August 11th, 2008
03:18 PM ET

Admiring Michael Phelps (and feeling a little dirty about it)

The Olympics have already produced some amazing images - and last night might have been the finest yet.

Jason Lezak’s incredible finish in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay swimming event, which enabled Michael Phelps to continue his quest for a record amount of Olympic gold, was phenomenal. Lezak, swimming the final lap for the U.S. team, finished the race a slim eight-hundredths of a second ahead of Alain Bernard and the French team. The U.S. quartet - Lezak, Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale and Cullen Jones - set a new world record in the process.

But, for us, that spectacular finish wasn’t the image that lingered. It was Phelps’ victory dance, arms thrust in the air, showing his chiseled body to perfection. Instead of wondering just how Lezak saved the day, many women (us, for example) were left wondering just how Phelps could have molded himself into such an incredible physical specimen in his skintight Speedo.

And we realized how young the athletes are, and how old we have become.

Now, is it so terrible to admire the athletes for their bodies as well as for their skills? After all, our partner publication, Sports Illustrated, has showcased female athletes in swimsuits for years - even if the swimsuit isn’t their usual uniform (or, for that matter, isn’t made for swimming).

And yet … can you feel exhilarated and dirty at the same time? Exactly how old is too old to appreciate the physical gifts that athletes have been blessed with?

- Audrey Irvine and Jo Parker, CNN


Filed under: Uncategorized
August 11th, 2008
11:46 AM ET

Isaac Hayes, 1942-2008

Of course all the Isaac Hayes obituaries are leading with “Theme from ‘Shaft,’ ” the No. 1 song that won Hayes an Oscar and Grammy and became his most famous hit.

Isaac Hayes was an accomplished writer, producer and singer.

And then they mention his performance as Chef in “South Park,” which earned Hayes a whole new generation of fans (many of whom can recite the lyrics to “Chocolate Salty Balls” from memory).

But let’s not forget about Hayes’ other contributions: writer, producer, and - yes - fashion plate.

Through his involvement with Stax Records, the Memphis label that was home to Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Carla Thomas and Booker T. and the MGs, Hayes - with partner David Porter - created some of the most indelible soul classics: “Soul Man,” “Hold On, I’m Comin’ ” (which, legend has it, was inspired by a bathroom break), “I Thank You.”

He then expanded the genre with his 1969 album “Hot Buttered Soul,” which consisted of four songs - one of them a monumental 18-minute version of Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” “With the release of this album, Motown suddenly seemed manufactured and James Brown a bit too theatrical,” writes Allmusic.com’s Jason Birchmeier.

And the Hayes look? Unforgettable: proudly bald, heavily jeweled, wearing flowing outfits befitting an African king. “It was almost as if he was made to be a musical god,” writes The Associated Press’ Nekesa Mumbi Moody.

We can dig it.

- Todd Leopold, CNN.com Entertainment Producer


Filed under: Uncategorized
August 6th, 2008
10:33 AM ET

How Paris Hilton's McCain response came about

Paris Hilton is often thought of as a cartoon, the prototypical shallow celebrity. That was certainly one point of John McCain’s commercial featuring her and Britney Spears (and likening Barack Obama to both).

Paris Hilton has responded to John McCain's ad with her own video.

But upon seeing the McCain ad, director Adam McKay (“Step Brothers,” “Anchorman”) thought of Hilton differently - as an American citizen.

"I was literally in my car and thought Paris must respond. It's her duty as a citizen,” McKay told CNN. “Within three hours I was on the phone with her and she was into it.”

McKay is also co-founder of FunnyOrDie.com, the comedy video Web site that posted the Hilton video. He observed that the Hilton response was a natural reaction to McCain’s ad.

"McCain made one huge mistake. He drifted into the world of pop culture. And that's Paris' world. She owns that world,” he said. “So now he gets the blowback.”

Now that the Hilton video (as expected) has received coverage on mainstream media outlets such as CNN, McKay has bigger plans.

