June 5th, 2009
08:02 PM ET

The Softer Side of Bree

I just returned from the 6th Annual Inspiration Awards for Step up Women’s Network at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel where journalist Lisa Ling, Lauren Zalaznick President of NBCU Women & Lifestyle Networks and “Desperate Housewives” actress Marcia Cross were being honored.

Step Up is a non-profit group that helps women and underprivileged teen girls through professional mentorship, health education and empowerment programs. Through the organization kids who really didn’t have a shot at realizing ANY dream do now. They were articulate, poised survivors of hellish, mostly inner city lives.  Step Up is largely responsible for motivating these kids to accomplish their goal to enter college.

Inspiration Awards recipient Marcia Cross gave, in my opinion, the most moving speech. She actually pulled a “Ving Rhames”. Ok, for those of you who don’t remember, Rhames won a Golden Globe Award in 1998 for the HBO TV movie “Don King: Only in America”. He was up against the late, great Jack Lemmon who was nominated for “12 Angry Men”. Rhames became very emotional in his acceptance speech, tried to give his award to Lemmon and asked him to get on the stage.

Marcia, who grew up in Massachusetts, told a story about how as a 14 year old girl she threw herself at her drama teacher Betsey Joseph and begged her to take her to New York. So along with a few other students off she went with Joseph. It was on this trip that she saw her first Broadway play and was forever bitten by the showbiz bug. She told us Joseph taught her everything she knew about acting, giving  her large roles as well as small (much to Cross’ dismay) in school plays. Cross went on to graduate from Juilliard in New York and credits Betsey Joseph as her inspiration. She paused to collect herself several times during her speech and in the end handed her award to Joseph who was at the event.

Hugs and tears all around.  A nice way to end a work week.

So who’s been the inspiration in your life?

June 5th, 2009
06:46 PM ET

Sacha sued for stunt!

Sacha Baron Cohen is no stranger to controversy- in fact he has made a career out of it, assuming several different personas and wearing outlandish costumes.  Baron Cohen is now being sued over his involvement in a stunt which took place in May of 2007.  Richelle Olson alleges that while Baron Cohen was filming scenes for his new film Bruno, which premieres this summer, they were involved in a scuffle during a charity bingo tournament. Olson says it left her severely injured.

Her attorney, Kyle Madison says, "The actions of Mr.Cohen and those acting in concert with him have resulted in life-altering injuries to my Client. My focus is her well-being and to secure a fair, just and equitable remedy for her claims."

Universal Pictures, who is also named in the suit, released this statement to Showbiz Tonight:

“The allegations made by Richelle and Lance Olson in their complaint are completely baseless.  Filmed footage of the full encounter, which took place more than two years ago, clearly shows that Ms. Olson was never touched or in any way assaulted by Sacha Baron Cohen or any member of the production and suffered no injury.  If the Olsons elect to proceed with their frivolous action, we expect each of the defendants to be fully vindicated.”

June 5th, 2009
05:31 PM ET

Whale Watching at Arianna Huffington's House

The Animal Planet series "Whale Wars" kicks off its second season tonight, featuring more dramatic footage of Captain Paul Watson and his crew battling Japanese whale hunters.  The show has no bigger fan than blogging queen Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post.  She held a cocktail reception at her house in Los Angeles earlier in the week to help promote the new season.

I must admit I was intrigued by the idea of getting to see where she lives.  She was formerly married to a multi-millionaire (Michael Huffington) and has built a media empire of her own.  So I expected her to be ensconced in a mansion on the order of Green Acres (the 44-room palazzo built by silent film star Harold Lloyd).  Her place is smaller than Green Acres, but still a lovely home in a fashionable neighborhood above the Brentwood section of L.A.

There were a couple of hundred guests minimum (including Morgan Fairchild) and I was surprised we were practically given the run of the place– from the tastefully-decorated living room to back hallways stacked with huge numbers of books.  I was amused to see her home decorated with a number of images of our hostess - elegant photos that looked like Sears portraits for the wealthy.

Guests received a parting gift, a Chinese take-out style box containing a can labeled "whale meat".  Inside was a small bag of red licorice.

It's cool that Arianna (since I've been to her house I feel entitled to call her by her first name) is lending support to the show, which shines a light on an important topic.  And Animal Planet has returned the favor, buying ad space on The Huffington Post.

June 5th, 2009
08:51 AM ET

Will Smith remakes 'The Karate Kid'

Academy Award nominated-actress Taraji P. Henson has a new role - in Will Smith's studio's remake of "The Karate Kid." Smith's son, who starred with him in "The Pursuit of Happyness," will also have a role in the film.

Plus Sigourney Weaver is going Disney with a role in the film "You Again." CNN's KJ Matthews has more on these tidbits in today's buzz:

Filed under: Celebrities • movies • Music • Whitney Houston
June 5th, 2009
01:22 AM ET

Whitney: Sizzle this

As we reported earlier today, Whitney Houston’s long-awaited comeback album will be arriving September 1st. It’s her first studio album since 2002's "Just Whitney."

To say the least, there’s been a lot of drama since then, from her divorce from Bobby Brown to her battle with drug addiction. Her record company has put together a “sizzle reel” to promote the announcement, including behind the scenes footage from a recent photo shoot. Have a look and see what you think – is Whitney back on her feet and ready to be a big star again?

June 5th, 2009
01:09 AM ET

The man who wasn’t there

Just came back from the red carpet premiere of “The Taking of Pelham 123” in Los Angeles.

“The Taking of Pelham 123” is a modern update of the 1974 film and stars John Travolta as New York subway train hijacker who takes hostages for ransom. Denzel Washington plays the subway dispatcher Travolta’s character communicates with throughout the crisis.

The bigger premieres are usually held in Westwood and this was no exception. They pulled out all the stops, recreating the look of an actual Big Apple subway station, complete with giant train facades, route maps, and white-tiled walls. Washington was the first to arrive, which was very unusual. Standard operating procedure is for the biggest stars to get there last, right before the screening.

Turns out there was a reason for that: Washington told me he was hoping to get to the NBA Finals at the Staples Center in time for the third quarter. His wife was already there waiting for him. Behind us, crowds of UCLA college kids were screaming, “We love you, Denzel!! Denzel, you’re a god!!”

But everyone’s thoughts were really with the man who wasn’t there: John Travolta, who is very understandably taking a hiatus from the public eye to mourn the tragic death of his son Jett. Washington said he’d recently talked to Travolta, who was in “a tough situation” that he’s trying to “work through.” Denzel said he really got to know him “over the phone, over the wire” while making the film (their characters spend most of the movie interacting over the phone), and they got along “quite well,” and even sang songs. “He’s a great character and a great man.”

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