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Monday, 26 December 2011

“It should never have happened”

SIMON COWELL has vowed to ensure LEONA LEWIS has maximum security in the future, after a man attacked her at a book signing earlier this week.

The singer hitmaker was signing copies of her new book, Dreams, at a central London store on Wednesday when Peter Kowalczyk allegedly punched her in the face.

Lewis needed medical treatment for a cut across her temple after the incident and she was forced to pull out of a scheduled promotional trip to Germany on Thursday.  Kowalczyk was arrested and subsequently sectioned under the U.K.'s Mental Health Act.

And Cowell, who has guided Lewis' career since she won The X Factor in 2006, is adamant the singer will be better protected in the future.

He tells Britain's Daily Star, "I was stunned anyone would want to attack her. We need to make sure she is protected."

Britney's Supervised Dates

BRITNEY SPEARS is allowed to go on dates - but only if she is under the supervision of her assistant and members of her management team.

The star split from ex-husband KEVIN FEDERLINE in 2006 and was subsequently linked to British paparazzi photographer ADNAN GHALIB. The relationship dissolved earlier this year following a breakdown which saw her admitted to a Los Angeles hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

And now as she embarks on a career comeback with her new album, Circus, Spears admits that she is able to date - but only under the watchful eye of her assistant, known only as Brett, and Adam Leber, a colleague of her manager Larry Rudolph.

And Spears reveals she enjoys her time back on the single circuit - even though her dates have not been much of a success.

She tells Rolling Stone magazine, "Right when we got there, we just knew it was just bad. He looked like an older version of Harry Potter, but skinnier...

So I had to get dessert first. And the other date I had, the guy was really, really tall and a lot older... We're trying to ask him questions, like, 'OK, you're into martial arts, so what kind of martial arts are you into?' And he was like, 'Oh, all kinds.' But you know how silly we are, so we were just cracking up."

Monday, 19 December 2011

A holiday helping of celebrity scoop

How about one last serving of celebrity scoop for 2011? I'm on vacation through Jan. 3, so here are some star-studded talking points you can use to impress your out-of-town guests over the holidays.

"Coma," an A&E miniseries starring Richard Dreyfuss, Ellen Burstyn, James Woods, Geena Davis, has been filming in a number of spots around metro Atlanta including Decatur, the Castleberry Hill area and at Southern Regional Hospital in Riverdale. It's a modern take on the Robin Cook bestseller “Coma” and the 1978 Michael Douglas film adapted from it. It's about the strange happenings at an Atlanta hospital where odd numbers of people lapse into unconsciousness.

The USA pilot Nathan Lane is working on is now known as "Local Talent," (a working title was "On We Go.") It has been filming in Locust Grove and Palmetto. It's a comedy about a guy who looks like Nathan Lane but isn't Nathan Lane, played by Nathan Lane. (Got it?) The upcoming season of "Teen Wolf" has been filming in downtown Atlanta this week. It's an MTV drama about especially hairy adolescents.

John Mellencamp has been spending time in Atlanta working on "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County," a musical written by Stephen King that the Alliance Theatre will premiere in the spring (See story on D1). Mellencamp, who's writing the music and lyrics, stopped by Richie Arpino's Buckhead salon this week for a haircut. Arpino is no stranger to famous noggins, having once freshened Justin Bieber's erstwhile swoosh. "He wanted it kind of military style, with texturizing," Arpino said,  referring to Mellencamp, not the Biebs. Mellencamp's ladyfriend Meg Ryan was with him, but Arpino didn't get his hands on her tresses even though he pleaded, "Do you know how many times people bring in your picture saying, ‘I want Meg Ryan hair?'"

Cuba Gooding Jr., who's here filming "Crew 9," where he plays a counselor working with troubled kids, dined at Nava the other night.

Comic actress Bette Midler has been in town filming “Parental Guidance,” a family-friendly comedy also starring Billy Crystal and Marisa Tomei that comes out in time for Thanksgiving 2012. Midler was spotted admiring the holiday decor at the St. Regis Hotel in Buckhead the other day, and a tipster spotted her at the Lenox mall Hermes store, too. Sources said she frequented Souper Jenny, an Atlanta favorite.

