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November 2001
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APOLOGY TOO LATE FOR OPRAH

When asked to come on the Oprah Show and participate in her book club festivities, author Jonathan Franzen turned Ms Winfrey down, saying he was concerned about having the Oprah logo on the cover of his book, a decision he later said was "ungracious" of him. Oprah canceled the show segment on the author, and even though he has apologized, an Oprah spokesperson said the media diva will not reconsider having him grace her program.



MLK HEIRS WANT MEMORIAL MONEY

After all the films and other media covering the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we may now also get a statue of him on the National Mall. Providing, of course, everyone gets paid.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, King's family is demanding a licensing fee to use King's name and likeness in a marketing campaign designed to get sponsors to contribute money toward construction of a monument, which would stand alongside memorials to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln on the National Mall.
The Martin Luther King Memorial Project, formed to raise the $100 million needed for the King memorial, says this has made their job even more difficult.
"The holdup seems to be they want us to do a licensing agreement with them," said Harry Johnson, president of the Washington-based fund raising group. "We are trying to come to terms with what that agreement would be. I am not saying that it is wrong, we just have to figure out what it is."
While the King family has been criticized for profiting from King's name and image, there has been some concern that potential sponsors for the project could be doing the very same thing themselves.



SNOOP DOGG CHARGED WITH POSSESSION

Rapper/actor Snoop Dogg was recently charged with posession of maijuana after his tour buses were stopped outside Clevelend for speeding. Ohio State Troopers found not one, but several bags of the drug on the buses.



SPIKE LEE AMONG DIRECTORS CELEBRATING NEW YORK

Spike Lee joined Woody Allen, Edward Burns, Jerry Seinfeld, Martin Scorsese, and Kevin Smith in directing short films that "celebrate the spirit of New York." The films were showcased at last month's Concert for New York City.



MICHAEL JACKSON IMPOSTER BUSTED
A Michael Jackson impostor bamboozled his way into Yankee Stadium for a game recently and was even granted the honor of throwing out the first pitch, but just before game time, police arrested the man and his entourage in the home team dugout. The 28-year-old look-alike told police they were filming a VH1 special, but unlike Yankee personnel who let them inside, the cops didn't fall for the line. The five men arrested, including the impostor, face charges of criminal trespass, and the impostor will also face charges of false impersonation.



WONDER'S FORMER WOMAN WANTS $30 MIL

Singer/actor Stevie Wonder's ex-girlfriend, Angela McAfee, is suing the legendary artist for $30 million dollars in a palimony suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The suit claims she and Wonder orally agreed to a cohabitation arrangement that would see her stay home and rely on Wonder for financial support. The suit also alleges that Wonder has genital herpes and that he infected her with the disease through sexual intercourse.



FRANKLIN'S JAIMIE FOXX BIO TO AIR ON BET

Writer, director, editor, producer, actress, and president of Epiphany, Inc., Nicole Franklin already has several awards and production deals under her belt after just her first attempt at feature film-making. Her documentary, "I Was Made To Love Her" was immensly successful. Now the talented lady will release her Jamie Foxx bio on BET as part of its fall "Journeys In Black" television biography series. Her original film, "I Was Made To Love Her" is slated to air on the Sundance Channel.



VANESSA WILLIAMS GOES BROADWAY

Singer/actress and beauty queen, Vanessa Williams will play the lead role of the witch in the stage musical "Into The Woods." The production is about the struggles of fairy tale protagonists, and will open at Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theater on February 10th, then head to New York for a Spring run on Broadway.



FAN MAIL RETURNED IN WAKE OF ANTHRAX SCARE

The Associated Press has reported that the anthrax scare has caused several studios and publicity firms to stop opening fan mail and send it back. Pat Kingsley of the PMK public relations agency, whose clients include Tom Cruise, Jodie Foster, Tom Hanks and Arnold Schwarzenegger, told the wire service: "For the time being, we are just not opening fan mail. Just to be careful, we are putting it off for now." Studio Fan Mail Services owner Jack Tamkin said he is asking fans to send postcards rather than letters, and Scott Row of Warner Bros. says Warner has started returning fan letters along with a note asking that the writers correspond by email. In a related vein, the New York Daily News recently reported that producers of reality series and game shows may ask contestants to apply online in the future.



MTV PINK-SLIPS STAFF

Music and movie making MTV Networks fired 450 of its employees last month. In a sympathetic vein, a spokesman said all of the newly unemployed will receive severance pay. In another move to reduce expenses, MTV's online unit, MTVi, was absorbed into the MTV cable operations and will cease operations.



