Friday, March 7, 2008

Jack Nicholson Exclusive, Part Two: Actor Had Hoped To Have A 'Fun Talk' With Heath Ledger About The Joker

'The town is very sad on his behalf,' he says of late actor; Nicholson also talks about his desire to work with the Coen brothers.

A conversation with Jack Nicholson meanders in the best way possible. References to philosopher Eric Hoffer and Benjamin Franklin somehow dovetail seamlessly with anecdotes about John Huston and Katherine Heigl. Such is the life and mind of a true American original.

In part one of our interview with Nicholson, the 70-year-old actor expounded on his admiration and support for Senator Hillary Clinton. Here, in the concluding section of our conversation, Nicholson talks about political aspirations for himself and his longtime friend Warren Beatty, what category he's frustrated with at the Oscars, and his personal connection to the tragic death of Heath Ledger.

MTV: We've been talking a lot about the political process, and I'm surprised to hear you as optimistic as you are.

Jack Nicholson: Absolutely. I believe in the whole process pretty firmly. Democracy is a new thing in civilization. This march of humanity towards freedom is an ongoing thing. My favorite guy never ran for office, Benjamin Franklin. And he was for staying for [part of] England! He came around late. You have to be ready to change your mind. We were wrong on global warming. We were wrong on dope. The only guy that ever agreed with me on [legalizing] dope was William F. Buckley. And that shocked me so deeply, I couldn't believe it. [He laughs.] I like to reduce things down. One of the things you can do to solve energy is solve traffic. We burn so much gasoline sitting at traffic lights! But this is so far removed from the presidency. Let's get away from demographics and a bit more towards a meritocracy.

MTV: Have you ever considered running for public office?

Nicholson: I like my job.

MTV: You've never considered it for a second?

Nicholson: If you're probing my fantasies, I always wanted to be the older friend of the president who would give them a different slant on the news of the day.

MTV: Your good friend Warren Beatty seemed to seriously consider running for office in the past.

Nicholson: If he ever did, of course, I'd support him, but in private counsel I remind him we have the best job. Politics has been in Warren's blood from childhood on. He's much more socially connected with politicians than me. I wish they'd stop calling us "Hollywood nitwits." They can't get along without us. We've got our share of nitwits. I've been called a "woolly headed intellectual," neither of which is accurate. I only wish I was woolly headed.

MTV: Did you have a good time at the Oscars?

Nicholson: Yes, it's very relaxing when you're not nominated.

MTV: You're kind of the living, breathing embodiment of the Oscars at this point. Did its lackluster ratings sadden you in any way?

Nicholson: It doesn't sadden me. I like the spirit of the Oscars. I think what happened this year was the Oscars had an indigenous quality. The acting categories were tremendous. The pictures themselves were not necessarily pictures that the public connected with. I like the Oscars because it's not exactly the way I want it. [He laughs.] It's basically good for everybody. Every kind of actor is represented in there. I do think there are too many other awards shows. There are too many self-congratulations.

MTV: Is there anything wrong with the ceremony itself?

Nicholson: For instance, the song in my picture ["The Bucket List"], John [Mayer]'s song ["Say"], was a very good song. As far as the show goes, I don't know how they get the song nominees! You could make a living lampooning them. There are always good songs in the movies. I don't know how they get to that list. That I can criticize. If you're going to have musical numbers, let's get some good songs.

MTV: I just hope they don't flip the emergency switch with the Oscars because of the poor ratings. The Oscars should remain as they are, shouldn't they?

Nicholson: Yes. I once asked Mr. [John] Huston why he was very ardent for them, and he said something that covers it for me: "Out of respect for those who came before me."

MTV: Did any of the young talent on display there impress you?

Nicholson: I like Katherine Heigl. I liked "Knocked Up." She's an up-and-coming female. I thought Casey Affleck was tremendous in ["The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"]. We made a lot of good films in Hollywood this year. We just didn't make that one. The Coen brothers are a couple guys I want to work with. Did they serve Cormac McCarthy at his best? I don't know. Tommy Lee Jones, I'm crazy about him. His part was central in the book and not central in the movie. I vote for myself. That's all I've learned. Early on in grammar school, I lost an election about a painting because I voted for the other guy. I said, "I'm not doing that anymore."

MTV: Have you ever discussed working with the Coens?

Nicholson: We've talked. We've had some great meetings. I kind of razzed them as they walked by and said, "I'm waiting for you guys. Don't you want to make any money?"

MTV: When we spoke last, we talked about Batman, but it was before this tragedy with Heath Ledger.

Nicholson: That was horrible. I had an Ambien experience. I don't react well to sleeping pills. Someone said, "Try this, there's no hangover." And I got an emergency call in the middle of the night and had forgotten I'd taken one. I fell asleep at the wheel about a hundred yards from my house. A couple blocks in either direction and I'd have been in a really bad accident. When the news first came out and I heard [sleeping pills were involved] — I've tried to warn people.

MTV: Is there a lesson to be learned from what happened?

Nicholson: One of the things I'd know doctors would like is good feedback in their direction. If you do take a pill, have the presence of mind to check yourself out and see how it's actually acting so you can give feedback to the medical person.

MTV: How long ago was your incident?

Nicholson: That's got to be three or four years [ago]. I didn't know Mr. Ledger, but the town is very sad on his behalf.

MTV: You'd never met him?

Nicholson: No, I'd never met him. I would have tried to have a fun talk with him about the Joker.

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.

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High School: New University Offers Classes In 'Cannabusiness'

Students can take classes in growing, selling, baking with marijuana; DEA questions school's message.

In 2001's notorious weed anthem "Because I Got High," Afroman recalled, "I was gonna go to class, before I got high/ I coulda cheated and I coulda passed, but I got high/ I'm taking it next semester and I know why (Why man?)/ 'Cause I got high, because I got high, because I got high."

If this becomes a problem for students at a new trade school in California, however, chances are their professors will cut them some slack. Class is now in session at Oaksterdam University, a downtown Oakland institute that offers a full cannabis curriculum.

For about $75 a pop, Oaksterdam (a play on weed-friendly city Amsterdam) hosts two to three-hour courses in cooking and baking with cannabis, the political and legal history of the drug, "cannabusiness" and a hands-on course in pot cultivation, among others.

But prospective students with impure intentions need not apply. "Most people are really intimidated when they first get here," the university's chancellor, Danielle Schumacher, told MTV News. "They don't realize how serious this is until they start taking classes."

Oaksterdam University, which opened last November in response to a budding medical-marijuana industry in the area, is meant to prepare students for future work in dispensaries — stores that patients can go to with a doctor's note to get cannabis (there are about 400 in California). Others take classes in hopes of opening their own dispensaries, or to learn how to grow and sell weed commercially.

Many students like Ilia Gvozdenovic also study there to get more into pro-cannabis activism. Gvozdenovic, who jokingly calls the classes "way cool," told MTV News he was "shocked and amazed" at how advanced and accepted the cannabis industry is within the Oakland community. "My ultimate goal is to see acceptance of medical marijuana by the federal government in all states," he added.

But this might take a while. Although a majority of Californians passed a proposition in 1996 to legalize medical marijuana, the federal government has not yet acknowledged it. In 2004, Oakland residents also passed Measure Z, which says that the city of Oakland should regulate and tax cannabis for medical and private use. It also says that implementing cannabis laws should be the lowest priority for police officers. According to OaksterdamInfo, however, "since legal weed use is not recognized on a federal level, federal agencies such as the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] continue to confiscate weed and shut down dispensaries."

While he could not comment on whether or not any action will be taken against the school, Michael Chapman, an assistant agent in charge with the DEA's San Francisco office, told MTV News that "[Oaksterdam University] is a concern because of the message it's sending to the community."

But Schumacher says that the message that Oaksterdam is sending is just fine. "Our school and the dispensaries have been helping to keep the streets of downtown Oakland clean," she argued. "The dispensaries have security teams and staff that want to improve the neighborhood. The weed shops and university have also been bringing lots of people to the area."

While Schumacher does admit that some people may come to the university for the wrong reasons (i.e. to learn how to grow marijuana to sell illegally), she says that they are surprised to learn how much more money they can make (about $50,000 to $100,000 per year) and what protection they will have if they sell it legally.

"Most people who come to Oaksterdam University have good intentions," Schumacher said. "And I'm sure anyone who doesn't will change their mind."

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Hillary Clinton's New Momentum: How Did She Pull It Off?

Big wins in Ohio and Texas are giving new life to senator's once-floundering campaign.

After getting a lot of that red, white and blue confetti in her hair and making the victory rounds of nearly every major morning show (looking considerably more pleased than Barack Obama), Hillary Clinton finally has cause to celebrate. She's done what many pundits thought was impossible: revived her huffing-and-puffing campaign, with wins in the delegate-rich primaries of Ohio and Texas. So the candidate who, as recently as Tuesday morning, some pundits were pressuring to drop out of the race has proven once again that she's plenty to contend with. Hillary Clinton: from shoo-in to underdog to comeback kid in about six months flat.