Midler also noted early in her stay that Atlanta loves driving almost as much as it loves calling streets the same name. “Atlanta has 26 streets called Peachtree. But get this, no peach trees! However, parking lots for DAYS!” she tweeted soon after she arrived this fall. With “Parental Guidance” wrapping up Midler was on her way this week, but not before enjoying one more Atlanta staple: the Real Housewives of Atlanta. “Sat next to Phaedra (Parks) from Housewives of Atlanta on the plane yesterday, and got me an earful of jaw-dropping chatter!” Midler tweeted on Monday. “Holy cow!” Parks  retweeted the post. Can you imagine the racket those two created?

A new act for Atlanta real estate

Act Two: The market tanks.

Act Three: Enter Tyler Perry.

"Real estate just wasn't happening," Phillips said. "The question was, what do you do when what you're doing isn't going to work?"

Perry and other entertainers, including Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, T.I. and Geena Davis, have become the answer. Rather than continue trying to sell his client's 12,000-square-foot Castleberry Hill loft -- once listed at $15 million -- Phillips now leases it to production companies looking for a glam place to film.

Some scenes for "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," starring Hudson and Sutherland, were shot there earlier this year. "Coma," a new A&E miniseries starring Davis, wrapped more recently, as did "The Marriage Counselor," the movie Perry is now working on. T. I. once shot a video there.

"While I love real estate, I had to find a way to supplement it. I had just enough time to get in, make some money and then just get killed. I felt like a loser," said Phillips, a 2001 Georgia State University graduate who got into real estate in 2006. He's marketing a number of other big properties (see them at and said his new Hollywood connections are both paying the bills and restoring his self-confidence.

"The best thing has been a renewed sense of faith in myself. I can see the path now," said Phillips, noting production companies might pay around $25,000 for a five-day shoot. "I feel so lucky I figured it out."

Others are figuring it out, too.

Rosina Seydel has been in real estate for a dozen years but no longer sells. Instead she markets high-end properties at

"I was in traditional real estate and it just wasn’t very fun," she said. Working with performers including Ne-Yo, who shot a CD cover photo at one of her listings, or Whitney Houston, who shot a photo spread at another, has been fun indeed.

The CW series "The Vampire Diaries" films quite a bit at Fairfield House, a stately mansion in her portfolio, while Nike taped a commercial at a downtown penthouse she advertises.

"This is all my business now," said Seydel, who said a television show might pay $5,000 to $8,000 per day to film at one of her properties, while movie production fees can be more like $10,000 per day. "I wish I had more modern properties."

John B. Raulet would like more furnished houses. A commercial real estate veteran, he got into the movie business almost by accident.

"It just kind of happened," he said. "The real estate market was so bad. I got a call from ‘Road Trip II: Beer Pong.' "

After that cinematic classic, Raulet, whose web site is, started working with a slew of other films. He has inked deals involving Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman ("The Change-Up"), Billy Crystal and Bette Midler ("Parental Guidance") and Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah ("Joyful Noise"). He helps productions line up office or warehouse space, or homes where the stars can live while they're here filming.

"The biggest challenge companies have is finding nice Buckhead homes that are furnished," said Raulet, who recently helped Ben Stiller locate temporary digs while he's here filming "Neighborhood Watch."

A leased Buckhead manse can fetch up to $25,000 per month, a lifesaver for some of the people Raulet works with.

"They’re not buying their wife a fur coat and Cadillac. They’re using the money to pay the bank note," said Raulet, who said Georgia's burgeoning film industry has created some happy Hollywood endings. "The real estate market has been battered and all of a sudden these movie people roll into town. It’s helping a lot of people."

Sunday, 11 December 2011

‘Night in Treme' celebrates majesty of New Orleans

Fans of the HBO television's “Treme” know that music is like another character on the show. So it makes sense that when creator David Simon was developing the premise, he consulted with New Orleans music icons such as  saxophonist Donald Harrison, Jr., and even asked him to appear in a couple of episodes.

