JOSEPHENE BAKER HONORED BY PARISIANS

   The mayor of Paris, France, recently dedicated a Parisian square to dancer, singer, resistance fighter and actress, Josephine Baker. The square, beside the Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris' 14th district, will now be called Place Josephine Baker. Mayor Jean Tiberi described Baker as "one of the greatest music-hall figures, but also a committed woman, a member of the resistance from the beginning and above all, a woman with a big heart." The American singer/actress first performed in Paris in 1925.


THE NAACP IMAGE AWARDS FOR 2001

   The NAACP image awards celebrate individuals who support positive change for African Americans through film, television, literature, recording, and corporations. The NAACP's 2001 Image Awards has a new executive producer in multi-award winning producer/writer Suzanne de Passe, Chairman and CEO of de Passe Entertainment, and past president of Motown Productions. "While the Image Awards has the enormous task of recognizing outstanding achievement in television, film, music and literature," said de Passe, "it is also an incredible opportunity to bring much-needed attention and recognition to artists that are making significant contributions to our culture and world. Our production team is excited about this challenge."
   While studios and networks recognize the need to address lack of diversity in the business, NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume said, "We still have a very long way to go. While some progress has occurred, much work still needs to be done to equal the playing field for qualified people of color both in front of and behind the camera. Without the chance to be recognized for their talent, Black writers, directors, actors and technicians are effectively denied the opportunity to affect the industry on a scale worthy of their ability. Our fight is to create the opportunities for African Americans and other groups to be able to green light projects that will create real and lasting diversity in television and film."
   Chris Tucker will host this year's ceremonies.


LAURYN HILL SETTLES LAWSUIT

   Singer/actress Lauryn Hill has quietly settled a lawsuit over production credit on her critically acclaimed "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" CD. No details of the settlement were released by Hill or musicians, Vada Nobles, Rasheem Pugh, Tejumold and Johari Newton, who claimed she promised them production credit, but then deserted them, listing herself as the sole producer.


IS IT VANESSA WILLIAMS OR VANESSA WILLIAMS?

   Vanessa Williams is a name currently and oddly shared by two celebrities.
Vanessa (I.) Williams, from "New Jack City," "Melrose Place" and the Showtime series "Soul Food" recently spoke out about her feelings over name-sharing with famous singer/actress Vanessa L. Williams.
   "I went to school with a number of sisters named Vanessa Williams, so there's always been a name duplication game in my life," she said. She also explained that originally the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) ruled that Vanessa L. Williams could share the name as long as she used her middle initial, but while SAG hasn't exactly gone out of its way to enforce the middle initial rule, Williams says, it's really not much an issue any more. "I think people are getting to know the difference between us. We're different people."
   Williams belives that throughout the identity crisis ordeal, no egos were involved. The two have met on occasion, share mutual friends and even sang different songs at the Grammy's one year. "We just coexist in this way," Williams says. "History will just bear it out that here are two people with the same name ... I take it as a good sign that we're doing something right."


DELLA REESE HONORED BY NATIONAL STROKE ASSOCIATION

   Actress Della Reese was honored recently at the "Stars for Stroke" event sponsored by the National Stroke Association, a voluntary health care organization focusing on stroke prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and research of stroke survivors. Reese, herself, is a stroke survivor, suffering a stroke in 1979 while appearing on The Tonight Show.


STAR TREK TO GO ON, AND ON, AND ON….

   Viacom, owner of Paramount Pictures and UPN, plans to breathe new life into its "Star Trek" franchise. A Viacom spokesman recently announced that although the current series, "Star Trek: Voyager," is due to end this season, a fifth "Trek"series is being developed to debut in the fall. Trek followers know that with each new series, the door also opens to more "Trek" movie opportunities for Paramount.
   It is unknown if former Trek stars Michael Dorn (Worf), LeVar Burton (Jordi), Tim Russ (Tuvok), Avery Brooks (Cpt. Sisko) or Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) will be asked to participate in the new series.


AFRICAN-MADE SLAVE TRADE FILM SPARKS CONTROVERSY

   Torched and burning African villages, their inhabitants captured, chained, bound to yokes that pin their heads, their freedom sold for rum, guns and gold. The captured humanity sold into slavery in Ivory Coast director Roger Gnoan M'bala's film "Adanggaman," are African. But so are the slavers.
   The historical truth of Africans enslaving Africans for profit makes his film long overdue in director Gnoan M'bala's eyes. "There is no taboo in cinema. It's up to us to talk about slavery, open the wounds of what we've always hidden and stop being puerile when we put responsibility on others," said Gnoan M'bala.
   The movie has also been shown at film festivals in Venice, Italy, Toronto, Europe and North America, sparking controversy with some offended black viewers challenging its accuracy at the Toronto festival, and some white viewers at the Venice Film Festival leaving the theater in shock.