So, after 12 consecutive wins by Obama, how did she pull it off? Here are some of the ways the senator was able to turn her campaign around, regaining enough momentum to fight another round in one of the most closely watched bids for the Democratic nomination in recent history ...

5. Getting Scrappy

It's no secret that early on in the race, Clinton presumed victory. According to both her camp and most media outlets, she was the heir apparent to the Democratic Party. The nomination was hers to lose. This presumption proved both wrong and dangerous, as her camp ultimately did not have a long-term plan to fund what would become a much more drawn-out campaign. (Clinton lent $5 million of her own money to the effort in late January.) Her early front-runner status may also have been the reason some members of the press found her less accessible — and less hungry — than Team Obama, which was perceived as taking an appealingly grassroots, activism-driven approach. This may have been a major reason it was not until her devastating third-place loss in Iowa — mainly because of young and independent voters — that Clinton began seriously pursuing the youth vote.

But a strange turnaround began to take place. Once Clinton began to lose — and lose big, as her consecutive losses began to rack up — she took on a new role in the public eye: underdog. She became more passionate in tone and seemed to speak more frequently of her willingness to "fight" on behalf of the American people. She developed a kind of hard-won, slightly tuckered-out confidence as a result of this struggle, and voters responded to someone more clearly in need of their support.

4. Focusing on Security

Launching herself as the candidate most capable of leading our armed forces set the tone for the stoic Clinton some voters have had trouble relating to.

But once it became clear that John McCain would be the Republican nominee, Clinton returned to her earlier emphasis on national security. She reminded voters that the next president would be a wartime president, and that more than 30 retired admirals and generals have thrown her their support. And she began running a much-talked-about TV spot that played off of parents' fears for their family's safety in a post-9/11 era. "It's 3 a.m.," said the voiceover, "and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House, and it's ringing. Something's happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call."

The approach seems to be working: Exit polls showed that voters in Ohio and Texas overwhelmingly saw Clinton as more qualified to become commander in chief.

3. It's the Economy, Stupid

As it seems more and more likely that our country is headed into a recession — and as this issue receives increasing media attention — the economy, rather than the Iraq war, is emerging as the leading issue in this election. In exit polls, 60 percent of Democratic voters in Ohio and more than half in Texas ranked it as their leading concern. And this week, they demonstrated their belief in Clinton as the one to correct the hard times that lie ahead.

A lot may be at stake for the Democratic Party with this issue. While national security is McCain's strong point, he's unproven where the economy is concerned, leaving room for the Democratic nominee to win over undecided and independent voters. If Obama is unable to brand himself as the candidate who can dig us out of this financial hole, it could become a real hurdle for him as we approach the convention.

2. Playing Tough

While Clinton's long been portrayed as the bad cop to Obama's good cop, her on-the-offensive stance paid off big in Ohio. After dismissive talk of Clinton throwing "everything but the kitchen sink" at Obama in the lead-up to this week's primaries, her swipes at his foreign policy swung voters who were undecided. In both states, Clinton carried voters who picked their candidate within three days of the primary — in Texas, by as much as 2 to 1.

If this were a return to old-school politics — in contrast to Obama's reputation for taking the political high road — it was also a return to pretty effective politics. This also raises the question of whether Obama can handle the kind of negative attacks the Democratic nominee can undoubtedly expect from McCain.

1. Finding Her Identity

In trying to navigate the pitfalls of being a powerful woman in the American spotlight — the pantsuits, the spontaneous "laughter," the cookies (remember Bill's first term?) — Clinton has tried hard to warm up her public persona. But along the way, it became hard to tell which side would make an appearance at any given debate. In late February, she used her closing remarks in the Austin, Texas, debate to announce, in heartwarming tones, how she was "so honored" to be campaigning alongside Obama. But the very next day, she was crying, "Shame on you!" to the Illinois senator for mailing out misleading information about her health care plan. Being rigid in large arenas can be hazardous for any politician, but being unpredictable — and therefore inauthentic — may be worse. How are voters to feel that they know the "real you"?

Recent appearances, however, have revealed a more confident Hillary, at ease in her own skin. When last weekend, just days before the primaries, "Saturday Night Live" opened its show with comedienne Amy Poehler's impression of the senator, Clinton herself appeared to give her official "editorial response" to the skit — and in the process, finally owned up to just how socially awkward her laugh can be. The appearance went over big, most likely because few viewers could believe that Hillary would be able to take the joke. And on the eve of the primaries, Clinton stopped by "The Daily Show" — and jokingly admitted to Stewart that it was "pretty pathetic" for her to appear on his show on such an important night.

Confident, comfortable and a self-deprecating sense of humor? Has Clinton finally earned voters' sympathy?

Clinton is now clearly in for the long haul, but critical questions remain: Will her new momentum actually be able to stop Obama? What will happen in the next major primary, on April 22 in Pennsylvania? And, after all the buzz about the primaries, will the Democratic nominee actually have to be decided by superdelegates?

Check back here at MTVNews for the latest on the 2008 presidential campaign.

Get informed! Head to Choose or Lose for nonstop coverage of the 2008 presidential election, including everything from the latest news on the candidates to on-the-ground multimedia reports from our 51 citizen journalists, MTV and MySpace's Presidential Dialogues, and much more.

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Amy Adams Talks About 'Miss Pettigrew,' 'Enchanted' Sequel ... And Reveals Her Crush On Lee Pace?

'He's so charming,' actress gushes about 'Pettigrew' co-star.

Even when she's not the star of her own fairy tale, Amy Adams can't help but be enchanting. The Oscar nominee first won over film critics as a pregnant motormouth in "Junebug" and then the box office as a cartoon princess in "Enchanted". Adams is at it again in "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day," where her latest loveable character is a flighty actress named Delysia Lafosse who gets unexpected help from her new "social secretary," actually an unemployed governess named Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand). Like Adams, Delysia is in demand — she has not one but three suitors, each of whom expect her to make her choice immediately. When so many people want her, what does Adams want for herself? We caught up with the actress to talk screwball movies, pregnancies and other excellent adventures ...

MTV: Life's a mess for both of the main characters in this movie, but in the course of one day, everything works out for both of them. So, if you had a perfect day like that, what would you want to happen?

Amy Adams: A massage, that's what I want! (Laughs.) I think I'd want somebody to help me live in the moment a little bit more, instead of being such a worrier. I'm optimistic, but I'm still a realist, so I tend to always go with the worst-case scenario, just in preparation. That's what I have in common with Delysia — she's always in survival mode. It'd be nice if someone made that go away.

MTV: What do you worry about?

Adams: Everything. It's not like I have to worry, but things are on my mind that can distract me from things in the present. I worry about things I shouldn't worry about, that I don't need to be thinking about, like, what will the world be like for my children? And I don't have children! I think about my future children often.

MTV: This story this movie is based on dates back before World War II — the golden age of "screwball comedies," classic films of directors like Preston Sturges and stars like Carole Lombard. Do you think there's more of a need for movies like that in times of turmoil?

Adams: Absolutely. I think it's human nature to seek out positivity to balance out negative things. I don't know if films are doing it as much as they used to, though, since people turn to magazines and other forms of entertainment for that kind of distraction.

I grew up loving old films, so I had this romanticized feeling of Hollywood. I thought it would be so glamorous to be an actress in that time. I wanted Delysia to be somebody who was acting like an actress, you know? She's acting like somebody in a movie, because every day for her is a chance to shine, a chance to be noticed. There's a real desperation behind her, driven by the bad times: the Depression in America, and the reality of the world going to war.

MTV: Do you think she has something in common with Giselle, your character in "Enchanted"? They both live in a fantasy world, in a way.

Adams: Giselle is the exact opposite. She's much more authentic. She's not putting a thing on. Delysia is putting it all on. You see glimpses of who she truly is, and that's what Guinevere sees in her — that glimpse of the girl she was before she made all those decisions that have led her to where she is.

MTV: So you might say that Delysia is disenchanted?

Adams: You could say that! She's just struggling to get by. She's struggling to keep all the balls in the air, because if one falls, they all fall. She's definitely an opportunist, and she definitely is manipulative. But her intentions are based purely on her survival instinct.

MTV: There are things in the real world that Delysia knows that Giselle, in "Enchanted," is only beginning to understand. What do you think she'd have to learn in the proposed sequel for "Enchanted"? She probably doesn't even know you have to have sex to have babies — she probably thinks they just magically appear.

Adams: (Laughs.) I hope we don't explore that! That's not quite right for that audience. I don't know where they're planning to go with the sequel. The first film was discovering who she is, so we've seen that. I'd be curious to see what's next.

