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April 2003
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WAS FUQUA OUT OF TEARS?

Reviews for director Antoine Fuqua’s (Training Day) "Tears of the Sun" have been anything but complimentary and have left many people wondering how much control over the film the much touted director really had. Hollywood insiders have long known that this was a film Bruce Willis wanted to make in a show of support for the Bush administration’s hawkish position on Iraq. Now those same insiders are shaking their heads wondering who really had control over direction of what critics are calling a film that tries to show us simultaneously that war is both thrilling and hell, but really only ends up at war with itself.


BLOCKBUSTER WINS COURT BATTLE OVER LATE FEES

Blockbuster Inc. announced that a Superior Court judge in California has ruled that Blockbuster's late fees are not a penalty and it's up to consumers whether to keep rented videos beyond the initial rental period. Blockbuster has been hit by many class-action lawsuits of late, accusing it of making unfair profits with its late fees policy. In past accounting years, 16 percent of Blockbuster's revenues were from late fees, but the company says it no longer breaks out that figure in its bookkeeping. Edward B. Stead, Blockbuster's general counsel, said the ruling confirmed that challenges to the late fees "have no merit and are being driven by the plaintiffs' lawyers."


DIRECTOR FUQUA FIGHTING MESSY LAWSUIT

Tanya Evans, a 30 year old single mother, is suing "Training Day" director Antoine Fuqua, accusing the filmmaker of threatening her life and bringing false stalking and harassment charges against her. Evans claims that she and Antoine Fuqua had a ten-month relationship from 2001 to 2002, but after they broke up, Fuqua repeatedly threatened her and the well being of her 13 year-old daughter, and that he and his wife Lela Rochon instigated false criminal charges against her for harassment in an effort to hide the affair from the public. Evans was found not guilty of the charges. "This case demonstrates just how far the rich and powerful will go in their efforts to squash a young, helpless woman. I was outraged to hear how Ms. Evans and her daughter had been threatened and then victimized by this man who once claimed to have been in love with her," said Evans&Mac226; lawyer, Carl Douglas. Fuqua's lawyer said Evans’ case was without merit. "We have received communications from her counsel in the past threatening to go public unless we paid a substantial amount of money." In the suit, Evans described one of Fuqua’s threats, saying he once told her she would "wind up missing like Chandra Levy."


MORE MICHAEL LUNACY

Michael Jackson is looking for new representation to help prop up his reputation. The King of Pop has fired his longtime adviser and attorney, John Branca. Branca handled Jackson’s affairs since 1980, but Jackson reportedly sent Branca his walking papers via fax last month. But Branca wasn’t alone. In an apparent effort to do a clean sweep, Jackson also fired his manager and his accountant. Branca had been negotiating with Sony, according to sources, for Jackson's return to Sony Music, at least temporarily, after Tommy Mattola’s exit in January. Branca also says he had no idea that Jackson made a deal with Martin Bashir for what ended up being an infamous television interview.


OPRAH RENOVATES

TV and media mavin Oprah Winfrey plans to expand her $50 million Georgian-style California estate. Zoning officials in Santa Barbara have approved plans to renovate her mansion. Winfrey plans to expand her rose garden and convert her garage. The estate, which she bought in 2001, includes a 19,826 sq ft. mansion and a 3,014 sq. ft guest house.


WESLEY SNIPES MARRIES

Vampire-slayer and actor Wesley Snipes has reportedly wed Nikki Park, the mother of his two youngest children in a New Jersey clerk’s office last month. Snipes was spotted at the Bergen County Clerk’s Office and apparently asked for an impromptu wedding ceremony. Snipes’ spokesperson sidestepped the issue by referring questions to Snipes’ personal assistant - who could not be reached for comment. County staffers and others are saying the actor did indeed have an impromptu wedding, most likely to Parks. Parks is a Korean painter and has been Snipes’ other half for the last several years.


DENZEL, BASSETT BIG IMAGE WINNERS

The 2002 movie "Brown Sugar" had the most nominations - eight - at this year’s 34th annual NAACP Image Awards, but actor-director Denzel Washington ended up the big winner. Washington won the most awards during the evening, while "Brown Sugar" wound up empty handed. Denzel won best actor for his role in "John Q," best supporting actor for his role in "Antwone Fisher," and he also accepted the best picture award as the director and producer of "Fisher." Angela Bassett won two awards, best TV actress for her portrayal of Rosa Parks in "The Rosa Parks Story" and best movie actress for her role in "Sunshine State." Halle Berry won best supporting actress for her role in the James Bond movie "Die Another Day."


LOU RAWLS SUED FOR PALIMONY

Press reports say that smooth soul singer Lou Rawls, 67, is being sued by an alleged mistress for palimony. Margaret Schaffer, says that she and Rawls had an oral contract to share their income and property and as a result, she moved to Southern California to go on the road with Rawls as a "homemaker...so that he could feel that his life was in order." The lawsuit claims Rawls abruptly ended the relationship after four years. During the four years in question, Rawls was married to his wife of twelve years, CiCi Rawls. Rawls&Mac226; manager David Brokaw said flatly "It is not true." Brokaw described Schaffer as an acquaintance and added, "He never made an agreement like that. It’s a frivolous lawsuit and is without merit." Most recently, Rawls co-stars in the film "Uh Oh."