The jazz saxophonist’s Treme neighborhood upbringing can be heard in every note he plays on his 20-plus albums – including the recently released “This Is Jazz” -- and in his joyous live performances. The “King of Nouveau Swing,” Harrison draws from several different genres – and has even made a foray into rap – but always comes back to draw from his musical roots.

Still rebuilding his home after Hurricane Katrina, Harrison has seen New Orleans residents help each other heal in the wake of tragedy. That celebration of life is one of the themes he explores – along with several other artists including Kermit Ruffins, Rebirth Brass Band and Glen David Andrews – in a Night in Treme, a show celebrating the musical majesty of New Orleans on Saturday at the Rialto Center for the Arts. We talked with Harrison this week about the show:

Q: You’ve been on the Treme tour off and on for a few months. Any good stories??

A: I think the most interesting thing is to see the effect of New Orleans music on the audience. The Kennedy Center is not really a place where people get up and dance. There are a lot of politicians in there, and they have an image to maintain. On the first song, you could tell they wanted to move, but they were uncomfortable with this concept. But by the second song, they started getting up and by the third song, the audience got up and started dancing, and they danced through the first set and the second set of the concert. So we had the biggest party that the Kennedy Center, I think, has ever had. It was beautiful. To see senators dancing is a great thing to me. It was great to see the effect the music has on some of the most serious people in the world.

Q: You’re known for your work in several different genres. Is there one in particular you feel most comfortable in?

No. I consider myself a modern jazz musician, but I love all types of music. If the music feels good and it feels like I should be playing it,  I just play it, I never second guess it. Because of that, I’ve been able to cross-pollinate all those styles into my style. I just love all types of music. I love to dance, I love to listen to funky bands, I love to listen to swinging bands, Latin, Afro, Caribbean music, Mexican music – everything. I grew up in a household with all types of music. I never thought of music in boxes. I think it’s helped me have a lot of respect for humanity. It helped me to realize that people are people and everyone has something beautiful they can do.

Q: You’ve tackled rapping in some of your recent work. How did that come about?

A: I was in Brooklyn, and there was this little kid, and his name was Christopher Wallace [later known as the rapper The Notorious B.I.G.], so he would come to my house everyday, and we got to be good friends. And I sort of taught him aspects about music which he used in his rap style. I was teaching him about jazz and music and he kept me abreast of rap, and through that process, I started saying, “I know I’m a little older, but I’ll rhyme with you.” I developed somewhat of an older person's vision of what hip hop and MCing could be. And it’s a lot of fun.

Q: What are things like in New Orleans now?

A: The strength of the people here who have had to endure so much is mind-boggling. Everyone that I’ve known has been through contractor fraud, with the contractor taking all of your money. But The most beautiful aspect is people coming from all around the country and the world to help in a one-on-one kind of way. That’s the most beautiful thing, when it’s personal like that. Nobody is making any money, it’s just out of love. It restores faith in human beings when you see that.

Q: How has the rebuilding process been for you personally?

I’m still rebuilding. I’m doing construction as we speak. I’ve become a sort of jack of all trades -- with carpentry, plumbing, electrical work. You have to learn how to do this stuff. I’m enjoying carpentry. Now I’m building custom cabinets. I’ve had offers to work for other people, but I just don’t have the time. There’s only so much time in the day.

You’re a Congo Nation Mardi Gras Indian chief. What do those duties entail?

You have to get the respect by knowing the culture – knowing the drumbeats, the rituals, the dancing. How to make the costumes and how to interact with other Mardi Gras Indian groups.  There’s a lot of African influence in it, and I’d like to think I’m continuing the legacy of Congo Square by developing those rhythms that are African-inspired but were developed here in New Orleans.

Q: How many parades have you been in?