MTV: Patrick Dempsey told us he'd like to see her get pregnant or have an orgasm for the first time.

Adams: I'm sure Patrick would love to see that! (Laughs.) That would be a lot of fun to explore.

MTV: A lot of Disney films have become Broadway productions — "The Little Mermaid" just opened up. Do you think we'll ever see "Enchanted" on Broadway?

Adams: It would be very cool, but I'm not sure if I would be returning as Giselle. I would like to see "Miss Pettigrew" on Broadway! There's that one musical number in it now, and I think there's room for more.

MTV: Is there any room for musical numbers in "Night at the Museum 2," your next picture? What historical figure are you going to be? We're betting it's either Amelia Earhart ...

Adams: I'm not going to tell ... (Editor's note: Adams was announced as Earhart shortly after this interview.)

MTV: ... or Joan of Arc, the way Joan Wiedlin was in "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure."

Adams: I liked "Bill & Ted's"! That's the second time that's come up today, how weird! We were talking about boy flicks — what's an example of a boy flick versus a chick flick — and I was saying I don't think "Miss Pettigrew" is a chick flick; that it's unfair, just because two females are driving the plot and it's from a female perspective, that it's considered a chick flick.

MTV: Maybe it's actually a boy flick — there are more boys in it than girls. Delysia alone has three of them.

Adams: The boys are himbos, is what we've decided.

MTV: The boys are the ones driving the plot in a way, because they're the one insisting she make a decision.

Adams: And Lee Pace [who plays Delysia's brooding lover Michael] is just so amazing. He's so charming ...

MTV: Kind of like a young Clive Owen.

Adams: Yes! There's such a masculinity to him, and a real throwback feel. (Dreamily) He's so tall and substantial ...

MTV: I take it you like him?

Adams: Yes, I do. (Blushing.) Can you tell?

Check out everything we've got on "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day."

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.

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'American Idol' Producer OKs David Hernandez's Stripper Past; Show Keeps Mum On Danny Noriega Video

'We're never judgmental about what people do to earn a living,' Ken Warwick says.

The good news for David Hernandez is that his spot on "American Idol" is not in jeopardy because of his now-highly publicized past as a nude male stripper. First, on Tuesday night, judge Simon Cowell said the 24-year-old Arizona singer was one of the best in the competition and that he's a shoo-in for the top 12. Then, also on Tuesday, one of the show's executive producers, Ken Warwick, spoke to TVGuide and said Hernandez can stay as long as viewers want him.

Warwick said Hernandez's past as an employee at the Phoenix male strip club Dick's Cabaret — where he reportedly gave lap dances and performed fully nude for the club's "mostly gay" clientele until at least August — would not make "any difference" on whether or not he stays on the show. "The truth is, we're never judgmental about what people do to earn a living," Warwick told the Web site. "They've got to put food in people's mouths. We've had strippers on the show before. Nikki McKibbon was one in [season] 1. ... If it were some sort of heavy porn, then maybe we'd have to take action. But certainly not on this."

Warwick said producers were not aware of Hernandez's past before the rumors of his previous gig began surfacing last week, and even if they had been, it wouldn't have mattered. "There are a lot of people I know who'd love to have the opportunity just to make a better living by taking their clothes off," he said. But Warwick said he does feel bad for the show contestants who are suddenly thrust in the spotlight only to see their past dug up and put on display for the world. "David Hernandez, whatever you say, is a nice guy. And he can sing. He's got a great voice. He deserves to be there, as far as I'm concerned," Warwick said.

And while Cowell gave Hernandez props Tuesday night for his rendition of Pandora's Box's "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" — and no mention was made of the scandal, even in the "embarrassing moments" segment — close watchers, or listeners, may have caught Cowell making a snarky comment off-camera, urging the other judges to say they "liked the way you stripped it down."

Further down the scandal scale, a video surfaced this week of Danny Noriega doing a Hot Topic "Grinch" shtick and making light of the Christmas season. In the 30-second, undated clip, a typically bored looking Noriega, complete with eyeshadow, furry-collared jacket and lip ring, rolls his eyes as "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" plays in the background. "It's almost Christmas," he says sarcastically, "I want to wish all of you guys a merry Christmas and a happy new year," belting out the last bit.

But it's what he says next that got the blogs talking. "Okay, f--- that sh--," he sneers. "I hope Santa Claus rapes your f---ing mother and I hope you all get coal because you guys are all piece of sh--s." A spokesperson for "Idol" had no comment on the Warwick interview or the Noriega video when asked for a response on Wednesday (March 5).

And it's not just the boys. Some photos of Ramiele Malubay have also surfaced over the past week, including one in which she's grabbing her sushi restaurant co-worker's breast, as well as another where a pair of female friends are feeling Malubay's breasts.

The photos are pretty tame by "Idol" flesh-baring standards, and are nothing like the more revealing ones of last season's semi-finalist, Antonella Barba, but prove once again the fame on "Idol" may be fleeting, but dirty pictures are forever.

(For a less-scandalous story about one of the other Davids in this year's "American Idol," David Archuleta, head here.)

Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions. And relive six seasons of "Idol" hot messes and high notes in six minutes with our video timeline.

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'American Idol' Recap: Brooke White Brings 'Battlefield' Bliss; Kady Malloy Still A Robot

Girls' '80s night includes two Whitney Houston songs and a country take on Journey.

It was a relatively scandal-free week for the ladies, save for Amanda's unearthed DUI arrest, but after last week's performance, what she needed was an IV of quaaludes.

That's not to imply that Amanda was last week's sole catastrophe — far from it, as this year's crop of female talent proves to be the least "Idol"-ready in memory. Going into Wednesday night's talent show - which, along with the boys' Tuesday-night performances, determines who gets a place in the top 12 hierarchy &8212 one would have assumed it would be a call to arms to bring forth the inner cavalry and sing like there's no tomorrow. Well, you know that old saying "When you assume ..."

Wednesday night you could almost read the mental blueprints outlining the judges' epic struggle to sway the viewers toward their picks. When asked by Ryan who specifically needs to step it up, Simon said quite astutely, "Everyone. No one is safe."

Asia'h Epperson
Song: Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody"
Verdict: Might be her dance of death

Year after year, these contestants never, ever learn. And why would they? As long as the judges continue to gush over mediocre performances (this one had Paula nearly dancing atop the table), there will be no moratorium on Houston. I'm a fan of husky female voices, so I wasn't totally disappointed in Epperson's take; in fact, I kinda like her tone. The performance was like Whitney herself, compared to Asia'h's debacle last week. That said, it's one of Houston's most dated songs — it's so 1988 that to escape it you'd need a time machine. Epperson did the best she could with her limited, albeit torchy range, but the results were little more than loungy.

Kady Malloy
Song: Queen's "Who Wants to Live Forever"
Verdict: Hey, being an emotionless cyborg never hurt Carrie Underwood's career

Simon called out Kady for obvious reasons: her mechanical vocal and stage persona. You can't help but wonder what awful things have happened in this girl's life: Offstage, she masquerades behind dead-eyed impersonations with an overabundant need to make people happy, while onstage she's DOA, singing under a cloud of despair. It would be fascinating to watch the dichotomy if, at the very least, she had the vocal chops to pull off her brazen song choices. She does not, so all we're left with is a tuneless warbler who might be better served if she sought professional help. I assume she was as shocked as anyone when she wasn't eliminated last week, so she went full steam ahead. Unfortunately, the train didn't have enough coal. When vocally generic Katharine McPhee's version of the song sounds like Edith Piaf in contrast, you know your next logical stop is the Playboy Mansion.

Amanda Overmyer
Song: Joan Jett's "I Hate Myself for Loving You"
Verdict: Oh, Amanda, don't make me hate myself for ... oh, never mind

The '80s theme set my heart aflutter for Amanda and Amanda alone. How could she pass up the chance to wow us by revealing the range I've always assumed her to have? I mean, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" would have been ideal — she could be Bonnie Tyler's daughter, for all her delicious rasp. She could have piggybacked David Hernandez and given us her own "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," and it would have been dazzling. I would have been happy with a Stevie Nicks classic too, though it might have drudged up painful memories of Nikki McKibbin in season two. (Let it go, Jeffrey, let it go.) But as a die-hard Joan Jett fanatic, I wasn't displeased with the song selection. Rather, it was the execution that left me disenchanted. I'm not sure if it was the VotefortheWorst endorsement, or if she was still distressed from last week's John Zorn-like calamity. Maybe she felt naked without her Lily Munster hair and makeup (though she was all the more lovely for it). Whatever the reason, Amanda appeared, well, defeated. Vocally, she never strayed from the melody (there's not much melody to begin with), but her recital seemed almost contractual, and she seemed pissed that she had to be there at all.