WESLEY SNIPES FIGHTING IN VEGAS

   Wesley Snipes snapped into action mode in Las Vegas recently. The actor took on staff and security members at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino when told there had been a reservation error and he would have to change rooms. After registering his displeasure over the blunder in a brief scuffle, Snipes was subdued and placed in a Hotel security area.


BET MOVIES NOW BLACK STARZ!

   Starz Encore Group has changed the name of its premium channel BET Movies to Black Starz! Starz Encore Group became the 100% owner of the cable channel by acquiring Black Entertainment Holdings, Inc.'s interest in the joint venture group that created the channel. "For the past four years, we have enjoyed a successful joint venture with BET and with my friend and partner Bob Johnson," said John J. Sie, founder, chairman and CEO of Starz Encore. "Bob and I joined our brands together to pioneer the first Black-oriented movie channel devoted to showcasing films that celebrate the Black experience. That mission continues today. Black Starz! is an integral part of the Starz Super Pak."
   Recent studies by the Starz Encore Group have shown that African Americans are some of the heaviest consumers of movies on pay television, watching 138% more pay cable television than non-Black households. Additionally, African Americans households make up 25% of all premium cable subscriptions, spending $3 billion on cable television each year.


AHMAD AND PHYLICIA SPLIT

   Former Bill Cosby TV wife, Phylicia Rashad, has filed suit against her real-life husband, sportscaster and former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver, Bobby Moore, better known as Ahmad Rashad.
   The 52-year-old actress filed for divorce on grounds of "abandonment,'' according to a report in the Daily News.
   Ahmad and Phylicia were originally introduced to one another by non other than Bill Cosby. The couple have a 14-year-old daughter.


TERRY MCMILLAN TOO POPULAR

   Author Terry McMillan gave us "Waiting To Exhale," "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," and other titles, and now has a new book out called "A Day Late and a Dollar Short" about a family of six as told from each family member's point of view. But while book and movie audiences love her work, critics haven't been that forthcoming with their praises. About the lack of enthusiam critics have shown her work, McMillan says, "They don't want to take me seriously as a writer because I sell so many books. It's sort of like being a beautiful woman makes you dumb because you can't be smart and beautiful."


HILL HARPER STEPPING ON STAGE

   Actor Hill Harper, of hospital drama "City of Angels" and the new movie "The Visit" is scheduled to star in Jessica Hagedorn's stage production of her novel "Dogeaters." The play will premiere in New York City on March 4. Harper currently stars in the film "The Visit," with Billy Dee Williams. Harper was recently nominated for Best Actor by the IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards for the film.


DMX TURNS HIMSELF IN

   DMX, (Earl Simmons), costar in the soon to be released movie "Exit Wounds" with Steven Segal, recently agreed to abide by a judge's decision and begin serving a 15-day jail sentence in upstate New York for a combination of traffic violations and marijuana possession charges. His spokesman, Angelo Ellerbee, says DMX did the right thing by turning himself in. "He understands he's a person that is admired by millions and he wants to set the proper example."


AVA VOTES "MEN OF HONOR" BEST PATRIOTIC PICTURE

   The American Veteran Awards (AVA), founded by the Veterans Foundation Incorporated (VFI) a nationally recognized non-profit, non-political organization, announced that "Men of Honor" has been singled out as the Ava award-winner for Best Patriotic Picture over nominees that included "The Patriot," "Rules of Engagement," "Tiger Land" and "U-571." Producer Robert Teitel, together with the film's real-life hero, Carl Brashear, and members of the cast will be in attendance at the 7th annual American Veteran Awards on Friday, November 30, 2001 in Beverly Hills, California to accept the award.
   The Ava Academy of Voters consists of General and Flag Officers, Leaders of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and prominent veterans .
   "This project really has been a labor of love," said producer Teitel. "We feel honored to be recognized by the military. We are very excited to receive this award from the American Veteran Awards. This truly is an honor."


WHITESELL SPARKS PHONE WAR FOR ACTORS

   In the wake of a $700 million lawsuit filed against Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the William Morris Agency and several other talent agencies last year by the Black Promoters Association, that charged racial discrimination and anti-trust law violations, former CAA agent Patrick Whitesell has left CAA and is now a partner in the Endeavor agency, bringing with him his long client list that includes Jada Pinkett Smith, Oscar winners Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Christian Bale, Jerry O'Connell and many others whose careers are in his capable care. There is no word yet whether other high profile Whitesell clients will follow him to Endeavor or remain with CAA.
   The phone war between the rival agencies to reach and retain actors has been vicious. The remaining Whitesell clients being fought over include Jessica Alba, Jennifer Aniston, Jon Bon Jovi, Jordana Brewster, Kate Hudson, Craig Kilborn, Natasha McElhone, Alan Rickman, Gary Sinise, Jon Voight, Kimberly Williams and Sam Worthington.
   A CAA insider said the agency is so determined to keep the clients Whitesell signed that they had a battery of CAA agents on the phones trying to contact many of Whitesell's clients even before the agent had a chance to call them himself.




