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May 2003
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OPRAH IN THE BUFF?

Oprah Winfrey says that for her 50th birthday she will pose for nude pictures - but the public won’t get to see them. The photos will be Winfrey’s gift to her man, Stedman Graham. According to Star magazine, Winfrey is searching for a photographer that she feels comfortable with. The tabloid reports that Winfrey had planned to do the shoot with her photographer friend Herb Ritts but he died last December. Winfrey will turn 50 on January 29, 2004.


TONI BRAXTON HAS ANOTHER BOY

Toni Braxton and her husband, Keri Lewis, are the proud parents of another baby boy. "They are doing great," her publicist, David Brokaw, said. News reports say Diezel Ky Braxton Lewis was born last month at an Atlanta-area hospital, weighing in at six pounds, four ounces. He's the second child of artists Braxton, and Lewis. Their other child is one-year-old Denim.


MAMA ROCK ON RADIO

Chris Rock’s Mom is reaching out to the people. Rose Rock is back on the radio, handing out advice. She had taken time off to recover from triple bypass surgery, but that didn’t keep her off the airwaves for too long. Rock’s "The Mom Show" is a blend of Top 40 music and phone calls, and airs out of Georgetown South Carolina's WWXM on Sundays. Apparently has a lot to say. "I'd like to get to the point where we don't need music at all," she said. A former preschool teacher, she also owns a day-care center in Georgetown and says her experience as a mother of seven gives her the credentials to give advice.


ANGIE STONE TAKING QUEEN’S ROLE

Queen Latifah made a name for herself by portraying Matron "Mama" Morton in the hit movie musical "Chicago," garnering an Oscar nod. Now Angie Stone is taking on the role on Broadway. The Broadway version hit the stage last month.


QUEEN SIZE AD ALTERED

Queen Latifah was not quite herself in the "Chicago" ads that appeared after the film won the Oscar® for best picture. The ads showed a much thinner Latifah. But the ads were pulled after the show "Inside Edition" did a report on the altered advertisements. A day later, Miramax changed the ad to show her in full size. Meanwhile, Latifah is making money on her shape. She is the spokesmodel for the new plus-size lingerie line called Curvation. "When I was in high school I was shy about the size of my breasts and people would pick on me. Now, people pay for these," she said with a smile recently.


SONY AND COLUMBIA SUED

TV arbitrator, Judge Glenda Hatchett could be on the other side of the bench now that a former personal assistant is suing her for unfair dismissal. "She fired me because I was a pregnant white woman," said Robin Rinsler, who filed a $10 million suit in Manhattan federal court. Rinsler's lawyer, Marc Garbar, told the New York Daily News, "Everything was fantastic in Ms. Rinsler's work relationship with Judge Hatchett...until [she] informed her employer she was pregnant." Rinsler apparently first got a demotion and pay cut. She believes her work duties were changed to keep her on her feet, a strategy designed to make her quit. Rinsler delivered a healthy baby boy in August 2001, but that November, she was allegedly told that "as a white person, [she] could not be sensitive to Judge Hatchett's black issues," and was fired. Garbar said an African-American assistant was subsequently hired. Hatchett is not personally named in the lawsuit, which lists as defendants Sony Pictures Entertainment, Columbia Tri-Star, Entrada Productions Inc. and the "Judge Hatchett Show."


VETERAN SITE IS DOWN

If you went to TheBlackworldToday.com recently for entertainment info, you noticed the site is no longer there. The portal, founded by veteran journalist and activist Don Rojas, was shut down on April 1 and its e-mail service closed on April 21. Apparently TheBlackWorldToday.com has money woes. A message on the downed site does not mention the money troubles, but does say it is trying to overcome it’s problems with a "reorganization."


STORY BAILS ON BARBERSHOP 2

Tim Story, the director behind the box office hit "Barbershop" bowed out of helming the sequel to the film and has instead choosen to do the Dreamworks comedy "Date School." It was an abrupt exit and rumors swirled that Story pulled out because stars Cedric the Entertainer and Ice Cube, along with producers Bob Teitel and George Tillman, received bigger salaries than he did. But said "This was never about money for me.".Story says decided he didn't want to repeat himself so soon, even though his salary for "Barbershop 2" would have been $760,000, nearly quadruple what he earned for the first film. He said "I took a hard look at myself in the mirror and felt creatively that I couldn't go back and do it again so soon. Telling them that was like breaking up with your family. But I need to stretch, to feel scared, and I will always be willing to roll the dice on my own talent."


HALLE BERRY MAKES PEOPLE LIST - AGAIN

"X-Men United" star Halle Berry made People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful list yet again. It’s Berry’s seventh time scoring the honor, and her first making the special issue’s cover.