ABC KICKS OFF MINORITY SHOWCASE

ABC and the Screen Actor's Guild launched the ABC Talent Development Casting Project last month. The Project is designed to encourage minority actors to participate in showcases that will be open to other networks as well as casting agents. The initiative comes after strong criticism by the NAACP's Kweisi Mfume.



LAPD RULES HALLOWEEN BACK-SHOOTING JUSTIFIED

An LAPD review board has ruled that last year's fatal Halloween shooting of actor Anthony Lee, who brandished a fake gun at a Halloween party, was justified. Lee was shot in the back when police responded to a complaint about noise from the party.
The board recommended that LA Police Chief Bernard Parks find the shooting "in policy," meaning the officer involved in the shooting should not be disciplined but go through additional training instead. Lee's sister has a different opinion, however, and has hired Johnnie Cochran to pusue the case.



JAY-Z PLEA BARGAINS FOR PROBATION

Rapper/actor Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, plea-bargained to third degree assault and is now expected to be sentenced to three years probation for the December 1999 stabbing of record producer Lance Rivera. Before the plea, Jay-Z faced up to 15 years in jail if found guilty at trial.
In a later statement Jay-Z said, "I have accepted responsibility for my actions as well as the actions of others who were involved in a dispute with Lance Rivera at the Kit Kat Club in December 1999.''
But the plea bargain may have actually been all the DA was left to pusue, since, after reportedly receiving $600,000 from Jay-Z, Rivera stopped cooperating with prosecution lawyers.
Jay-Z had been charged with possessing a gun in a separate incident on April 13, 2001, but the case was dismissed after another defendant in the case admitted owning the gun.
Sentencing on the plea bargain will be handled by Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Micki Scherer on December 6.



QUINCY JONES HONORED

Music producer, composer and actor Quincy Jones, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and more than 200 other celebrities of politics, arts, science and the humanities were inducted last month into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Accepting the honor, Jones thanked the academy for his membership and called a "new spirit of unity throughout the world" heartening and encouraging.
But in his book "Q," Jones recalled when times were different. In 1964, when he and the other black members of Count Basie's band were to play at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, they had to enter through the kitchen, even though they were playing in the main room. But even in those times, Jones remembers there were still good people around. The night they were to play the Sands, Frank Sinatra, who Jones calls "a brother in disguise," hired a bodyguard for each member of the band and told the bodyguards that '"If anybody even looks funny at any member of this band, break both their ... legs."



MARIAH WON"T LISTEN TO DOCTORS

Against doctor's orders, Mariah Carey is launching a world promotional tour for her movie "Glitter." Her first stops on the trek will be Japan and Australia. Doctors have advised against the tour just now, suggesting Carey take more time off to recover from her recent health problems.



JONES WANTS OUT OF CONTRACT

Actor Richard T. Jones, who co-starred in "The Wood," "Kiss The Girls," and "Event Horizon," is suing 20th Century Fox Television to get out of his role as the baliff on the CBS judicial show "Judging Amy." Jones says he's unhappy with his character 's lack of development over the show's first two-seasons. In his suit, Jones claims the show's producers are backing out on an oral agreement they made to release him from the show if he felt his role was going nowhere. Such agreements are not unheard of and a similar accusation was used by actor Jimmy Smits when he left "NYPD Blue." But when Jones told Fox he wanted out, executives refused. Jones isn't seeking any damages in the suit, just a court order releasing him from his contract so he can pursue feature film roles.



CELEBRITIES QUE UP FOR USO

Celebrities are standing in line to offer their services to the United Service Organization (USO) to help boost the morale of American troops involved in the ongoing hostilities overseas. Since the September 11 attacks, the offices of the USO, based in Washington, D.C, have been swamped with calls from celebrities such as Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx, Aerosmith, Halle Berry, and Dave Matthews, all offering their help.
The USO is a nonprofit charity that has been organizing celebrity tours for American troops deployed overseas for 60 years. Entertainment Director Jim Pearcy said, "We can't compare this situation to anything we've done before. So far there is no established front line or staging areas. We're still waiting for instructions and see how that's going to shake out. Celebrities are volunteering and saying, 'I'll go wherever you need me, do whatever you want me to do.' Up to now, celebrities have focused on relief for the victims, which is as it should be. Now that we have troops going into harm's way, it's time to give something to them."
Screen legends Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, and the ubiquitous Bob Hope have all performed for the USO.