90 YEAR-OLD ROSA PARKS BOYCOTS IMAGE AWARDS

Apparently you’re never too old to protest. Civil rights pioneer, 90 year-old Rosa Parks, chose to stay at home instead of attending the NAACP Image Awards. Parks’ friend, Elaine Steele, explained Parks’ absence in a letter, saying "We with many others do not understand the endorsement the NAACP gave to the hurtful jokes in the movie "Barbershop," about America’s civil rights leaders." In "Barbershop," Cedric the Entertainer played an elderly barber who joked about Rev. Jesse Jackson, Dr. Martin Luther King and in his role he added that Parks’ act of refusing to give up her bus seat only got attention because she worked for the NAACP. Those lines angered many in the black community. NAACP president Kweisi Mfume said backstage, "I hope to talk to her soon. She’s a grand lady and a wonderful member of this association ... I don’t think there’s a rift at all."


MASTER P STALKER FOUND GUILTY

Antwan Kevin Baker, 32, pleaded guilty to stalking rapper/actor Master P last month. Baker was sentenced to one year in jail and ordered to stay at least 100 yards away from Master P for the next decade. Master P had been trying to get Baker to stop his antics but when the man ignored P’s requests and even bursts of outright anger, he took Baker to court.


AUTHOR ALICE WALKER ARRESTED

Celebrated author of "The Color Purple," Alice Walker and others were arrested Saturday March 8, in a march to the White House to protest war. Walker was one of approximately 5,000 protesters gathered in Washington, DC for a demonstration organized by feminist anti-war group Code Pink. Everything went orderly until Walker and 25 others they crossed a police line across from the White House and were arrested for their efforts. Author Maxine Hong Kingston, who wrote "The Woman Warrior" was also arrested.


COKE PARTNERS FOR MUSIC ACADEMY

Pepsi’s reputation has taken a beating as a result of the Ludacris/Russell Simmons controversy, but Coca-Cola’s image has done nothing but improve among urban consumers. Coke’s latest image enhancer is its partnership with the Apollo Theater Foundation to support the urban Arts by creating a music academy for youth.


NAOMI JUDD PLANTS FOOT SQUARELY IN MOUTH

On, March 7, on the new "Star Search," hosted by Arsenio Hall, celebrity judge Naomi Judd slipped up with a few racially insensitive comments. After a young African American man performed, Judd’s critique included the statement, "I really like street performers, and I consider you just to be a blond-haired funky monkey." Judd later tried to quell the hundreds of complaints by explaining that she made the comment because she thought the contestant, Steven Bass, was doing the Funky Monkey. "In my opinion, the talented Steven Bass appeared to be doing a hip-hop version of that dance. It never crossed my mind that it could be taken racially," Judd explained. She added an apology to all who misunderstood. But the woman also gaffed that night when a troupe of tap dancers performed, two of which were white and one black. The country star said, "I really like tap dancing, especially when whites do it." Needless to say the complaints are still rolling in.


OPRAH WINS TRADE NAME BATTLE

Porn publisher Ronald Brockmeyer sued Oprah Winfrey in August 2001 claiming that her top-selling magazine infringed upon his trademark and was unfair competition. But a US district judge didn’t agree and dismissed the suit saying, "There is no possibility of blurring in this case." The judge noted that the subtitles, purpose, and images of the magazines are completely different, not to mention that the German "O" porn magazine has only put out four issues since its debut in 1995.


YET ANOTHER MICHAEL MESS

Michael Jackson, is in the news, yet again, because of new woes with the IRS. E! reports that Jackson’s mini-zoo and amusement parks may no longer fall under the "agricultural zoning" clause that gives land owners a tax break. California officials say they plan to investigate the property because the expansion of the Neverland Ranch, disclosed in the "Living with Michael Jackson" TV interview, may have exceeded the 2,600-acre limit that allows for the tax break. This may be one more reason why Jackson is checking out property in the Palm Beach-Bal Harbour area of Florida. With all of his legal and financial problems in California, Florida is looking better and better to Jackson because Florida is a "homestead" state, where real estate cannot be taken away by lawsuit judgments and settlements. In that vein, Jackson just lost a lawsuit last month and has been ordered to pay $5.3 million to a German concert promoter because he was a no-show at two millennium concerts on New Year’s Eve in 1999. Jackson’s claimed he wasn’t responsible because it was his promoter who cancelled the concerts, but the jury obviously saw it very differently.