DISNEY IS RAVING OVER RAVEN

Former Cosby Kid's show actress Raven Symone is all grown up and the success of her new Disney sticom "That's So Raven" has the studio ordering a second season. In the show she stars as a teen who can see glimpses of the future, but has a hard time living in the present. Head to head with all basic cable networks, "That's So Raven" ranked number one in the time period among Kids 6-11, Tweens 9-14, Girls 6-11 and Girl Tweens 9-14. In the first quarter 2003, "That's So Raven" was Disney Channel's second highest rated series among Kids 6-11 and Tweens, trailing only "Lizzie McGuire." It was also the top-rated Disney Channel series with Boys 6-11.


JANET STALKER FILES SECOND SUIT

Former Janet Jackson stalker Eric Leon Christian, accused in a 1997 restraining order of calling and faxing Jackson more than 90 times and threatening to assault her, has filed a second lawsuit against Jackson for $20 million, claiming he has suffered mental and emotional stress, reports Rolling Stone. Christian filed a civil complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court against Jackson's company, Black Doll Inc., claiming the November '97 restraining order against him was a totally false accusation. The 31-year-old Maryland man continues to deny allegations that he harassed and assaulted Janet, contending he never met, called, assaulted, harassed or threatened her. "The news media publicized this case," he asserts in the complaint, "the media, however, called Eric Christian a stalker, which was defamation and led to mental and emotional stress. Defamation and malicious prosecution was the result of the false claim." Christian is also seeking to have the restraining order wiped off his Los Angeles County criminal record.


COMIC STRIP SENDS UP LATIFAH

Queen Latifah may be hot in Hollywood, but she’s is not held in very high regard by some folks. First, there’s the lawyer who is suing over the script that laid the groundwork for "Bringing Down The House?" And now cartoonist Aaron McGruder has taken the Queen to task. He slammed her in two days worth of "Boondocks" strips because he felt she resurrected some nasty stereotypes about black women in the movie "Bringing Down the House." In the strips McGruder has the character Huey write a letter to Latifah claiming that she has revoked her crown and can no longer be called Queen.


LA POLICE ARE THE NEW PAPARAZZI?

The latest problem for Los Angeles' stars could be a new breed of stalker - the police. According to the Los Angeles Times, a Los Angeles police officer has allegedly been using the department computers to look up confidential information on stars like Halle Berry, Kobe Bryant, Berry Gordy, Jennifer Anniston, Dylan McDermott, and Meg Ryan and then selling the info to the tabloids for money. The officer, Kelly Chrisman, says he was just following orders, conducting research for a project assigned to him by department brass to track and maintain a map of celebrity residences. The LAPD says such a project does not exist and has filed misconduct charges against Chrisman.


DENZEL, ARNOLD, & BRUCE FILE SUIT

Box office giants Denzel Washington, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis are heading to the courtroom, reports E! The trio are filing suit again Fry’s Electronics, claiming the chain used their faces in newspaper ads without their permission. The electronics store, with locations in California, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada, and Texas, put images of the stars on the television sets featured in their ads. The movie stars complained that in doing so, the store made it appear that they were pitchmen for the company. The suit seeks $10 million for each of the actors.


TONI BACK ON BROADWAY AFTER BABY

New second time Mom Toni Braxton is wasting no time getting back to work. The R&B star and actress is headed for Broadway as star of Disney’s stage production of "Aida." Braxton will take on the lead role of the musical, written by Elton John and Tim Rice, about a Nubian princess forced into slavery. "Aida," opens on June 30. Braxton is no stranger to Disney productions. She also starred in Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast" Broadway production in 1998.


SNOOP DOGG IN MOTORCADE SHOOTING

Singer-actor Snoop Dogg’s motorcade was fired on last month in West LA, injuring one of the star’s bodyguards. Snoop was riding in one of five cars that were on Fairfax Blvd. near Washington Blvd. when a dark-colored sedan sprayed three of the cars with bullets. The motorcade was heading to the freeways en route to Snoop’s home in Diamond Bar. According to the Los Angeles Times, LAPD officers are looking at several motives for the incident. "It could be a variety of things," Sgt. John Pasquariello told the Times. "It could have been random, it could have been from an earlier argument or violence associated with the rap industry. We just don’t know."


MR. T SUES BEST BUY OVER TV ADS

Mr. T is unhappy with the tech and electronic retail chain Best Buy. It appears the gentle Mr. T is suing the Minnesota-based company for using his likeness from his 1982 "Rocky III" role to sell electronics. Mr. T has demanded Best Buy stop using the image and pay him unspecified damages. The suit accuses Best Buy of using a scene from the film that featured Mr. T boxing Sylvester Stallone, and altering it to look like Mr. T is taking on some middle-aged, balding, out-of-shape consumer.


MO’NIQUE PLUS SIZE CLOTHING

Like her new book, "Skinny Women are Evil," Mo&Mac226;Nique&Mac226;s clothes will be for plus-sized women. BBLI (Big Black and Loving It) will cater to women sizes 14-32. There are no specifics about the line yet because the actress is busy promoting her book and hosting "It’s Showtime at the Apollo."