Carly Smithson
Song: Cyndi Lauper's (or Roy Orbison's) "I Drove All Night"
Verdict: At least it wasn't Celine Dion's

Smithson revealed that her most embarrassing memory was the time she got her legs stuck in some railings and her friend greased them with butter to get them out. (Oh, Carly! You're such a silly goose! Color me confused, but I would have just assumed that even more humiliating would have been when, as Carly Hennessey, you were signed to a major label — Randy Jackson was head of A&R, by the way — that gave you a $100,000 advance, and spent two years and more than $2 million on the recording, promotion and video expenses of your first CD, which went on to sell only 400 copies. No? Oh, maybe that's just me.) Given Simon's criticism of Kady's robotics, you have to wonder how he avoided such an analysis of Carly, who's far from emotional. She struggled to reach the power notes, but when she did, she sounded clear and confident. But more often than not, it was more a shout-fest, resulting in an anticlimactic Vegas warble.

Kristy Lee Cook
Song: Journey's "Faithfully"
Verdict: More like a monotonous Faith-Hilly

With a hiccup and a twang, Cook treated us to the Elly May Clampett version of this Journey schlockfest, and the result bordered on Ace Young-style banality. She wavered off and on pitch throughout most of the song, and that bellow right before the decrescendo was cacophonous. Her awkward facial tics juxtaposed with her wacky stance brought to mind a comment you might hear from Simon: This was akin to watching your drunk, hot cousin warbling karaoke at the Hillsboro Hoedown Square-Dance Club.

Ramiele Malubay
Song: Phil Collins' "Against All Odds"
Verdict: What did I do to deserve two Phil Collins songs in as many nights?

I can't help but be struck by Malubay's beauty, because there isn't much else to get excited about. Here is a wee girl with a big, beautiful voice who consistently fails to live up to my expectations by choosing the wrong songs and lacking confidence. Here is a capable singer who could actually tackle a Whitney or Christina or Celine song (though my moratorium wishes remain) with those pipes, but instead relies on annoying Mariah coos and twitches and melisma. I've yet to be impressed with Malubay, but here's hoping that if she makes it passed Thursday's elimination, she can find the right balance between incandescence and restraint, vibrancy and emotion.

Brooke White
Song: Pat Benatar's "Love Is a Battlefield"
Verdict: War is hell, but this was a li'l slice of heaven

Randy was absolutely wrong (as usual) when he said with a straight face that he doesn't think Brooke brought anything new to the song. Here was Benatar's synthiest hit song, and White chose to do it as an acoustic number. What's not new about that? She pulled a David Cook, only in reverse: While Cook presented the ballad "Hello" as a stalker anthem, Brooke modernized a dated '80s dance ditty into an acoustic yearn. OK, so she's not Patti LaBelle, but I do like the catch in her voice, and she looks lovely with brushed hair. I swear if there's ever a musical, live-action version of "The Dark Crystal," she has the lead. Brooke may not be the best singer, but I'm enjoying her ascension more and more.

Syesha Mercado
Song: Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love for You"
Verdict: She might be dancing with Asia'h if Kady gets the sympathy vote

There's nothing more annoying than mimicking. By delivering absolutely zilch to yet another Houston song, Mercado might have rendered herself a nonentity, a solid singer — one of this year's best — that no one remembered as they reached for their phones because of poor song selection. If Wednesday proves to be her final curtain, it will be a waste of talent and charm, not to mention a smile that lasts for days.

Is it too close to make bold predictions? Will we be saying bye-bye to Kady and Kristy? Will it be Ramiele's final bow, or will Syesha's and Asia'h's fanbase split the vote for a surprise ousting?

Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.

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Buffy The Vampire Slayer In Gay Romance For Next Comic Book Arc

The new issue, 'Wolves at the Gate, Part One,' finds the slayer in bed with Satsu, eight years after Willow came out.

"Do me a favor," Buffy tells her guest. "Don't mention this to anyone."

But this news is just too juicy to shove under the covers, so the secret is out, and so is Buffy: The vampire slayer sleeps with a woman in the next issue of the TV-series-turned-comic book, in stores this week.

"I know you didn't just ... turn gay all of a sudden," her protégé slayer Satsu says.

"Right. Wait," Buffy panics. "How do you know that? Did I do something wrong?"

Depends who you ask, but chances are, fans will embrace this turn of events as Buffy doing something right. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was considered groundbreaking for being one of the first network programs to feature a lesbian lead back in 2000, although it wasn't until the show moved from the WB to UPN that Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara's (Amber Benson) relationship was portrayed more physically than metaphorically. Now that the show has transitioned to comic book form, Buffy herself is being allowed to experiment in the new story arc, "Wolves at the Gate."

"I guess the stakes are different in that we have more freedom in comics," said "Wolves" scribe Drew Goddard, who was a writer for "Buffy" on TV and more recently penned the movie "Cloverfield." "Even though we've still got a ways to go, we've made tremendous progress with regard to portrayals of human sexuality in pop culture over the last 10 years or so. So the stage just feels different now. I'm sure people can argue that Willow/Tara broke a lot of ground in that regard, but it's not like we go into these things saying, 'How can we make a grand political statement here?' We just try to do what feels right for the characters. The rest takes care of itself."

So what feels right for Buffy? Ever since the "Season Eight" comics continued the series, our heroine has appeared increasingly isolated, lonely and hungry for some form of connection. She fantasizes about Angel/Spike threesomes, Daniel Craig and Christian Bale, and constantly complains that it's been awhile since she's had a relationship, so it's not surprising that she ends up in bed with the next available partner. But Satsu? Yes, we know she loves Buffy (when true love's kiss awakened Buffy from a spell early on in the season, Satsu's cinnamon lip gloss gave her away). But didn't Buffy already rebuff her in the last issue, during a vampire slay?

"You're hot, you have great taste, you're a hell of a slayer, and you smell good," Buffy told her.

"But you're not gay," Satsu responded.

"Not so you'd notice," Buffy quipped.

Is Buffy using Satsu, the way she used Spike when she knew that he loved her and she just wanted to feel something, anything? Could this be another manipulation, or is it something more? How does this compare?

"Less biting?" Goddard teased. "Whenever you first sleep with someone, it makes the ensuing relationship more complicated. And we're going to explore those complications to the fullest in the book."

One of those complications is that everyone knows, since practically every member of the Scoobies stumbles in the bedroom to warn Buffy of an attack, only to find the couple in flagrante.

"The first time you see Buffy," Goddard said, "your jaw is going to drop."

Dawn is in shock: "Oh my God! Buffy, what are you doing?" Same for Xander, but perhaps for different reasons: "Oh, merciful Zeus! Oh, my eye. My burning, beautiful burning eye." Willow, dazed from the attack, is just perplexed: "Why are you naked in bed with Satsu?"

Goddard predicts the public's reaction to this event in "Buffy" will encompass the same range.

"There's always a loud fringe element that will have strong opinions on this particular subject," he said. "But I'm guessing most people's reactions will mirror Buffy's friends' reactions: surprised at first, then intrigued as to what it all means. And then, well, then the dust will settle, and everyone will move on with their lives. I mean, at the end of the day, what's the big deal? Regardless of who is hopping in bed with whom, there are still vampires to slay and worlds to be saved. It just means there will be more silly conversation to be had while stabbing things."

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'Project Runway' Recap: Christian Siriano Wins With 'Fierce,' Dark Collection

The 21-year-old designer made guest judge Victoria Beckham smile with puffy black jackets, skinny pants and elaborate feathers.

Christian Siriano took home top honors on the "Project Runway" finale, to the surprise of few (and certainly not surprising himself). Even with beautiful and competitive offerings from Jillian Lewis and Rami Kashou, the "fierce" 21-year-old rolled out an impressive collection for Bryant Park that brought a little drama to the runway and managed to do the unthinkable: make Victoria Beckham smile.

The finale provided a nice summary of the season, without any of the last-minute surprises that characterized previous seasons. No one was accused of cheating, no one had to ditch their shadily acquired shoes, and no one had to make a 13th look in the last five minutes. If anything, the designers reminded us what we love most about them, guiding our vote in the final Bravo text-message poll. Who should win "Project Runway"? I never thought Jillian was going to pull ahead in the 11th hour. Her clothes have been consistently good, but occasionally uninspiring. The fact that she failed to cast models on criteria beyond "She's cute!" or "She seems cool!" and her painfully awkward speech at Bryant Park, suggest that Jillian needs a few years to mature — as a designer, of course. Rami, who probably took himself more seriously all season than any of us did, actually regained my affection in this last episode. He seemed genuinely humbled by the experience of showing at Fashion Week, and he dedicated his collection to celebrating women. That's me! But it's probably been clear that I've had a soft spot for Christian all season. Maybe it's because his clothes have been exciting. Maybe it's because he popped and locked at the end of his "Runway" show. But my guess is it's because Christian, who put on such a confident front, broke down a little in the finale, and came across as just a kid with a lot of talent and a big dream. Now that's fierce.

