfrey, publisher John Johnson, comedian Bill Cosby and Coca-Cola distributor Bruce Llewelyn. Also on the list are Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Master P, P. Diddy and Jay Z.


TAYE DIGGS MARRIES

Taye Diggs, who currently stars in "Chicago," is no longer available. Sorry ladies. The star tied the knot with girlfriend actor-singer Idina Menzel on January 11 in Montego Bay in front of a small group of family and friends. The two met while performing in the original Broadway production of "Rent."


BERRY LOSES ESTRANGED FATHER

Condolences to actress Halle Berry for theloss of her father, Jerome Jessie Berry. He died at a nursing home in Cleveland last month. He was 68 years old and had been under care for Parkinson's disease. Berry has said she was estranged from her father since childhood.


POITIER OFF DISNEY BOARD

When the Walt Disney Company decided recently to cut three members of its board of directors, actor Sidney Poitier was one of the three. The other departing members are architect Robert Stern and Sotheby&Mac226;s executive Reveta Bowers. Although Disney has not revealed how they decided which directors to dismiss, the company has stated that the cuts were part of its efforts to self-govern and to combat shareholder distrust. Distrust? What’s to distrust about Sidney Poitier?


OPRAH ON NEW DIET – AGAIN

Oprah's back on a diet again. The New York Post reports she told viewers that she is has lost 33 pounds so far on a custom weight-loss program, designed for her by longtime trainer, Bob Greene, and she is headed for a size 8. This is yet another announcement of the talk show diva’s very public battle with the bulge. Oprah once vowed she would never again do a show about diets, but it seems she has reconsidered. "I've been struggling with my weight since I was 22," Oprah said recently. "I'm almost 49 now, and ready for the battle to be over ... I've lost and gained too many times to count."


REGAL EXPANDS PRE-MOVIE SHORTS

Regal CineMedia Corp., subsidiary of the nation's largest theater exhibitor, has announced a partnership with Turner Broadcasting System to offer short-form entertainment programming to be aired before the theater chain's feature presentations. Turner is the second content provider to sign on with the theater chain. A partnership with NBC was signed in October. Both companies -- and two others expected to be announced shortly -- will contribute to Regal's 20-minute preshow presentations. TBS will create the short-form programming using Cartoon Network and TNT for its content.