TAYE DIGGS WORKING HARD

Actor Taye Diggs, whose breakout role was opposite Angela Bassett in "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," is hard at work. He appeared last year in the Academy Award-winning "Chicago," the hip-hop romance "Brown Sugar," and "Equilibrium," and is currently in the John Travolta thriller "Basic," and in the Jamie Kennedy comedy "Malibu’s Most Wanted." On the small screen, watch Diggs during May sweeps when he’ll be doing a guest spot on "The West Wing." He will appear in two episodes playing a secret service agent assigned to watch the President’s daughter.


BEYONCE SUED BY WILHEMINA AGENCY

The Wilhemina Artist Agency thought Beyonce would be a perfect fit for the L'Oreal ads, which is why they made it happen for her. Now they're making the star get legal help because they're suing her for 10 percent of the $1million the she got as compensation. Apparently she's refused to pass on the 10 percent fee which was due the agency for getting her the gig.


SHELVED PAM GRIER MAKES IT TO VIDEO

A never-released action film starring Pam Grier is hitting video shelves this month. "Wilder" is about a single-mom making her way as a "sharp-tongued maverick cop," the Hollywood Reporter describes. Grier plays Della Wilder, assigned to the murder case of her ex-lover. The seemingly cut and dry case develops into a major conspiracy. The film is a departure from Grier’s Blaxploitation classics, and was made just three years ago but never released to theaters.


ESSENCE CROWNS LATIFAH

With an Oscar nomination for "Chicago" and a starring role and executive producer credit for the
smash hit comedy "Bringing Down The House," Queen Latifah will now also be named the "Entertainer of the Year," at the 16th Annual Essence Awards on Friday, June 6 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. The Essence Awards celebrates the power of the word in a variety of forms: music, film, and theatre, television and radio, humor and activism. The two-hour special will air June 27 on FOX. "As an actress, recording artist, author, producer and more, Queen Latifah embodies the spirit of Essence," said Susan L. Taylor, Essence editorial director.


GORDON PARKS WINS "BEHIND THE LENS" AWARD

Black Hollywood and beyond celebrated filmmaker, photojournalist, writer and musician Gordon Parks recently at a gala celebration and awards ceremony where the legendary lenser was honored with the "Behind The Lens" award, sponsored by Daimler Chrysler who also donated $25,000 to two public schools on behalf of Parks. Filmmaker Robert Townsend was the event's emcee. "It was an incredible celebration for Gordon Parks," Townsend described. "It was celebrating the man, a pioneer, the first one to write, direct, produce and do the music for a major film. His body of work, artists that work with him, it was just a pure celebration." Actors Richard Roundtree, Avery Brooks, Art Evans, Roger E. Mosley, Nichelle Nichols and others joined in the celebration for the 90-year-old honoree.


JAMIE FOXX AND SISTER ARRESTED

Comedian Jamie Foxx and his sister Deidra Dixon were arrested in New Orleans last month after fighting with police at a casino. Foxx is out on $1,900 bond. He was booked for trespassing, battery and resisting arrest. Foxx, 35, and Dixon, 25, were with approximately five other people who entered Harrah’s Casino on Canal Street around 4 in the morning. The two refused to show identification to security guards and began walking toward a gambling table, with Foxx splashing water from a fountain as he passed it, police said. When asked to leave by security guards, the two refused and an argument ensued. Foxx was described as launching into a tirade and using profanity. When police arrived a fight broke out between the siblings and the arresting officers. According to the police, "during the encounter, (Dixon) managed to free one hand from the handcuff and began swinging the metal restraint" which struck one officer in the face. Pepper spray was used to subdue Dixon. Officers Thomas McMasters, Takeshia Fournier and Dixon all suffered injuries in the encounter. Dixon was booked for trespassing, simple battery on officers, resisting arrest, aggravated battery and extortion. She was charged with extortion because she allegedly threatened to cut a Harrah's guard unless he allowed her inside the casino. Dixon was released on $6,000 bond and the district attorney's office is deciding whether to press charges. Foxx is in the New Orleans area until June filming "Unchain My Heart," the Ray Charles story. Fox has pleaded innocent to his charges.


MATRIX TO BE RELOADED FOR IMAX

Toronto-based Imax has signed a deal with Warner Bros. to release the forthcoming "The Matrix Reloaded" and next fall's "The Matrix Revolutions" on giant IMAX screens in North America at the same time they will be running in conventional theaters. The films will be digitally-remastered using Imax's DMR technology, which had previously been used to convert Ron Howard's "Apollo 13" and George Lucas' "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" to the Imax giant-screen format. The first "Matrix" sequel is expected to open in Imax theaters about two to three weeks after its general release on May 15. "The Matrix Revolution" is expected to open in Imax and conventional theaters simultaneously on Nov. 5. In a statement, Imax said that "the simultaneous release of first-run Hollywood event films in its theaters is the holy grail for the company, and it's something investors have been anxiously anticipating for some time."