(MTV News' own "Project Runway" superfan Jim Cantiello was lucky enough to hang with Christian — and fashion goddess Sweet P — at the finale viewing party on Wednesday. Read all about his behind-the-scenes experience on the MTV Newsroom blog.)

The Collections

Jillian claimed that her main inspiration for the final collection was the "Master of the Argonauts" painting at the met from the last challenge. While the painting may have directed her color palette and the mood of her collection, Jillian ultimately stuck to her Ralph Lauren roots and attempted to design for the edgy prepster. She worked with dark grays, red accents and hints of metallic, choosing to style her collection with some iconic riding hats. The best looks? Her body conscious and flirty coats, one of which was a form-fitting, knit black sweater jacket with gold detailing on the hem. The other highlights were a few of her dresses, including a black party dress with a fun sheer skirt and her final long corset dress. Worst looks? The shorter version of the dress in gold, which was clearly meant to look like armor but resembled those slutty Grecian Halloween costumes. Although nothing baffled me more than Jillian's use of leggings, which were featured in the "out of style" challenge earlier this season. Hint, much?

When Rami showed Tim his Joan of Arc-themed collection last week, it looked forced. I was afraid Rami would overcompensate in the absence of draping. Well, apparently, Rami's got skills. After seeing his final collection, I'd say Rami's been holding out on us all season. In a color scheme that moved from strong blues and reds to muted greens and golds, Rami used separates, cocktail and evening looks to show he wasn't a one-trick pony. Best looks? A blue blazer-and-skirt duo that featured rippled draping (just a little) along the bodice, and a long, olive-green skirt and fitted top with woven fabric across the bust. Loveliest, however, was an antique lace top and skirt Rami sent out with ivory and gold tiers that looked like it belonged on a wedding cake. Worst looks? Two very similar day dresses in blue and red with little shape or movement, and a form-fitting, gold evening dress that was lost on the model who couldn't walk in it.

If I didn't know any better, I'd say Christian's line was inspired by the same challenge as Jillian's. His use of old European silhouettes and textures were a throwback to his androgynous outfit from the met challenge. But that's just Christian being Christian, and I don't think anything has changed that all season. Fashion Week was more of the same from the young designer: cinched-waist coats paired with skinny pants, along with oversize ruffles and collars. Best looks? The tailored black coat paired with an oversize ivory collar and large brimmed hat shielding the face of the model. And the two-toned dresses, either the shorter version which was solely layers of ruffles moving from cream to brown or the longer one, covered head to toe in feathers blending in and out of layers of fabric. Worst looks? The overkill of the skinny pants, which appeared in eight out of 12 of Christian's outfits, and similar-looking black coats.

Runway Guest Judge: Victoria Beckham

Jillian Lewis with model Lauren: Victoria found Jillian's collection very feminine, with fantastic attention to detail. She thought the clothes were beautifully made. Michael agreed, calling them feminine and modern. He was also very impressed with Jillian's knit-work, which he said they never saw during the show. Heidi was impressed with the new shapes and designs she saw in the collection and thought it was innovative. Nina thought Jillian took a chance, but the collection ended up looking a little disjointed and lost the essence of Jillian.

Rami Kashou with model Sam: Heidi loved Rami's collection. She thought the woven looks were his strongest, as did Michael. Michael was not thrilled with Rami's color choices, which he said weren't his favorite and not very chic for the clothes, but he found the presentation cohesive with a "soup to nuts" representation of every type of clothing. Victoria called Rami's clothes lovely and said she really appreciated the look in his dresses, especially the last gowns. Nina thought Rami had the strongest point of view and that it is very easy to tell when a piece of clothing is his. She thought his line was fantastic, with lots of separates, but the evening dresses were where he shined.

Christian Siriano with model Lisa: Victoria told Christian his clothes were very much her taste and style, and replaced his catchphrase "fierce" with her own "major" to describe them. Michael complimented Christian on his flair for the dramatic, saying the collection was cohesive and powerful. While he thought the two-tone dress at the end was spectacular, he thought too many black pieces made it hard to see the work that went into them. Nina called Christian's work a little heavy-handed and repetitive. Heidi liked this though, saying Christian was good at making a statement. Victoria added that it may have been a bit monotonous but it made her smile, and that's not easy to do.

Winner: Christian Siriano
Out: Jillian Lewis and Rami Kashou

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Gnarls Barkley's 'Run' Video: A Mix Of Old, New And Justin Timberlake

'Justin's a real cool dude, and he did his thing,' Cee-Lo says of the pop star's Jheri-curled cameo in the clip.

Gnarls Barkley have had a tough week.

On Monday, there was the news that the video for "Run," the first single from their upcoming album, The Odd Couple, (which premieres on "TRL" Thursday), contained strobe effects that could trigger epileptic seizures, forcing them to re-edit the clip at the last minute. And then, late Tuesday night — presumably while cuts were being made to the "Run" video — Couple went ahead and leaked to the Net more than a month before it was due in stores.

On Wednesday (March 5), many media outlets erroneously reported that MTV had banned the video. According to an MTV spokesperson, MTV's international channel, MTV U.K., initially rejected the video but has accepted a revised version. Additionally, the clip was already scheduled to premiere on MTV's "TRL" on Thursday and is set to go into rotation on Monday.

Clearly, the recent developments and misrepresented reports have taken the Barkley camp by surprise, but they're also taking them in stride. After all, this is the sort of drama that comes with releasing a hotly anticipated album, which Couple most certainly is. And, to be honest, they're just flattered people are paying attention. After all, they never really intended to get to this point in the first place.

"I don't think we ever said [Gnarls] was going to be a one-off thing, but we also didn't think about what would happen next," producer/mastermind Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton told MTV News. "We got back together to make this album, but also because we were really excited to see what the other person was going to do this time. We kind of always go back and forth, trying to challenge each other with music and lyrics ... and we were just excited to see what would happen again."

And what happened was Couple, an album that — as you probably know by now — ditches a majority of the hip-hop/R&B influences that made their debut, St. Elsewhere, a bona fide smash. Instead, it explores moodier, more crackling '60s pop and soul and skittering, shifty electronica. In short, it's an album that showcases both the old and new. Case in point, "Run."

"The music for 'Run' I did years ago. It was one of the first group of songs I put together to try to convince Cee-Lo to work with me, so ... it was the sound of what would be Gnarls Barkley," Danger Mouse said. "And [he] had it for years, and then revisited it, I guess, more recently. It was always something I hoped would get used in some kind of way. But I don't think that if we would've done it years ago, it would've sounded like this. It probably would've been something completely different."

"At the same time, the track kind of resembles emotion. It sounds like a bullet out of a barrel," Cee-Lo added. "And that's why it was the proper way to reintroduce ourselves. Like, 'We are Gnarls Barkley — better run for your life.' "

The duo also singled out a pair of tracks — "Open Book" and "Neighbors" — as favorites and prime examples of Gnarls' mixture of complex emotions and pop music.

"I love 'Open Book.' It's just jumping in with both feet, exposing your virtues and your vices, your vulnerabilities and strengths," Cee-Lo said. "And it's done in a very eloquent-yet-aggressive way. It's about being willing to bear the cross and take the sacrifice."

"I'm a big fan of 'Neighbors,' " Danger added. "It's really relatable, about how people think they see something, but you don't know what you have gone through to get it or lose it. And that doesn't necessarily mean material things, it's much more about people's outer appearance, and wanting to trade places with people, and the grass is always greener."

Totally (or something).

Before the whole seizure controversy started (a controversy that, incidentally, the duo claimed to have no knowledge about) the clip for "Run" was better known for the cameo made by Justin Timberlake, who plays the Jheri-curl-sporting host of "City Vibin'," a dance show Gnarls are performing on. The whole thing seems to have happened on a whim, but in a funny way, it all sort of fits with the duo's "old and new" ethos.

"Justin volunteered to be in the video. I think he had a relationship with the directors, and his name might have casually come up in conversation, and we've met on numerous occasions, and Justin's a real cool dude, and he did his thing," Cee-Lo laughed. "It's a [take-off on] those old retro dance shows, stuff like 'American Bandstand' and, us being from Atlanta, [a show like] 'Atlanta Jams.' And then there's the '80s garb and attitude and choreography. And when you contrast that up against the brand-new thing we're doing sonically, it all sort of works."

[This story was originally published at 3:29 p.m. ET on 03.05.08]

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Notorious B.I.G. Actor Confirmed: Brooklyn Rapper Jamal 'Gravy' Woolard

Onscreen Biggie is a well-known figure on the mixtape circuit.