I’ve been doing it since I was 2. My father was a chief –- I come from an old line. I know what the old words mean, what the old drumbeats mean. I’m fortunate that I was around those guys. They used to talk about the old ways all the time. I thought they were just reminiscing, in my mind I was like, “I’ve heard these stories a million times from you guys, I don’t need to hear it anymore.” It took me all these years they were teaching me without teaching me. Now I'm doing the same thing, so I understand.

A visit with Billy Crystal in Piedmont Park

You already knew Billy Crystal was one of the funniest and most talented performers of our time. He’s also a pretty nice guy.

"I love Atlanta," he said. "I always love coming here."

The artist is no stranger to Atlanta, having visited often over the years. He has family here, and he made a stop at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre during a 2009 tour. Now he's back, working on a movie titled "Parental Guidance," which has filmed in a subdivision in Alpharetta and at Perimeter Mall, with plans to shoot at a number of other locations around town including the Cobb Centre.

We visited the set on Tuesday when the project was shooting a scene in Piedmont Park. Crews had constructed a professional half-pipe for the scene, featuring skateboarding pro Tony Hawk. In the movie, Crystal and Bette Midler star as a couple whose three young grandkids run them around in circles. The scene they filmed Tuesday involved a 6-year-old’s unauthorized, al fresco bathroom break.

“I have a 6-year-old peeing on a half-pipe,” Crystal said. “Life is good!”

Amid the movie’s comic scenes, he and Midler's characters work to reconcile with their estranged daughter, played by Marisa Tomei.

We got a few minutes with the comic genius during a break.

"Hi, I’m Billy,” he said, sitting down in a canvas-backed chair.

Here’s a Q & A from our visit:

Q: Tell us about “Parental Guidance.”

A: We wanted to make a fun movie that had a good heart. A whole family can enjoy this movie.

Q: It’s somewhat autobiographical?

A: This is how the whole thing started. Janice [his wife of 30+ years] and I had the kids for five days.

Q: Oh, my.

A: That was the original title of the movie: “Oh my!” Kids are the toughest take-home exams. Listening is more important than talking.

Q: What do your grandchildren[ages 8, 5 and 2] teach you on a daily basis?

A: To take a deep breath before I bend.

Q: Did they sort of serve as consultants for the movie, to ensure the movie authentically portrayed young people?

A: They don’t even realize it. You watch them and get ideas for scenes.

Q: What did your grandparents teach you when you were a child?

A: Don’t put your finger in the pot! [His grandmother was a great cook.] They taught me love, responsibility.

Q: Tell us about your character in this movie, Artie.

A: He’s a minor league baseball announcer who’s just gotten fired. He’s not in good shape.

Q: So while it’s a comedy, it sounds like the movie also touches on more serious, real-life issues.

A: It says something about fractured families. It’s all about real things.

Q: Eddie Murphy seems a little stressed about hosting the Oscars. What advice do you have for him?

A: You’re always nervous about it. Just have fun! He’s a great talent.

Arena rock to the next level

With Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Paul O’Neill, has already achieved several notable firsts for a touring musical act.

Mark Weiss, Special With its dazzling stage effects and a "rock theater" format, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra makes the live concert an experience.

To O’Neill’s knowledge, Trans-Siberian Orchestra is the first rock act to never have an opening act or open a show for any other act. It’s the first band to have more than 80 members and the first act to go straight to arenas for its first tour.

He’s also set new standards for visual spectacle in a live show, launching more fireworks, fire, lasers and other special effects for each performance than any other rock band in history.

Now O’Neill, the band’s composer and producer, has set his sights on live theater, and if his vision for what he calls “rock theater” succeeds, it will be interesting to see how it influences Broadway musicals and other live theater productions are presented.

His vision for rock theater boils down to a basic concept — to take the spectacular modern visual production of a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert and the fully developed stories that are told in the lyrics of the group’s rock opera-styled CDs to the stage and bring theater into the 21st century.

