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July 2003
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Sidewalk sales of videos, CDs and DVDs are now banned in Russia as the Kremlin gears up to launch a comprehensive antipiracy campaign this fall. Street sales are the source of much of the $311 million in annual sales of pirated music and video products in Russia. The rising tide of pirated products in Russia puts it second only to China as the world's biggest producer of pirate discs and videos.


The $50.5-million weekend debut of John Singleton’s "2 Fast 2 Furious" marked the biggest opening weekend ever for a black director. Many in the industry hope that with an opening this strong, minority filmmakers will see an increased measure of respect for their efforts from Hollywood’s decision makers. Time will tell how Singleton’s success translates for him and other blacks in Hollywood when it comes to getting their movies made.


Spike Lee has created a multimedia road show called "The Movie Music of Spike Lee and Terence Blanchard." The show's producer, Danny Kapilian says the start of Lee’s writing/filming process for all his films has always included music, and that music often included trumpeter/bandleader Terence Blanchard. The show will feature the sound and vision from some of Lee’s 16 films, including "Do the Right Thing," "Jungle Fever," "Malcolm X," "Mo' Better Blues," and "Clockers." Film stills will be complimented by Blanchard and his jazz ensemble and singers and musicians such as Floetry, Angie Stone, Cassandra Wilson, Musiq and others. Lee will host at the performances starting in Philadelphia’s Mann Center, then Carnegie Hall in New York, Symphony Center in Chicago, and a final stop at the Hollywood Bowl.


Michael Jackson got one more problem off his back recently. The problem’s name is Myung-Ho Lee. He heads Union Finance and Investment Corp and had threatened to sue Jackson for $12 million and spill the beans on Jackson’s supposedly shakey financial empire and personal life. Jackson's attorney, Zia Modabber, said the two sides had reached a confidential agreement to settle Lee's lawsuit and a counter-suit by Jackson. He said Jackson had personally signed off on the settlement. Lee attorneys said in court papers that the singer was a "ticking financial time bomb waiting to explode" who owed hundreds of millions of dollars on bank loans. On the other hand, Jackson counter sued, claiming that the man he called "Lawyer Lee" and Union Finance stole millions from him and destroyed financial records to cover up their misdeeds.


Actor William Marshall, who played a variety of roles, from Shakespeare's "Othello" on stage, to "Blacula" in the camp movie classic, has died. He was 78. Marshall, who suffered in recent years from Alzheimer's disease, died last month in a Los Angeles rest home. Marshall appeared in several dozen films and in popular television series such as "Star Trek" in the 1960s and "The Jeffersons" in the 1980s. But he was in love with theater and taught acting workshops on college campuses and at the Mufandi Institute in Watts.


According to the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA), more DVDs were rented in more weeks last month than VHS cassettes. According to the group's VidTrac service, 28.2 million DVDs were rented during the week versus 27.3 videocassettes.


Forbes’ Entertainment "Power List" has Dr. Dre and Eminem at the number two positions on this year's chart. Only Jennifer Aniston bettered the Interscope Records duo. A number two spot is surprising, considering that they bested the likes of Tiger Woods, Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Lopez, Paul McCartney and even Oprah Winfrey on the "Who’s Got the Juice" in entertainment annual report.


As we reported last issue, Spike Lee's mad – yet again -– but this time at the media giant Viacom International. The director is suing to stop the TNN cable channel from being renamed "Spike TV." Lee won a temporary injunction against Viacom on June 13, claiming that the renaming is a deliberate attempt to hijack his name, image, and reputation. He posted a $500,000 bond, but 1l days later, a Manhattan judge ordered Lee to post an additional $2 million bond to cover the defendant's costs, if they should win the case. The bond amount was increased after TNN Vice President Kevin Kay, testified that the network had lost millions of dollars since the injunction and could stand to lose millions more before the Aug. 18 trial date. He testified that losses included a $1.4 million Playboy Mansion launch party and the $5.7 million already used to develop and advertise the new "Spike TV" channel. Viacom claims its motive for adopting the unique name is to attract more men to its channel, which is already two-thirds male. They claim the word Spike is generically male and fits their marketing model and was not an attempt to hijack Lee’s reputation.