Producers of the film "Notorious" have finally found the man to play one the greatest MCs ever to grace a vocal booth: Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace. Fellow Brooklyn rapper Jamal Woolard — better known on the mixtape circuit as Gravy — has landed the coveted role. While other entertainers such as Beanie Sigel, West Coast rapper Guerilla Black and even Sean Kingston had expressed interest in the part, the producers conducted an exhaustive search, auditioning thousands of men across the country.

"Finding B.I.G. was a task in itself, and I'm honored that so many young men came out to audition for the role," Voletta Wallace, Biggie's mother, said in a statement released Thursday (March 6). "However, it was Jamal's charming personality, warm spirit, wonderful sense of humor and beautiful smile that won my heart. He is a talented and charismatic actor, and I am excited that he will bring Christopher's character to the big screen."

Derek Luke will play Sean "Diddy" Combs, while Anthony Mackie has been cast as Tupac Shakur. Angela Bassett is set to appear as Mrs. Wallace. Former 3LW member Naturi Naughton has also been given an as-yet-unspecified role in the film, which begins filming in New York this month with director George Tillman and is slated for release January 16, 2009.

Gravy has been a well-known figure on the mixtape circuit the past few years, working with a slew of rappers including Young Jeezy, Jadakiss, Fabolous, Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes and even Diddy himself. While Gravy is known for his wordplay, controversy has overshadowed his music.

In the spring of 2005, he made the big mistake of trying to record a song with his onetime close friend Foxy Brown and Miami's Jacki-O. The two women got into a physical altercation in a Miami studio.

"Everybody knows Gravy. Gravy's hard," the Brooklyn MC told MTV News after the incident (referring to himself in the third person). "I'm a lyricist. I go with the hardest. Jacki-O is the hardest. And I go with the other hardest from New York, Foxy Brown. Boy, did I find out putting the two hardest together. It's not a good look. Foxy was going a little crazy with it. It just got ugly."

In April 2006, Gravy was gaining momentum on the release of his long-delayed Warner Bros. debut, God Willing. He was outside New York radio station Hot 97, waiting to go inside and be interviewed, when gunfire erupted and he was shot in the buttocks. Although Gravy did eventually make his way inside to be interviewed by Flex, the station subsequently banned his music, citing his involvement in the shooting, effectively putting his career on hold. Neither his scheduled single nor his album, which was due in September of 2006, were released.

"What [was] I supposed to say? 'Flex, I can't do your show, even though it's my life — I just took a shot to the a--!' What does that sound like?" he said in an interview with MTV News in May of that year. "I had to do what I had to do. People are not seeing it that way. They're like, 'He's glorifying the shot.' N---a, I'm not glorifying the shot. I love my life more than rap. I'm not trying to take a shot for rap. I don't want to take no shot, brotha. Not in my thumb, my pinkie, nothing, brotha.

"Just imagine if I died. ... Would they play me then? They would play me because they would not want the world to assassinate their character. 'Here's a young man that was trying to do right and he got killed up there, and y'all not playing him?' "

In the wake of a violent outbreak between members of 50 Cent's and the Game's entourage that year, Hot 97 adopted a policy not to play any music by an artist involved in an altercation at the station.

"Notorious" Gravy's first attempt to break into Hollywood: He also auditioned for the lead in "Fat Albert."

Head here for a feature with Jay-Z, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Denzel Washington and many others talking about their favorite Notorious B.I.G. lyrics.

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

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TV Tidbits: Notes of Interest

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    Writers Guild chief adjusts to post-strike life

    By Steven Zeitchik
    56 minutes ago

    NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) -
    Patric Verrone was heading
    into a building at Boston's Harvard Business School when a
    voice and footsteps suddenly got louder behind him.

    If Verrone was surprised by last week's encounter, he kept
    a relaxed expression, shaking the student's hand and chatting
    with him about his career and relationship.

    Such is the labor leader's life, which since the WGA strike
    ended three weeks ago has been marked by a strange mix of
    executive suspicion and rock-star fame. The mild-mannered and
    wry 48-year-old, who with his black hair brushed flat against
    his head can sometimes look like a boy at his confirmation, is
    accosted on the street by fans. They want to talk about the
    strike and the digital future, dish on producers and,
    sometimes, just bask in his presence.

    Whether you believe the adoration is warranted probably
    depends on how you felt about the resolution of the 100-day WGA
    strike. But the encounters belie a larger question.

    Just what does Verrone do these days?

    Media, he says. Enforcement of the contract. And
    contemplate his next step. "I don't know if I'm going to write
    a book or go on a speaking tour," he said in an interview. "And
    it's up to me to go back to making a living."

    Having finished a set of DVD movies for his Fox hit
    "Futurama," the comedy writer (he also was behind the Jon
    cult hit "The Critic") is working on developing online
    content, in a move that might be motivated by philosophy as
    well as practicality. After a set of intense negotiations with
    the country's biggest moguls, continuing to write for the big
    networks in at least the immediate future might be tricky.

    Verrone tempers his new-media efforts with realism.

    "There's not a lot of money," said the man who made
    new-media payment the central issue of the strike. "It's easy
    to create a one-time phenomenon. The trick is how to get people
    coming back."

    Verrone's personality mixes a sophisticated take on labor
    and digital issues with a geekier sensibility you'd expect from
    an animated writer; he is the kind of person who remembers that
    "Beans Baxter" and "Mr. President" were among the early Fox
    shows. In his spare time, he also crafts figurines of Supreme
    Court justices
    and other historical figures, which he sells on
    eBay (http://myworld.ebay/pverrone/). Antonin Scalia is the
    most popular by far, if you were wondering.

    Having survived Hollywood labor strife, would he consider a
    run for political office?

    "I spend a lot of time working on cartoons and puppets," he
    said. "So politics seems like the next phase."

    Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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      Woman's gang memoir is fake, recalled

      55 minutes ago

      NEW YORK - A memoir by a white woman who claimed she was raised in poverty by a black foster mother and sold drugs for a gang in a tough Los Angeles neighborhood has turned out to be pure fiction, a newspaper report says.

      In "Love and Consequences," published last week by Penguin Group USA imprint Riverhead Books, author Margaret B. Jones writes about growing up as a half-white, half-Native American girl in South-Central Los Angeles in the foster home of Big Mom. One of her foster brothers, she writes, was gunned down by Crips gang members outside their home.

      Jones also writes of carrying illegal guns and selling drugs for the Bloods gang.

      Jones's story came apart after her older sister, Cyndi Hoffman, saw an article in The New York Times about the author and contacted Riverhead, the Times says. Hoffman questioned the publisher's fact-checking and said the fabrication should and could have been prevented, the Times reported on its Web site Monday.

      The publisher has recalled all copies of the book and has canceled Jones's book tour, which was to begin on Monday.

      Margaret B. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is white and grew up in a well-off area of San Fernando Valley in California with her biological family, the Times says. She attended a private Episcopal day school and never lived with a foster family or sold drugs for a gang.

      Jones, who lives in Eugene, Ore., also lied about having graduated from the University of Oregon.

      Jones, 33, admitted to the Times that her memoir was fully fabricated. Many of the experiences recounted in the book, she told the newspaper, were based on the experiences of friends she had met while doing anti-gang outreach in Los Angeles.

      "For whatever reason, I was really torn, and I thought it was my opportunity to put a voice to people who people don't listen to," she told the paper.

      An editor at Riverhead, in an interview with the Times, described the discovery as "upsetting" and as a "huge personal and professional betrayal." The editor, Sarah McGrath, said she had numerous conversations with the writer about telling the truth.

      "I've been talking to her on the phone and getting e-mails from her for three years, and her story never has changed," McGrath told the Times. "All the details have been the same. There never have been any cracks."

      Jones didn't immediately return a telephone message left by The Associated Press at her home on Monday.

      The "Love and Consequences" scandal follows last week's discovery that the Holocaust memoir "Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years," by Misha Defonseca, was a fake. Two years ago, James Frey, the author of an Oprah Book Club selected memoir, "A Million Little Pieces," admitted he had made up or exaggerated details about his drug addiction and recovery.

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        Simpson's exes and new guy honored

        By ERIN CARLSON, Associated Press Writer

        NEW YORK - Jessica Simpson was the blonde elephant in the room when two of her exes and her new guy — Dane Cook, John Mayer and Tony Romo — were honored together at Cosmopolitan's Fun Fearless Male Awards.

        But Romo, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, broke the ice when he joked about the situation while claiming his award at Monday's luncheon.

        When musing about what made him qualify as one of Cosmo's Fun Fearless Males, Romo said: "Dane Cook, John Mayer ... if you date Jessica Simpson, I guess."