“You know, I worship some of these Broadway shows I’ve seen over the years, but they could have been produced in the exact same way in 1920,” O’Neill said. “It’s just the lights, maybe occasionally dry ice, smoke and that’s it. I honestly believe if you looked behind the walls of some of these theaters, you’d see electric [systems] installed by Thomas Edison in 1890. And so it [the idea] is to take the cutting edge, always-pushing-the-envelope of the special effects of rock and roll, married to the coherent story telling of Broadway,”

In listening to O’Neill talk about “rock theater,” though, his ideas aren’t much of a leap from what Trans-Siberian Orchestra has been doing with its holiday tours for more than a decade now.

The holiday tours started while O’Neill and his cast of musicians were in the process of recording and releasing a trilogy of Christmas-themed CDs. The first was “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” in 1996, followed by “The Christmas Attic” in 1998 and “The Lost Christmas Eve” in 2004.

The holiday tours have become perennial blockbusters, racking up more than $330 million in ticket sales and playing to more than 8 million people over their history.

As has been the case for several years, “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” will be featured as the main rock opera during the first set of this year’s show.

The second set will once again be a full-on rock concert featuring material from across the Trans-Siberian Orchestra catalog — although O’Neill said there will be some new twists this time around.

“We’re psyched to be taking out the winter tour,” he said. “The opening is a brand new song from one of the upcoming albums. There are a lot of new songs in the second half of the set. There are new special effects that have just come out off of the production line.”

The new songs will come mostly from the group’s next two CDs that are currently being recorded — “Romanov (When Kings Must Whisper)” and “Gutter Ballet.”

Atlanta Tonys shine on stars

Longtime Atlanta theater troupes have commanded headlines in recent months by making emergency appeals for cash to keep their doors open. But the 2011 Suzi Bass Awards, held Monday night at Oglethorpe University’s Conant Performing Arts Center, was about focusing the spotlight where directors, actors and crews would prefer it: the work.

On a glittery evening in which prizes in 25 categories, plus four special ones, for 2010-11 season plays and musicals were handed out, veteran Little Five Points troupe Horizon Theatre Company gathered the most star-shaped trophies, with 10.

It was a big night for the midsize Atlanta troupe co-founded by Lisa and Jeff Adler in 1983. In its 27th season, it operates with a budget of less than $1 million in a no-frills performance space in a schoolhouse-turned-community center. Going into the awards, the troupe had 13 nominations for “Avenue Q,” the puppet-loving, coming-of-age Broadway musical whose rights were considered a coup for Horizon to snag.

Still run by the Adlers, Horizon has never carried an accumulated deficit, but it has taken some creative fundraising, especially recruiting individual donors, for the company to make it through the recession.

Midtown’s Alliance Theatre, which dominated the local version of the Tony Awards in 2011, was second with seven prizes. Lawrenceville’s Aurora Theatre took three statues, followed by Westside’s Actor’s Express and Marietta’s Theatre in the Square with two each.

In the special Suzi categories, the Audience Choice Award for Outstanding Season went to Horizon; the Center for Puppetry Arts won the 2010 Spirit of Suzi Award, acknowledging long-term commitment to Atlanta’s theater scene; and Margaret Baldwin was honored with the Gene-Gabriel Moore Playwriting Award for “Night Blooms,” produced by Horizon.

In the major acting categories, Tess Malis Kincaid won lead play actress for “August: Osage County” at the Alliance; Eric J. Little, lead play actor for “Superior Donuts,” Horizon; Adrienne Reynolds, lead musical actress, “Gut Bucket Blues,” Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company; and Nick Arapoglou, lead musical actor, “Avenue Q,” Horizon. (Kincaid also took lead play actress honors last year, for “Good Boys and True” at Actor’s Express.)

In the directing categories, Alliance artistic director Susan V. Booth won for the play “August: Osage County,” and Heidi Cline McKerley accepted the musical prize for Horizon’s “Avenue Q.”

The Alliance’s “Bring It On: The Musical” was honored in the world premiere category. The musical is now in its first stop on a national tour at Los Angeles’ Ahmanson Theatre.

The Suzi Awards were launched in 2005 in honor of Bass, a spirited, earthy Atlanta actress with a sizable comic streak who died of a brain tumor in 2002 at age 56.