DGA HONORS SIDNEY POITIER

   The Directors Guild of America's African-American Steering Committee recently honored the directorial career of Academy Award winning actor, Sidney Poitier. Poitier's friends and colleagues, including Norman Jewison and Roger Spottiswoode, were on hand to share memories of Poitier's entertainment career.
   Poitier directed "Uptown Saturday Night," "Let's Do It Again," "A Piece of the Action" (all three in which he also starred), "Buck and the Preacher," "A Warm December," " Stir Crazy" with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, "Hanky Panky," "Fast Forward" and "Ghost Dad."


SOMMORE THANKING GOD FOR LAWYERS AND JURY

   Queen of comedy star, Sommore, whose real name is Lori Ann Rambough, was recently acquitted of drug conspiracy charges, according to the Washington Post. In 1998, Rambough, the sister of actress Nia Long, was accused of mailing packages of cocaine from Los Angeles to Washington as part of a drug ring. But jurors didn't believe the prosecution's case against her and found her not guilty of the charges.
   "I just thank God so much for my lawyers," Sommore told the Post. "I thank God for the jury."


CED AN ENTERTAINING "COACH?"

   Comedian Cedric the Entertainer has landed his own television show. Co-star of the WB series "The Steve Harvey Show," and member of the "King's of Comedy," Ced has been cast as the lead in the WB's new pilot, "Cedric the Coach." Ced will play the coach of the worst team in the NBA. The show is slated to premiere this fall.


HALLE BERRY AND ERIC BENET MARRIED

   Actress Halle Berry surprised guests at her website launch (hallewood.com) in February, when she introduced her fiancée, singer Eric Benet, as her husband! The duo had quietly tied the knot two weeks earlier in Los Angeles.
   Engaged in 1999, this is Berry's second marriage. She was formerly married to MLB outfielder David Justice.


STRIKE TALKS COLLAPSE

   Negotiations for a new WGA film and TV contract have collapsed.
   "The talks have broken off without a deal," a company source said.
   This bodes badly for a settlement before writers strike sometime after May 1. The contract talks fell apart nearly six weeks after they began on Jan. 22.
   The two sides are expected to return to the bargaining table for one last attempt to reach an agreement and avert a strike


PROSECUTERS TOUGHEN IN WHITNEY DRUG CASE

   Hawaiian prosecutors want a judge to set aside a court-approved agreement that allows for the dismissal of Whitney Houston's recent marijuana-possession conviction. The Hawaii County prosecutor's office says Houston did not submit a substance-abuse assessment in time for a hearing to determine whether she has complied with the original court-approved agreement.
   Through her attorneys, Houston pleaded no contest to charges of promoting a detrimental drug in the third degree back in November after airport security found an ounce of marijuana in the singer/actress' handbag. If Houston doesn't come to some kind of settlement with prosecuters, the crime is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.


METHOD RAPPER STAYING WITH ACTING

   Rap artist Method Man, currently filming the comedy "How High" in LA with fellow rapper Redman, recently made his television debut on the HBO prison drama "OZ," and followed it up by completing three more episodes of the hit show. It appears the camera likes the singer.


GOLDEN RASPBERRY LOVES TO HATE EARTH

   The Golden Raspberry Foundation recently bestowed eight "Worst" nominations on John Travolta's "Battlefield Earth," including worst picture, actor, director and screenplay. Embarrasing as the number of nominations "Battlefield Earth" achieved this year, the film did manage to avoid the "worst ever" 13 nominations presented to "Showgirls" five years ago.
   Other worst-picture nominees were Adam Sandler's "Little Nicky," "Blair Witch 2," "The Next Best Thing" and The Flintstones' "Viva Rock Vegas."


COPPOLA LENGTHENS FISHBURN'S DEBUT FILM "APOCALYPSE NOW"

   Francis Ford Coppola and editor Walter Murch have added 53 minutes to the 1979 Vietnam War epic "Apocalypse Now," which already ran to 150 minutes in its original theatrical release. The completely re-edited and expanded version, which costarred a very young new actor named Laurence Fishburn, will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May. In an interview with Reuters in Paris, Coppola said the film is "a more disturbing, sometimes funnier and more romantic film, whose historical perspective has become more forceful."


TOO MANY COOKS IN THE EDITING KITCHEN

   At a recent seminar titled "Crossing Cultures, Pushing Boundaries: Making Movies in and out of Hollywood," held in Santa Monica, veteran British director John Irvin ("Hamburger Hill") said one of the biggest problems facing directors working for studios and independents alike is too many executives with creative input.
   He complained that when a project is finished and is in the editing room, "everyone feels entitled to rework (it) and eventually remake the film you shot."
   Irvin was one of five veteran directors from around the world at the American Film Market seminar who spoke on culture clashes and boundaries inside and outside Hollywood. "Here, everyone has mogulitis," Irvin quipped. "There are mini-moguls, major moguls and lots of wannabe moguls"