        The Simpson trend began when her ex-husband, Nick Lachey, was honored by the mag as 2007's Fun Fearless Male of the Year (Mayer got the top award this year). But there were other honorees with non-Simpson connections: John Krasinski (NBC's "The Office"), singer Chris Brown, rapper Common, Peter Krause (ABC's "Dirty Sexy Money"), Dave Annable (ABC's "Brothers and Sisters"), Animal Planet's Dave Salmoni and MySpace co-founder Tom Anderson.

        Romo told The Associated Press that football makes him fearless — but so does being a celebrity athlete whose life off the field is tabloid fodder. Romo's relationship with Simpson came under fire earlier this year when fans blamed the couple's weekend trip to Mexico for the Cowboys' defeat by the New York Giants (who ultimately won the Super Bowl).

        Romo said he tries to ignore the intense media glare into his personal life.

        "You live life. I'm just trying to be a good person, trying to work hard and do things the right way," said Romo, who has also been linked to Carrie Underwood and actress Sophia Bush.

        When asked about his offseason plans, Romo said he'll "probably just hang out with the guys, you know, get away a little bit and get back home."

        Will Simpson come too?

        "Yeah," he said, grinning.


        On the Net:



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          Ritter's widow testifies about his death

          By LINDA DEUTSCH, AP Special Correspondent

          GLENDALE, Calif. - Sobbing into her hands, John Ritter's widow on Monday gave jurors in a wrongful-death trial a minute-by-minute account of events leading up to the actor's death in 2003.

          Amy Yasbeck sometimes could barely speak through her tears as she recounted the last hours in which she was summoned to a hospital and told her husband was having a heart attack and needed an angiogram.

          She said that Ritter, who was in a hospital bed, was "scared" and asked Dr. Joseph Lee, one of the two defendants in the lawsuit, if he could get a second opinion before he agreed to the procedure.

          "Dr. Lee said, 'No, there's no time. You're in the middle of a heart attack,'" Yasbeck testified.

          She said Lee asked Ritter to sign a consent form and read him its details.

          Asked by her lawyer, Moses Lebovits, what happened next, Yasbeck broke into gasping sobs.

          "I leaned down to John's ear and said, 'I know you're scared but you have to be brave and do this because these guys know what they're doing.' And he was brave for all the time I saw him," she said.

          Yasbeck said that as Ritter was wheeled down a hall on a gurney he used sign language to say "I love you." She said she mouthed the same words back.

          "He went around the corner and that's the last time I saw him," she said.

          Ritter, 54, fell ill earlier in the day while working on the sitcom "8 Simple Rules ... for Dating My Teenage Daughter" and died of a torn aorta at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. His family is suing Lee and a radiologist, Dr. Matthew Lotysch, who did a body scan on Ritter two years earlier, for $67 million.

          The doctors deny wrongdoing. The radiologist has testified the aorta was normal in the scan but Ritter had coronary artery disease at a relatively young age.

          Yasbeck told of the long wait to hear what was happening after Ritter was wheeled away, and of overhearing someone calling "code blue," which she recognized from an audition she had done for the show "ER."

          Shortly after that, she said, a doctor who had arrived from the Disney studios came out and told her Ritter was "crashing" and that a surgeon had been summoned.

          She said the doctor drew a picture for her and explained that Ritter's aorta had shredded and "it was a bad thing."

          At some point — after she was joined by Ritter's ex-wife, Nancy Ritter, and their son Jason — the surgeon came to them.

          "He said it was over and John's dead, that they worked on John for a long time but the damage was done by the time he got there. It was a fait accompli and John was dead," Yasbeck said.

          Yasbeck then told of going home to tell her 5-year-old daughter, Stella, that her father had died. She waited until the next morning because the child was asleep.

          Asked by her lawyer to tell jurors what Stella lost with Ritter's death, she said, "As much as I lost my husband and the love of my life and my soul mate, what I lost was Stella's father."

          She said when it came to child rearing, "I really was dependent on him. I was 36 years old. He was so freaking wise about this stuff. And Stella, every day she wakes up and there's a new way to miss her father. I can't make up for that. It's a new road to face every day."

          The testimony was offered in part to demonstrate to jurors the devastation suffered by the family from the loss of Ritter. In the courtroom audience, his brother, Tom, wiped his eyes.

          Nancy Ritter, who was married to the actor for 19 years, also took the stand and testified about his importance to their three children and his decision to have a complete body scan two years before he died.

          She said she urged him to do it and when it was over he told her it had gone well.

          "He implied to me that he was reassured he was OK. Maybe he was protecting me," she said.

          The plaintiffs rested their case after Yasbeck's testimony and the defense opened its presentation with a brief appearance by Ritter's personal trainer, who said the actor was concerned about improving his health and was working out regularly.

          The current lawsuit follows settlements with the hospital and eight other medical personnel for about $14 million.

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            Oprah gives ABC a big night

            By James Hibberd
            1 hour, 50 minutes ago

            LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) -
            Oprah gave big to ABC on
            Sunday night as the premiere of her new reality show triumphed
            in the Nielsen ratings.

            Critics might have been less than kind, but the debut of
            the talk-show host's philanthropic reality effort "Oprah's Big
            Give" was the highest-rated program of the night, according to
            preliminary returns.

            Additionally, the "Big Give" audience spilled over into the
            under-the-radar debut of another ABC reality title, "Here Come
            the Newlyweds," helping ABC win the night among key measures.

            ABC opened with "America's Funniest Home Videos" (8.2
            million total viewers, 2.7 rating among adults 18-49/8 share),
            followed by "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (14.8 million,
            5.1/13), "Big Give" (15.6 million, 5.3/12) and "Newlyweds"
            (10.3 million, 4.1/11). ABC won every hour from 8-11 p.m., with
            "Big Give" becoming third-most-watched freshman series debut
            this season (following Fox's "Moment of Truth" and "Terminator:
            The Sarah Connor Chronicles").

            In second place, Fox's ratings are preliminary because
            "NASCAR: Spring Cup" (12.5 million, 4.7/13) pushed the start
            times of Fox's comedies to about 8:30 p.m. "NASCAR" was
            followed by "The Simpsons" (7.9 million, 3.8/9), "King of the
            " (7.7 million, 4.1/10), "Family Guy" (7.1 million, 3.7/9)
            and the debut of "Unhitched" (2.5/6).

            CBS was third with "60 Minutes" (12.1 million, 2.1/6), "Big
            Brother" (6.2 million, 2.3/6), a repeat of "Cold Case" (7.4
            million, 1.9/5) and "Dexter" (6.9 million, 2.0/5).

            Fourth-place NBC had a two-hour "Dateline" (7.4 million,
            1.9/5), "Deal or No Deal" (8.7 million, 2.3/5) and the
            time-period premiere of "Law & Order: SVU" (8.1 million,

            The CW aired a mix of comedies and repeats (averaging 1.3
            million, 0.5/1).

            On Friday, round two between the new end-of-week game shows
            went to CBS. The second episode of "The Price Is Right Million
            Dollar Spectacular" was Friday's highest-rated show. NBC's
            "Amnesia," which also premiered the week before, fell sharply.

            "Price" (9.5 million total viewers, 2.2 adults 18 to 49
            rating and a 7 share) and "Amnesia" (5.1 million, 1.3/4) air
            head-to-head at 8 p.m. and both lost some ground. But "Price"
            fell only 12% to lead the night while "Amnesia" dropped 46% and
            was Friday night's second-lowest-rated show.

            Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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              Clinton campaigns on Stewart's show

              33 minutes ago

              NEW YORK - With late-night comedy appearances seeming to work for her in the days before crucial primaries in Ohio and Texas, Hillary Clinton sought votes Monday by matching wits with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."

              Clinton was interviewed via satellite at a campaign stop in Austin, Texas.

              "This election is about judgment," Stewart said to her. "Yet tomorrow is perhaps one of the most important days of your life and you've chosen to spend the night before talking to me. Senator, as a host I'm delighted. As a citizen, I'm frightened."

              Responded Clinton: "It is pretty pathetic."

              A different late-night show, NBC's "Saturday Night Live," seems to have boosted Clinton in the past two weeks. A Feb. 23 skit mocked journalists for going easy on Barack Obama and tough on Clinton. After she cited the skit in a real debate last week, it led many real reporters to examine whether or not there was some truth behind the comedy.

              Another skit this past Saturday followed the same theme, and Clinton herself made an appearance.

              To Stewart, Clinton said the vigorous campaign was good for Democrats and the country. She suggested it wasn't going to end soon, either.

              "There's a lot of interest in letting the people who are still to come have their voices included in the process since it's so close," she said. "We'll see what happens tomorrow, but I'm feeling very optimistic and excited about Ohio and Texas."

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                Van Halen postpones some tour dates

                NEW YORK - Van Halen has postponed concerts this week as guitarist Eddie Van Halen undergoes medical testing for an undisclosed condition.

                "According to Eddie Van Halen's physician, he is undergoing a battery of comprehensive medical tests to determine a defined diagnosis and recommended medical procedures," according to a statement released Monday by Van Halen's representative and the tour promoter, Live Nation.