Atlanta's civic, cultural circles celebrate success

Luminaries from Atlanta's civic, cultural, corporate and community circles gathered at a couple of events this week to celebrate our city. On Wednesday night, a crowd packed Mason Murer Fine Art for a party celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Path Foundation. Spearheaded by Cindy and Bill Fowler and Sarah and Jim Kennedy (chairman of Cox Enterprises, which owns the AJC), the event featured a video illustrating the foundation's many miles of trails in and around Atlanta for walkers, runners, cyclists and skaters, and remarks from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

"We believe we're moving forward with a vision for our community that's special," Reed said, referring to the Atlanta Beltline project. "Every single time the city of Atlanta really stretches for  bigger vision of itself, every time we decide to do more, our city improves." Bill Fowler led the group in a toast "to all the trails we have built and all the trails yet to come."

On Thursday night, the historic Georgian Terrace hotel, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary, hosted a gala saluting the group of 100 Influential Atlantans. That august group of honorees included songbird Jennifer Holliday, who performed what can only be described as an aerobic version of "At Last";  Attorney General Sam Olens, Gov. Nathan Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle; Atlanta City Council president Ceasar Mitchell, member Kwanza Hall and Mayor Reed; educator Ron Clark, philanthropist Sally Dorsey, producer Dallas Austin, chef Richard Blais, Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy; WABE's Lois Reitzes, CNN founder Ted Turner, Martin Luther King III and AJC editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich.


Actor Val Kilmer was spotted Thursday evening heading into the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change...Actors Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill and director Akiva Schaffer, who are here working on "Neighborhood Watch," dined at the Virginia-Highland Atkins Park very late Wednesday night (actually, very early Thursday morning) with several members of the production crew.

The large crowd went through three bottles of Herradura Tequila along with a spread of pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes and fries. That project was setting up for an overnight shoot on the Marietta Square Friday night, but they were planning to clear out by about 6 a.m. today...Marisa Tomei has taken a shine to Parish since she'd been in town filming a movie called "Parental Guidance." She's been spotted there twice in recent days. The movie, formerly known as "Us and Them," also stars Bette Midler and Billy Crystal and was filming a scene Friday at Perimeter Mall, which is right across the street from the AJC. That's right, "Parental Guidance," was filming a rock's throw from a bunch of reporters. Insert joke here.

Atlanta's Kenny Leon to direct ‘Steel Magnolias' remake

Not content with directing two plays making Broadway bows this fall, Atlantan Kenny Leon has signed on to direct an all-black version of "Steel Magnolias" for the cable network Lifetime.

In an e-mail to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Leon wrote, "Casting soon ... shooting somewhere in the South though I would love to see it happen in Atlanta."

Like the 1989 hit film that featured an all-star cast including Dolly Parton, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine and Julia Roberts, the update will be set in Louisiana and will explore the bond among a group of strong, Southern-accented women. Sally Robinson's new script is based on the original movie.

The TV movie is to be produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and Sony Pictures TV, where the duo’s Storyline Entertainment has an exclusive deal for long-form programming, according to Leon directed Storyline and Sony Pictures TV’s previous collaboration, the 2008 ABC movie "A Raisin in the Sun."

The always-in-fast-forward Leon, who said he just signed for "Steel" when reports broke Tuesday, is about to open Katori Hall's Martin Luther King Jr. drama "The Mountaintop," starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, on Thursday at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.

He's also directing Lydia R. Diamond "Stick Fly," which begins previews at Broadway's Cort Theater on Nov. 18. It stars Dule Hill, Mekhi Phifer, Tracie Thoms, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Rosie Benton and Condola Rashad in a play exploring race, class and familial relationships among an extended well-to-do African-American clan on Martha's Vineyard.

In the e-mail to the AJC, Leon said he was getting excited about the Thursday Broadway premiere of the Olivier-winning "Mountaintop" and the anticipated attendance by a number of Atlanta leaders and board members of his Atlanta-based True Colors Theatre Company.

"You gotta see ‘The Mountaintop,'" he wrote. "I think it's really special."

