September 16th, 2009
10:51 PM ET

Two more celeb deaths, with emotional attachments

I don't want to become known as the celebrity death writer around here - the reaction to the title alone of my "Summer of Death" blog entry two weeks ago drew enough flak to turn anyone off the subject - but today's passings of two well-known figures from the '60s gave me pause ... and not just because I enjoyed their work.

I first saw the wonderfully gifted character actor Henry Gibson as the head Nazi in "The Blues Brothers," grumbling to his aide to get Jake and Elwood's license plate after the boys had forced his marchers off a bridge into the water.  But my parents, and millions of others, first saw and enjoyed him on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In," as he spouted offbeat poetry amid all of the groovy non sequiturs.

Likewise, my folks were listening to singer and activist Mary Travers of Peter, Paul & Mary before I was even born, and while they didn't try to make me love folk music as I grew up, it was always there if I was interested.  They also made sure my young daughter didn't miss out on the trio's magical music, getting her hooked on their kid-friendly "Peter, Paul & Mommy" CD early.

So while I'll miss both performers for the delight they brought me, I know the pangs I feel at their passing, at ages 73 and 72, respectively, are largely because I connect them with my parents.  I'm blessed to have my folks still living, still together, and close by, and I don't need two of their contemporaries passing away for me to appreciate them.  But the news did make me pick up the phone and call them - a silver lining to a doubly sad day, and one of which I'm sure both Gibson and Travers would approve.

September 16th, 2009
05:42 PM ET

Celebrities on marriage: boys will be boys

On "Showbiz Tonight" you may have seen the regular segment where a celebrity talks about how he or she makes a marriage work. It's a question we put to some big names, when we get the chance.

I've discovered a trend has emerged that the men will all give a version of the same answer. For example, I spoke with Matt Damon last night at the premiere for "The Informant" and toward the end of the interview I put the question to him. He said that the key for him was he picked the right woman, but then he added that men need to "listen, and practice these three words, 'you're right honey'." It's not a surprising answer, Marc Anthony told me roughly the same thing once. (If you were wondering it did come a couple of minutes after Jennifer Lopez had left the room).

Thinking that maybe I just hit a couple of guys with the question and happened to get a similar answer I chatted with Jen Gerardo,  the producer who regularly works on this segment. She told me that married celebrity women who get the question tend to come up with a more thoughtful answer, while the men tend to go for the cheap laugh with a "yes Dear" answer. I get it. But,  I'm not sure what it says about married men overall, that we instinctively understand that we can get a laugh by going with the cliche (disclaimer time here - I just got married this summer and I've already made the joke among friends more a few times).

So, when you hear the most famous and successful men in the world say the secret to a good marriage is "yes dear", do you buy it? Or, is there a better answer for this question?

September 16th, 2009
05:28 PM ET

Chris Brown does community service

Chris Brown has been spotted doing his court-ordered community service.

The singer was sentenced in August to serve five years probation and to spend more than 1,400 hours in "labor-oriented service" for assaulting his pop star girlfriend, Rihanna.

CNN affiliate WTVR posted photos of Brown clearing brush at the Richmond Police horse stables in the singer's home state of Virginia.

On Wednesday, the singer was shown wearing a reflective vest and red cap working in the area around the stables. Hours before Brown posted “on my way to community service...” on his Twitter account.

The singer must also complete domestic violence counseling and the judge also put a restraining order in place, requiring Brown to stay 50 yards away from Rihanna, 10 yards if the two are at the same industry event.

The judge issued a strict warning to Brown not to violate the order, which remains in place until 2014. During an appearance on "Larry King Live," Brown expressed remorse for the incident and said he still loves Rihanna.

Filed under: Celebrities • Chris Brown • Music
September 16th, 2009
02:06 PM ET

An open letter to Paula Abdul

Dear Paula,

First off, we're really sorry to see you leave "American Idol." Even though we don't quite understand why the reported $3 million you were making on the show wasn't enough, we respect your decision. And yes, we are looking forward to seeing you host the return of “VH1 Divas" on Thursday night. Because we really do love you.