“Our next goal is a town hall style debate between Paris, McCain and that sea creature that washed up in Montauk," he said.

And could there be more videos?

“We're praying that Obama does an ad with Screech from ‘Saved by the Bell,’ ” he said. Then he twisted a knife. “Or maybe McCain's next ad about the trillions we've spent on the Iraq war while our economy falls apart will have Janet Jackson or Paula Abdul in it."

- Jennifer Wolfe and Todd Leopold, CNN


Filed under: Celebrities
August 4th, 2008
11:07 AM ET

The voice of the team

Atlanta Braves announcer Skip Caray did not suffer fools gladly, though he had to deal with plenty of them.

There was the postgame caller who couldn’t understand how a player could receive an RBI for a solo home run. After a few attempted explanations, an exasperated Skip finally said, “I’ve told you thrice, sir,” and abruptly hung up.

There were the idiocies of the late-‘80s Braves, such as an attempt to play one-season wonder Omar Moreno long after his one good season, or the eruptions of gopher balls given up by the patchwork pitching staff. Skip never sugarcoated the dismal play.

And then there was the usual foolishness involved in broadcasting sports events, the side details and odd plays of Braves baseball and Atlanta Hawks basketball and even the strange sport of motoball (essentially soccer on motorcycles) at the 1986 Ted Turner-created Goodwill Games. Skip - he was always "Skip" - called it as he saw it.

We loved him for it. (iReport: Send us your memories of Skip Caray)

Skip Caray died Sunday. He was 68.

There’s something about a longtime local sports announcer - particularly one who works radio, particularly one who works baseball’s lazy summer nights and Sunday afternoons - that gets into the soul of his listener. He talks directly to you, even when you can hear that voice out of every car radio and apartment window in town. The Dodgers’ Vin Scully, the Cardinals’ Jack Buck, the Tigers’ Ernie Harwell, Bob Prince and Red Barber and Skip’s dad Harry Caray - it’s a rare breed.

The best of today’s announcers - the Giants’ Jon Miller and the Dodgers’ Charley Steiner and the Indians’ Tom Hamilton - have that same character, describing the game as if it and you are the only things that matter.

For Braves fans, it was Skip (and I mean no disrespect to Joe Simpson, Pete Van Wieren and Ernie Johnson). It was Skip who had the last word on Sid Bream’s pennant-winning slide in the 1992 National League playoffs. It was Skip who told Atlanta fans the 1995 team had just won the World Series. It was Skip who announced the hometowns of foul ball-catching fans, Skip who encouraged listeners to walk their dogs if the home team was being crushed, Skip who reveled in the occasional off-color joke.

He sounded like broadcasting baseball games was the best job in the world, and he was having the time of his life doing it. Because of his enthusiasm, so did his listeners.

Thanks, Skip.

- Todd Leopold, CNN.com Entertainment Producer


Filed under: Uncategorized
August 1st, 2008
11:37 AM ET

Are the Black Crowes 'Jealous' of 'Harder'?

Did Gretchen Wilson rip off the Black Crowes?

CMT reports that attorneys for the Robinson brothers’ band are coming after the "Redneck Woman" singer for copyright infringement. The Crowes’ point (or that of their attorneys): the Wilson song "Work Hard, Play Harder," used in a promo for TNT’s "Saving Grace," has some strong similarities to the Crowes’ "Jealous Again." (TNT, it should be noted, is a unit of Time Warner, as is CNN.)

Wilson's label, Sony, had no comment to CNN on behalf of Wilson, but Pete Angelus, longtime manager of The Black Crowes, had this to say: "We find the musical verses of Wilson's song to be such an obvious example of copyright infringement that I expect all parties to reach a relatively quick resolution to avoid litigation."

What do you think? Here are links to Wilson’s song and the Crowes’ 1990 tune.

- Jennifer Wolfe, CNN Entertainment Supervising Producer


Filed under: Uncategorized
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