LATIFAH BEING SUED OVER "HOUSE" SCREENPLAY

New York lawyer, Marie Flaherty, says she wrote the screenplay that inspired "Bringing Down the House," the Queen Latifah - Steve Martin comedy that has, so far, grossed just over $100 million at the box office, and she’s suing Latifah, Hyde Park Entertainment Walt Disney Company, George Tobia and Jason Filardi for $15 million. In the lawsuit, Flaherty claims she hired Tobia, a Boston lawyer, to shop her script "Amoral Dilemma" to the film making community, but instead, she claims her script about a lawyer who becomes involved with a prisoner he meets online was used by Tobia and co-writer Filardi to create another script titled "Jailbabe.com," that the two then sold as their own and which eventually became "Bringing Down The House." Flaherty says when she confronted Tobia over the gross similarities in their screenplays Tobia said "Nonsense. Your movie was a drama and mine was a comedy."



REMEMBERING LYNNE THIGPEN

CBS temporarily closed production of its crime drama "The District," when one of its stars, Lynne Thigpen died unexpectedly. The actress died suddenly in her Los Angeles home. She was 54. The cause of death is as yet unknown. Thigpen played Ella Farmer on the networks primetime TV drama, but began her career on the stage and also made several feature films. She won a Tony for her role in "An American Daughter" and two Obie Awards for her off-Broadway performances in "Jar the Floor" and
"Boesman and Lena" and she also won an LA Drama Critics Award for August Wilson's "Fences." Ms. Thigpen will be missed.

EPPS MAY HAVE NEW LADY

Now that actor Omar Epps and actress Sanaa Lathan have ended their on-again, off-again relationship, the star is now dating Keisha of the Bad Boy group Total. The two were spotted together during events at the NAACP Image Awards, and sources say that this is not the first time the two have dated.


BERRY IS A CLASS ACT

Oscar winner Halle Berry was recently spotted shopping with her stepdaughter India at the new Solstice Eyewear Store at the Beverly Center in Beverly Hills, CA. A very classy Halle, who was wearing jeans and a baseball cap, appeared unruffled by public recognition and smiled and said a gracious "Thank you," as she accepted compliments from fans who were quick to recognize the actress.


SNOOP HELPS DREAMS COME TRUE

Snoop Dogg says he will grant the wish of a terminally ill 17-year old named Branson Walker. The young man’s wish is to meet the rapper. The Special Wish Foundation gave Walker 3 wishes and his first was to meet Snoop. When Snoop heard about the wish, he paid for Walker's entire family to come to California for the taping of "Doggy Fizzle Televizzle," his MTV comedy show. Walker suffers from terminal kidney failure.


QUINCY JONES SHARES BIRTHDAY

Composer and music and film producer Quincy Jones celebrated his 70th birthday last month alongside pal and fellow 70th birthday celebrant, actor Michael Caine. Both men turned 70 and partied at Spago with a live performance by legendary performer Stevie Wonder. The two pals started celebrating their joint birthday together almost 20 years ago when the two chanced to be in London at the same time, found out they shared the same birthday(s) and became lifelong friends. On hand at this year’s party were stars that included J.Lo and fiancé Ben Affleck.


VIN DIESEL ALMOST LOSES EYES

Vin Diesel is getting ready to start lensing on his latest film "Riddick," the sequel to the sci-fi thriller "Pitch Black," but the process of getting ready almost ended any hope of even making the movie. As part of testing and checking things out before filming actually begins, Diesel had to test the eye lenses he's going to wear in the film, but the test devolved into a medical emergency. "They put prototype lenses with a reflective vibe onto my eyes," says Diesel. "A few hours later I'm in the hospital because they can't get them out. They said, ‘They've melted to your eyes.' An optometrist had to be flown in from a town three hours away to remove the contacts." On the up side, Diesel says, the ordeal helped him get into character. "My equilibrium was off, which was almost good," he said, "because I no longer had the relationship with gravity that I've had all my life."


CHRIS ROCK TORQUED AT MATT DRUDGE

Chris Rock is ready to get it on with Matt Drudge for reporting that he's been "strongly advised" by DreamWorks execs to not "engage in any Bush-bashing." "I never met Matt Drudge, but if I see Matt Drudge, I'm going to take my red-blooded American foot and put it up his un-American ass for trying to disrupt the opening of my movie," Rock said in a statement just before his movie opened. Drudge quoted a top studio source as saying, "We are confident Chris knows this is not the appropriate time to make jokes about war and the president. We don't want to get Dixie-Chicked, or anything like that, out of the gate. We've invested tens of millions of dollars in the making of the movie and its marketing." Rock's statement went on to say he never had any intention of bashing President Bush for launching the US-led war in Iraq. , DreamWorks, is denying that anyone has tried to shut Rock up regarding Bush.


POLICE RAID HOME OF SATELLITE PIRATE

For the first time, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have raided a private residence in its campaign against U.S. satellite piracy. The raid was on a home-based retailer of black-market satellite equipment. The RCMP said it the house was in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, where they arrested a 52-year-old man and confiscated 80 direct-to-home satellite dishes and other equipment capable of receiving and illegally decoding U.S. satellite TV signals. The Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Assn. spotted an advertisement for the illegal satellite equipment in a local buy-and-sell newspaper and notified Canadian police, who then started an investigation that eventually prompted the raid. The police crackdown on satellite piracy follows a Canadian Supreme Court ruling last spring that makes it illegal to buy, sell or possess equipment designed to capture signals from U.S. satellites without a license.