And it's because we love you that we feel it's time for some tough love and blunt advice: Fire your team. Whether it was your PR people, manager, agent, or gardener who advised you during your "American Idol" contract talks, someone clearly and repeatedly dropped the ball. And as your business-minded ex-colleague Simon Cowell would agree, somebody on Team Paula deserves to get sent packing. Need convincing? We count at least three colossal goofs that were made on your behalf in recent weeks:

1.) In July, presumably during the height of your salary talks with "American Idol," your manager told the Los Angeles Times that you might not return to the show. If that was a ploy to rally the American people into a "Save Paula" frenzy that would have folks jamming phone lines, taking to the streets and packing town hall meetings until "Idol's" producers showed you the money, then it backfired big time. Instead, that defiant public statement during what had been private salary talks probably made both sides dig in their heels. Your fate on "American Idol" likely was sealed right there and then. Strike One.

2.) To announce your departure from "American Idol," you opted not to work with your former employers to issue the standard "Paula-has-decided-to-pursue-other-opportunities" press release. No, that would have just let everyone save face - and left open the door for you to come back later. Instead, you blindsided your "Idol" colleagues (and closed, barricaded and nailed shut the door to your return) by announcing your "Idol" departure in a short Twitter post. Now, Paula, this one was mostly your bad. But it was your team's job to save you from yourself - even if it had meant hiding your BlackBerry. Strike Two.

3.) The day Ellen DeGeneres was announced as your replacement, "Showbiz Tonight" asked your publicists for a comment. Their response: "No statement from Paula. She has moved on." This was the most baffling mistake yet! A warm statement of congratulations and best wishes would have made you look classy and cost you nothing. Instead, you looked petty. Yes, your people eventually did release a more gracious statement. But a star of your caliber needs a team that gets it right the first time. Strike Three.

We know that you're an incredibly sweet person. So if you find it hard to summon the ruthlessness to fire your team and save your career, just re-read this letter. And then ask yourself one simple question: what would Simon do?

To paraphrase one of our favorite songs of yours: "We're Forever Your Fans."

September 16th, 2009
11:49 AM ET

Your pop culture cheat sheet

Here's what's going on in the world of entertainment today:

  • "The Hangover's" Zach Galifianakis is quickly becoming a hot property in Hollywood. Variety reports that he's looking at starring in the upcoming movie "Funny Story," a coming-of-age story, which sounds a lot like 1999's "Girl Interrupted."
  • "Spider-Man 4" has set a date: May 5, 2011, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Sony announced that the movie will be simultaneously released in Imax theaters on that day.
  • Ron Howard has a new TV project at Fox, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Previously, he brought "Arrested Development" to the network, which became a critical favorite, and Emmy winner. The show will be a workplace comedy taking place at the IRS, and it's sure to invite comparisons to "The Office" (not to mention the fact that the first episode's writer Brent Forrester, used to work on that show).
  • Horror classic "Night of the Living Dead" is the latest remake heading to theaters, and it will be in 3D as well, according to The Hollywood Reporter. However, it will not have the involvement of director George Romero.
September 16th, 2009
11:08 AM ET

Tyra Banks and 'Powerful Women'

Tyra Banks is feeling her power. The former supermodel has been up front about her desire to become a business leader and role model. She's got her talk show during the day, "America's Next Top Model" in prime time, an online magazine and a desire to spread the word whenever possible.

Tyra Banks

On Monday, she kicked off Fortune's "Most Powerful Women Summit" in Aviara, California, co-hosting the first evening of a conference that honored women business leaders from all over the world. (Fortune, like CNN, is a unit of Time Warner.) In a speech, she talked about putting her brain before her much remarked-about body:

"I was in a spa in New York City and a woman was with her 4-year-old daughter. She said, ‘Sweetie, that's Tyra Banks. She used to be a supermodel, and she learned to be smart.’  The woman failed to realize that I had become a supermodel because I played a smart game.

I had a strategy and a clear plan to make it to the top. Just like you mentees here tonight. I didn't learn to be smart - I already was, just like the 12 of you here tonight."

Of course, Banks doesn't ignore what helped get her the TV shows - looks - though with a twist. Last week she showed off her real hair on "Tyra." And on "America's Next Top Model," the season is focusing on women 5-foot-7 or shorter - much shorter than many models nowadays.

What do you think of Tyra Banks? Is she "smart" - or are brains so much window dressing?

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