Actress LisaRaye has been signed to co-star in a new Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith produced sitcom for UPN titled "All Of Us," alongside Duane Martin and Elise Neal. The actress, who also has two movies coming out later this year, usually plays the protagonist in her roles, but for the sitcom she’ll be an antagonizing troublemaker. "It's loosely based on Will and Jada's life," she explains. "It's mainly about Will, his wife and an ex-wife and child, and bringing them all together. Sometimes it's not easy bringing two families together. I'm right there in the middle of the confusion. I play the ex-wife, I'm the drama. My character's name is Neicey."


Seventies R&B/disco sensation Barry White, whose velvet baritone signature songs "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" and "You're the First, the Last, My Everything," died July 4, 2003 in Los Angeles. White, 58, who had been battling chronic blood pressure, succumbed to kidney failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The seductive musician had been undergoing dialysis treatment and had been hospitalized since last September. In May, White suffered a stroke which left him partially paralyzed. White was a composer for many popular television shows and movie soundtracks which included "Alley McBeal" and "Dead Presidents." His also costarred in several films including the 1975 "Coonskin" and did voice-over work in 1992’s "Why Colors?" White, who married and divorced twice, is survived by eight children.


A high-speed crash involving a driver who had just seen the street-racing movie "2 Fast 2 Furious" left a 78-year-old motorist dead, California police said. Vahan V. Shahenian, 23, of Granada Hills was traveling nearly 100 mph on a residential street when his 2002 Nissan Altima broadsided a car driven by Keiji Iko, who died instantly, police said. Authorities do not believe Shahenian was racing another vehicle at the time. "This is '2 Fast 2 Furious' right here in the Valley," police Detective Kathleen Burns said.


Comedian/actor Jamie Foxx’s upcoming trial on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges has been moved back until Sept. 8. Foxx had already pleaded innocent to the charges stemming from a fight with police at New Orleans' Harrah's casino on April 26. According to police, the altercation started when Foxx, his sister, Diedra Dixon, and members of their entourage refused to show identification upon entering the casino and then became disorderly. Dixon, who also pleaded innocent, was also charged with assaulting a police officer while partially handcuffed, which sent the officer to a local hospital. Foxx's charges include splashing water out of a fountain, cursing loudly, fighting with officers, and refusing to leave when asked by security. But actress Regina King has said that she witnessed the whole thing and Foxx was never asked for any ID and the officers, who were undercover, never identified themselves as police. Foxx was on location in New Orleans to play Ray Charles in the film "Unchain My Heart."


The June/July issue of Honey Magazine features "Soul Food" star Malinda Williams talks about her ex-husband, and father of her son, Mekhi Phifer and his infidelity, which she maintains led to the couple’s divorce. Phifer responded to his ex-wife’s comments saying, "I was 23 when she got pregnant. You want to do the right thing -- what society deems as being the right thing. She wanted a structured family lifestyle that she was used to growing up. The women are dominant matriarchs in her family and the men are subversive, subservient and subdued. Me? I come from a family of men -- grown-ass men handling their business. It’s easy for a woman to say he cheated on me and did this and that. Look, I’m a very sexual person -- I love to make love."


Remember the $5 million lawsuit against basketballer/actor Michael Jordan filed by his ex-lover? Well, it's been dismissed by a judge in Chicago. Essentially the judge said the agreement for Karla Knafel to receive money to keep quiet about her affair with Jordan amounted to extortion. "The court finds the agreement to be extortionate and against public policy. The entire agreement ... is void and unenforceable as a matter of law," Judge Richard Siebel of the Cook County Circuit Court ruled. Knafel's lawyers, said they plan to appeal.