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Calif. woman claims Bieber fathered her baby

A California woman has filed suit against pop sensation Justin Bieber, claiming he's the father of her 3-month-old child, a celebrity magazine is reporting.

Enrique Castro Mendivil, AP A 20-year-old California woman claims pop sensation Justin Bieber is the father of her baby.

Star magazine said 20-year-old Mariah Yeater is demanding that Bieber, 17, take a paternity test. She claims she and Bieber had sex backstage at a concert at the Staples Center in Los Angeles when she was 19. The age of consent in California is 18, so if true, Yeater would be admitting to a misdemeanor.

The celebrity website carried a statement from an unidentified representative for Bieber: "While we haven't yet seen the lawsuit, it's sad that someone would fabricate the malicious, defamatory and demonstrably false claims. We will vigorously pursue all available legal remedies to defend and protect Justin against these allegations."

Cobb high school ready for its close-up

Neighborhood Watch,” the sci-fi comedy starring Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill that’s been filming all over metro Atlanta, including the Marietta Square and some west Cobb County subdivisions, plans a two-night shoot at Campbell High School in Smyrna next week.

The flick needs lots of you to fill up the background of the scene being shot at the school. Email a photo and your contact information to if you’re interested. Shooting is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. You can come for one or both dates, but you need to plan on staying the entire time on the night or nights you attend.

Feel free to bring snacks and warm clothes, since the shoot is going to be taking place at the football stadium. Unlike an official “extras” gig there is no pay for this but organizers will be raffling prizes, and the production will make a donation to the school's band and PTSA.

The principal actors are scheduled to be on hand so you may get a glimpse. Do keep in mind that casting folks generally frown upon people bringing their phones or cameras onto a set, so don’t plan on getting Vaughn and Stiller to pose for a picture with you for your Facebook page. And count on lots of standing, or in this case, sitting around.


Speaking of the aforementioned Jonah Hill, he and Will Forte, also starring in "Neighborhood Watch," were spotted at the Punchline Comedy Club the other night to cheer on their friend Hannibal Buress.

Pizza maker, celebrity whisperer

Giovanni DiPalma makes a mean pie, as fans of his Westside spot, Antico Pizza, have come to know and love. The effervescent restaurateur also has cultivated a famous following, as visiting celebs in town to film movies find out about him. Chris Rock, Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman, along with NFL quarterback Tom Brady, are just a few of the notable diners who have been by for a slice or two.

So we weren't surprised to hear from DiPalma about his star-studded spa outing on Thursday. Seems he ran into rapper Jay-Z (in town for the first stop of the Watch the Throne tour with Kanye West) and NBA player LeBron James at the St. Regis hotel Thursday. After the two entertainers admired DiPalma's ride -- a drop-top Aston Martin -- all three decided to rejuvenate with facials and massages at the Remede Spa in the St. Regis. Noted DiPalma: "Real men do spa!"

Actress aids charity benefit

Actress and author Meredith Baxter was the guest of honor at Komen Atlanta's Pink Promise Partner Thursday night at the Buckhead home of Debra and Kevin Buster. The event raised $340,000 for the breast cancer research organization. Baxter, author of "Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering," shared her own breast cancer story with the group.

Put me in (the picture), Coach

It's almost Halloween, so you know what that means: time to get ready for Christmas. The Atlanta Braves are here to help. They're booking appointments with team photographer Pouya Dianat from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 5 at Turner Field. Prices range from $150 for a family of four on the field or in the clubhouse to $350 for a group of 20 or more on the field. Call 404-614-1557 for more information and to make your reservation.

Fashion advice from ‘Project Runway's' Tim Gunn

Ready to make it work?

Richard Drew, AP Fashion consultant Tim Gunn is well-known as on-air mentor to designers on the reality television show "Project Runway."

Tim Gunn, the nurturing mentor beloved by “Project Runway” viewers and contestants alike, is headed our way to help Atlanta get its fall look together. The author of fashion titles including “Gunn’s Golden Rules,” he also serves as chief creative officer of Liz Claiborne Inc., and will be coming for a event at Perimeter Mall promoting Lucky Brand, part of the Liz Claiborne portfolio.