                Eddie Van Halen has had medical setbacks in recent years, including a battle with cancer and a trip to rehab. A representative for Van Halen did not return a phone message or e-mail from The Associated Press seeking further information about his ailment.

                The concerts that were postponed were this week's shows in Dallas; Cincinnati; Raleigh, N.C.; and Baltimore. They have been rescheduled for April.

                Van Halen embarked on their reunion tour with original lead singer David Lee Roth last fall.


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                  Simpson's exes and new guy honored

                  By ERIN CARLSON, Associated Press Writer

                  NEW YORK - Jessica Simpson was the blonde elephant in the room when two of her exes and her new guy — Dane Cook, John Mayer and Tony Romo — were honored together at Cosmopolitan's Fun Fearless Male Awards.

                  But Romo, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, broke the ice when he joked about the situation while claiming his award at Monday's luncheon.

                  When musing about what made him qualify as one of Cosmo's Fun Fearless Males, Romo said: "Dane Cook, John Mayer ... if you date Jessica Simpson, I guess."

                  The Simpson trend began when her ex-husband, Nick Lachey, was honored by the mag as 2007's Fun Fearless Male of the Year (Mayer got the top award this year). But there were other honorees with non-Simpson connections: John Krasinski (NBC's "The Office"), singer Chris Brown, rapper Common, Peter Krause (ABC's "Dirty Sexy Money"), Dave Annable (ABC's "Brothers and Sisters"), Animal Planet's Dave Salmoni and MySpace co-founder Tom Anderson.

                  Romo told The Associated Press that football makes him fearless — but so does being a celebrity athlete whose life off the field is tabloid fodder. Romo's relationship with Simpson came under fire earlier this year when fans blamed the couple's weekend trip to Mexico for the Cowboys' defeat by the New York Giants (who ultimately won the Super Bowl).

                  Romo said he tries to ignore the intense media glare into his personal life.

                  "You live life. I'm just trying to be a good person, trying to work hard and do things the right way," said Romo, who has also been linked to Carrie Underwood and actress Sophia Bush.

                  When asked about his offseason plans, Romo said he'll "probably just hang out with the guys, you know, get away a little bit and get back home."

                  Will Simpson come too?

                  "Yeah," he said, grinning.


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                    Eddie Van Halen undergoing medical tests

                    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -
                    Rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen is
                    undergoing tests for an undisclosed medical problem, causing
                    his band Van Halen to reschedule four upcoming U.S. concerts, a
                    spokesman for the tour promoter said on Monday.

                    Van Halen has fought cancer and alcohol in the past but a
                    statement released by Live Nation made no mention of his
                    current problem.

                    "According to Eddie Van Halen's physician, he is undergoing
                    a battery of comprehensive medical tests to determine a defined
                    diagnosis and recommended medical procedures," the statement

                    A company spokesman said there was no further information
                    on the guitarist's condition beyond the statement.

                    Van Halen, 53, co-founded the group that bears his name
                    with his brother, drummer Alex, and played guitar and
                    keyboards. Van Halen had a string of hits including "Runnin'
                    with the Devil" and "Panama" starting in the late 1970s.

                    In August the group unveiled plans for a 25-city North
                    American tour that began in September 2007 and has continued
                    since then.

                    Live Nation said Van Halen's condition caused the band to
                    reschedule concerts in Dallas, Cincinnati, Baltimore and
                    Raleigh, North Carolina. Those shows were scheduled to take
                    place early this month and have been put off until April.

                    In the 1990s, Eddie Van Halen had hip replacement surgery
                    and was treated for oral cancer. He also has battled alcohol
                    abuse with a stint in rehab and recently was divorced from
                    actress Valerie Bertinelli.

                    (Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Bill Trott)

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                      Hill, Jackson, Underwood in CMA fest

                      2 hours, 57 minutes ago

                      NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Faith Hill will perform at this summer's CMA Music Festival for the first time in 10 years, joining Alan Jackson, Carrie Underwood, Sugarland, Taylor Swift and several others.

                      The Country Music Association's annual festival will be held June 5-8 in downtown Nashville.

                      The CMA announced the first wave of performers Monday, with more to come later.

                      Other announced acts include Dwight Yoakam, Rodney Atkins, Josh Turner, Miranda Lambert and Kellie Pickler.

                      Pop singer Jewel will make her CMA Music Festival debut.

                      Last year's event drew 191,000 people over four days.


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                        Strip club: 'Idol' once danced here

                        By DERRIK J. LANG, AP Entertainment Writer
                        19 minutes ago

                        LOS ANGELES - "American Idol" contestant David Hernandez once entertained audiences by removing his clothes instead of singing tunes, a manager at a male strip club in Phoenix told The Associated Press.

                        The 24-year-old finalist from Glendale, Ariz., once worked as a stripper at Dick's Cabaret, appearing fully nude and performing lap dances for the club's "mostly male" clientele, club manager Gordy Bryan said Monday.

                        "He had the look and the type that people like, so he made pretty good money here," Bryan said.

                        It's not clear whether a history as a stripper could disqualify Hernandez from the competition. In 2003, finalist Frenchie Davis was dismissed because of her appearance on an adult Web site; but last year, Antonella Barba remained in the competition after racy photos of her surfaced on the Internet.

                        Fox spokeswomen Jill Hudson did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment Monday.

                        According to Bryan, Hernandez steadily worked at the club for three years until September 30, 2007.

                        "He never renewed his licensing with the state, so he hasn't been on my roster since then," Bryan said.

                        Bryan said he was aware that Hernandez was a vocalist, but that Hernandez never sang at the club. Bryan said he now believes Hernandez stopped working at the club because of his participation in "American Idol." Hernandez has never been referred to as a stripper or former stripper during the Fox singing competition.

                        Rumors of a stripper past — along with photos of a scantily clad Hernandez working as a bartender at gay nightclub Burn — were first posted last week on VoteForTheWorst, a site that encourages "Idol" viewers to vote for "the bad and truly entertaining contestants."

                        "It was like moths to a flame," said VoteForTheWorst founder Dave Della Terza. "As soon as I posted that, we started getting 10, 20 letters every single day from people saying, 'Yeah, he's a stripper in Phoenix.'"

                        Terza and other members of VoteForTheWorst community scoured MySpace, Photobucket and other social networking and photo sharing sites to find information and images of Hernandez. Terza said he contacted the club to confirm the Internet chatter, but they never got back to him.

                        "They said they couldn't give me a statement before talking to their lawyers," said Terza.

                        Hernandez, who originally auditioned for "Idol" in San Diego on July 30, 2007, is in the Fox singing competition's top 16 contestants. Last week, he earned rave reviews from the judges after his performance of The Temptations' "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." He is scheduled to perform with the other male contestants on Tuesday's show.


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                          French comedy dominates foreign box office

                          By Hy Hollinger

                          LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) -
                          A French comedy claimed
                          the No. 1 spot at the foreign box office last weekend, thanks
                          to a phenomenal $37.7 million opening in its home country.

                          "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis" (Welcome to the Land of Shtis),
                          a fish-out-of-water tale about a postal worker, dominated the
                          local market, earning about 12 times more than the No. 2
                          picture, "Asterix at the Olympic Games."

                          Discounting "Ch'tis," the top international movie was
                          "Jumper," which had led the foreign field for the previous two
                          weekends. This time around, the sci-fi fantasy picked up $12.8
                          million from 44 markets, opening at No. 1 in Italy with $2
                          million, as well as in Israel, Lithuania and Romania. The
                          overseas gross stands at $81.9 million, led by $14.3 million
                          from the U.K. and $10.2 million from Korea.

                          A week before its North American release, the London-set
                          heist thriller "The Bank Job" opened at No. 1 in the U.K. with
                          $1.8 million. Second spot went to "Semi-Pro" with $1.5 million;
                          the basketball comedy opened at No. 1 in North America with a
                          disappointing $15.1 million.

                          Bolstered by 20 openings, the thriller "Vantage Point"
                          pulled in $11.9 million from 26 markets to provide an early
                          foreign tally of $14.4 million.

                          Best-picture Oscar winner "No Country for Old Men" jumped
                          into the limelight with $9.1 million from 38 markets to lift
                          its international gross to $50.1 million. "There Will be
                          Blood," also carrying Oscar honors, pulled in $5.4 million from
                          39 markets to raise its foreign total to $17.8 million.

                          Other foreign totals: "The Golden Compass," $264.3 million;
                          "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," $219.7 million; "Sweeney
                          ," $89.5 million; "Atonement," $72.6 million; "Juno," $42
                          million; "The Bucket List," $41.8 million; "Charlie Wilson's
                          War," $40.4 million; and "27 Dresses," $34.2 million.

                          Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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