In a survey released by 321 Studios, makers of DVD copying software, 76 percent of respondents
stated that they would not be interested in renting a self-destructing DVD. This survey was conducted in response to the recent reports that Flexplay and The Walt Disney Co. home video unit, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, will launch a DVD rental program this August that makes DVDs unreadable after 48 hours. The results of the survey clearly showed that consumers are not only not interested in renting impermanent home entertainment technology, they find the whole concept in violation of their rights as consumers. "This move to create self-destructing DVDs by Buena Vista Entertainment implies that consumers are dishonest in their use of technology, and consumers are not pleased with this implication. Customers should not be criminalized when they go to rent a movie," said Robert Moore, president of 321 Studios.


While the BET Awards was a rousing, trouble free success, there was a bit of drama outside the Kodak Theater in Hollywood just before the show began. Police and federal agents arrested three men on outstanding warrents over misdemeanor crimes, and another for parole violation and temporarily detained six others. All those arrested had arrived at the event with Snoop Dogg, whose real name is Calvin Broadus. "Officers watching the front of the theater saw Mr. Broadus get out of his vehicle with several individuals who were wearing bullet-proof vests, and that immediately raised suspicion," reported Los Angeles police Lt. Art Miller. After being searched by police and agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Snoop’s bodyguards were found to be carrying a total of seven handguns, including one with a laser sight and another with an extended 30 bullet magazine. Los Angeles authorities are now considering bringing possible firearms charges against the rapper/actor, himself. It seems that Snoop is a convicted felon, following a 1990 drug conviction, as well as a 1993 arrest in connection with a drive-by slaying. It is against the law for someone knowingly employed by a felon to carry a gun or ammunition. The charges carry a penalty of one to 10 years in federal prison.


People magazine has reported that singer and actress Brandy & her husband, producer Robert Smith, are in the middle of a breakup. The couple wed secretly just two years ago and then became the subjects for MTV’s "Diary Presents Brandy: Special Delivery," which followed the couple’s lives up to the birth of their daughter last June. The couple have announced that they will remain friends and raise their daughter jointly. Contrary to recent reports, folks close to the pop star say she is not 8 months pregnant. Reports have been circulating that the marriage had problems from the start because Brandy’s parents never really approved of their new son-in-law.


Queen Latifah was a no-show for last month’s BET Awards, which started the gossip mill buzzing about a possible beef the raptress/actress has with the network. Latifah won the BET Award for Best Actress, though wasn’t there to accept it. But friends of the actress say the rumors of trouble simply "ain’t so." They say the reason she wasn’t there is because she was in Vancouver completing prearranged shooting requirements on the filming of the new "Scary Movie3" film. The third installment of the horror spoof series will also star Regina Hall, Eddie Griffin, and Charlie Sheen.


A veteran special effects artist at George Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic has predicted that within five years, computerized animation in Hollywood may be so advanced, an Oscar could be in the offing. Will Anielewicz thinks that it will actually be possible to create such a truly lifelike digital actor, whose performance can be so controlled and perfected, that the computer-generated character will be indistinguishable from the flesh-and-blood kind. "I believe that at some point a digital actor is going to be a superstar. ... Within five years, the best actor is going to be a digital actor," said Anielewicz. "We can now accomplish such realism with digital stunt doubles," he said, "that it's pretty much making stunt actors obsolete."


Rapper, actor and CEO Master P, who has a permit to carry a gun, appears to be in trouble for the ammunition. He was caught at Newark Airport with six hollow-point bullets, the kind that are called "cop-killers" on the street. The star, whose real name is Percy Miller, was due to board an America West flight to Los Angeles when he was busted. He told guards he was checking a small case, which held a licensed, unloaded handgun, but when officials checked the case they also found the illegal bullets. Possession of the deadly ammo is a third-degree felony in New Jersey. The bust comes just three months after a would-be rap producer was sentenced to a year in jail for stalking the popular Miller.