SMITH SOUNDING OFF LIKE 'ALI'

During a recent interview with Playboy, Will Smith sounded confidently like the champ in his soon to be released movie "Ali."
"I never had any question that I was great," Smith said in the interview. "Jada (Pinkett Smith, his wife) said I was brilliantly naive, and I honestly believe that's exactly what I am. I think I could be president of the US if I really wanted to. I know that making movies and music and entertainment is just a pit stop on the way to my true greatness."



OJ NOT GUILTY - AGAIN

OJ Simpson was found not guilty Oct.24th in his road rage trial. The Florida jury rendered its verdict just a few hours after closing arguments. Simpson could have been sentenced to 16 years in prison if he'd been convicted. He faced auto burglary and battery charges after an altercation with another motorist in Miami earlier this year.



ACTOR OTIS YOUNG DIES

Actor Otis Young, co-star of the 1968-69 TV western series, "The Outcasts" died of a heart stroke on Oct. 12. He was 69. "The Outcasts" depicted the interracial relationship between Young as a former slave and Don Murray as an ex-Confederate officer, working together as bounty hunters. Young, who most recently became an ordained minister, also starred on the big screen with Jack Nicholson in "The Last Detail" in 1973.



PRYOR FINALLY GETS HOMETOWN STREET

After eight months of struggle, haggle, and a new city council, Peoria, Illinois, has finally agreed to name a street in honor of comedian/actor Richard Pryor. On a close 6-5 vote last month, the council chose to rename a city street "Richard Pryor Place," in honor of Peoria's native son. Initially, the former council voted down the idea, citing Pryor's raunchy comedic material and drug history as reasons. Pryor currently lives in California.



WHOOPI WINS MARK TWAIN PRIZE

Comedienne/actress Whoopi Goldberg was honored with the Mark Twain Prize for Comedy last month. She is the first woman to ever receive the award. The tribute featured Harry Belafonte, Cedric the Entertainer, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Chris Rock, Chris Tucker and others, and will be broadcast on varying dates on PBS stations.



COLE TAKES THIRD TRIP DOWN AISLE

Singer/actress Natalie Cole wed Bishop Kenneth Dupree last month in Nashville. The event marked a third trip to the alter for Nat King Cole's little girl.



GLORIA FOSTER
THE MATRIX "ORACLE"
WILL BE MISSED

Acclaimed actress Gloria Foster, most recently featured in the box office hit "The Matrix' died of complications from diabetes at her home in New York last month. She was 64.
Foster starred as the Oracle -- the mystical, cookie baking guide to both Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) in the Warner Brothers hit film.
Foster was set to reprise her role in both sequels -- "Matrix Reloaded" and the untitled third installment, and while she had filmed most of her scenes for "Matrix Reloaded," nothing for the third movie had been captured yet.
Foster's character is said to be "integral" to the films and her death creates another huge hurdle (like Aaliyah's death) to be overcome for the film makers.
Gloria Foster was married to actor Clarence Williams III, but after their divorce, she never remarried.



AALIYAH BIO ALREADY SET FOR PUBLISHER

"Aaliyah: More Than a Woman" is scheduled for release in early December, according to author, Christopher John Farley.
Farley, the pop music critic for Time magazine, said he wrote the biography from interviews conducted with the singer/actress and those close to her, including her high school principal, producers Timbaland and Jermaine Dupri, and friend Beyoncé Knowles.



JORDAN UNVEILS DC EATERY

The Chicago Business Wire recently reported that basketball player turned actor Michael Jordan is set to open his latest project, "Jordans," a contemporary, fine-dining restaurant located in Washington, DC's Ronald Reagan building and International Trade Center, before the end of the year.
The menu will feature prime-aged meats and fresh seafood in a 180-seat dining room dressed in creamy white with dark millwork.
"I'll continue working here and spending a lot of time in Washington," Jordan said. "I wanted to create a place where I could relax and enjoy my time and where my friends and neighbors could also come and enjoy themselves. It is very important to support the local economy right now, so I am very proud to be opening a restaurant in Washington, DC"



UNIVERSAL STUDIOS GOES TO THE DOGS

Universal Studios have hired six dogs to protect movie stars and others visiting their lot. The dogs, trained to sniff out bombs, will have a special home built for them on the lot. The dogs are in response to the September terrorist attacks on America. In addition to filming facilities, the Universal lot houses a theme park and the offices of director Steven Spielberg.