With "Dark Blue" and now "Hollywood Homicide" under his acting belt, gangster rapper Kurupt has been hit by the acting bug and definitely has the right attitude for the new work. But there are critics who say singers are not trained actors. "We’re all trained actors," says Kurupt. "You could have a couple of beers and the police pull you over and you’re acting right there. You don’t have to have schooling; you just have to take it serious. It’s the same thing with everything. No one’s ever gone to rapping school and we have the greatest rappers on earth, nowadays. You just have to take the job seriously. You have to perfect the craft of acting." But he also admits that perfecting the art of acting takes a lot more skill and training. "I’m an artist and we act every day. When we hit that stage, when we are in the press, you know what I&Mac226;m saying? The acting I don’t have to go to school for, but the perfecting of acting, I have to go to school for that," he explained. "Like Denzel. In"Bone Collector&Mac226;" he didn’t move any parts of his body. That’s acting. The only thing that you move is your mouth and your head and you’re still the highlight of the film - now that I’d have to go to school for."


Super producer Dr. Dre has agreed to work on his first film score. He’s working on the score of "Bad Boys II," to aid composer Trevor Rabin. No word on if the score will be released as an album. "Bad Boys II," starring Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, and Gabrielle Union, hits theaters July 18.


Last month Halle Berry filed a $2 million suit against the former owners of her Beverly Hills mansion. She says they sold her a dilapidated house that needs $1 million in repairs. On the other hand, the homeowners, Jonathan and Alison Roth, slapped a pre-emptive suit against Berry, stating that she was aware that the property was being sold "as-is" in 2001.


The current issue of the Star is reporting on Queen Latifah’s recent breast reduction. The Jersey-bred rapper/actress has apparently cut her bust size down from an attention-grabbing DD cup to a more manageable C.


Diana Ross told a municipal court judge that she felt forced into taking a breath test during a traffic stop last year in Arizona. Ross and her lawyer are trying to have the results of several breath tests tossed out of the case against her. Ross was cited Dec. 30 and faces three DUI-related charges. She has pleaded innocent. Police said she had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.20 percent. The legal limit in Arizona is 0.08 percent. "I felt a threatening tone from him. You know, like a command, a demand," Ross said, referring to the arresting Tucson police officer. According to the police report, officers at the scene wrote that the singer was unable to walk a straight line and even fell down while trying to stand on one leg and count to 10.


MTV has announced that Chris Rock will return to host the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. Rock, who hosted the show in 1997 and 1999, has been busy flexing his acting and directing muscles and claims hosting the show will help sharpen his rusty stand-up skills. "I haven't performed in a lo-o-o-o-ng time," Rock said. Instead of stand-up, away from movie cameras Rock has been focusing on family time with wife Malaak Compton-Rock and daughter, Lola Simone, who turned one last month. Rock says he's had two callings in life: stand-up comedy and fatherhood. "Those are the only things I embrace," he said.


Rapper/actor DMX was arrested last month for using profanity during a concert on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts and Nevis. The rapper went free on a whopping $376 bail and left the isle temporarily, but did return for his court date. Organizers said they warned DMX that he would not be allowed to use obscenities on stage, which is a misdemeanor on the island. "There was a contract signed in which it was made very clear long before the arrival of the artists that there are laws in St. Kitts that do not take kindly to the use of indecent language on stage," said Information Minister Jacinth Henry Martin.


The AP reports that John Acheson, 31, of New Rochelle, NY has been charged with theft and extortion for demanding $25,000 from rapper/actress Lil' Kim to return a necklace that recently went missing from her luggage at the JFK airport. The Queens, NY district attorney said Acheson contacted Lil' Kim's attorney, saying he had the necklace and demanded money for its return. When the man’s scheme began to fall apart, Acheson turned himself in to authorities.