The event, a Lucky fashion show followed by a Q&A, is planned for 1 p.m. Nov. 12 in the lower level of the Perimeter Mall Dillard’s. Want to be in the show? Organizers are holding a casting call from 4 to 8 p.m. Nov. 10 at the mall's  Lucky Brand Jeans Shop.

We interviewed Gunn by phone this week. Here’s what we talked about.

Q: What’s it like for you when you meet folks who see you on “Project Runway?”

A: I’m the luckiest guy in the world. The great thing is I don’t have to get ‘in character.’ When people meet me, they already know me.

Q: What’s your advice for people who want to update their look without spending a lot?

A: The first place you should go shopping is in your closet. Find those items that are languishing, with the tags still on. You don’t have to chase the trends if you have staples in your closet.

Q: What’s one investment piece you’d advise people to consider adding to their wardrobe?

A: A classic but fitted blazer. It’s the best way to dress up separates.

Q: What trend would you like to see go away?

A: Cropped pants. I think I’ve figured it out. The reason women gravitate to cropped pants is they only have to worry about one measurement: the waist. But it makes you look short and wide.

Q: What about jeans?

A: Jeans are the most difficult item to get right. Before I even joined Liz Claiborne I was enamored of Lucky Brand – because of the quality of the associates. I’ve never had a better fitting pair of jeans than my Lucky Brand jeans. I always recommend a darker wash. It’s more serviceable.

Q: What handbag trend do you like for fall?

A: The smaller the bag, the closer to evening. For daytime I always defer to a woman’s lifestyle. Where I draw the line is the price tag. I see no reason to exceed the double digits. A $10,000 bag? I say if you have to have luxury (and have that sort of money), spend $2,000 and give the rest to charity.

Q: What are we going to see on the next season of ‘Project Runway?’

A: I don’t know what we’re going to see. I never know!

Girl Scouts luncheon recognizes women of real achievement

Y'all, I'm going to be honest. I'll pour sand in my eyes before I read another word about Kim Kardashian this week. So how about we discuss some ladies of true accomplishment? I'm talking about people like Amber Pressley, 16, and Eloise Wright, 102. They both attended this week's Changing the World Awards luncheon, benefiting the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta.

Amber is the president of her Girl Scout troop, #10521, and has been active in scouting for more than 10 years. "It's a place of sisterhood," said Amber, a sophomore at Southwest DeKalb High School. During the luncheon, held at the Atlanta History Center, organizers honored a number of Girl Scout members and alumnae.

Receiving lifetime achievement awards were charitable fundraising powerhouse Margaret Perdue; Claire D. Smith, who helped create the Atlanta Girl Scout Chorus and has been active in many philanthropic projects; Mary Van Valkenburgh, who served in various professional positions with Girl Scout USA and Girl Scout Councils -- and Wright, who started Marietta's first African American Girl Scout troop in 1941. She also helped found Cobb County's NAACP branch, served for 42 years as the music director of Turner Chapel AME Church and taught music to hundreds of public school students. "I am so glad to be here," Wright said. "I've enjoyed every minute of it."

Wright said she felt discouraged at times, when trying to organize the troop. Her determination never wavered.

"I feel like if it hadn't been for Girl Scouts, I wouldn't have been as successful as I am," said Wright, who attended with her daughter, Joy Holiday. "We see our girls changing things."

When it was time to receive her award, Amber delivered it to Wright's table. The two visited afterward and Amber said her troop has become a tight-knit bunch.

"We support each other," she said.

Also honored at the luncheon were alumnae achievement award winners: former Southern Company CIO Becky Blalock, Global EXEC Women founder and CEO Virginia A. Bradley, Kinetix CEO Shannon W. Russo, Shepherd Center co-founder Alana Shepherd, Spelman College president Beverly Daniel Tatum and author Kathy Trocheck (known professionally as Mary Kay Andrews) and current Girl Scout members Vanessa Alamo and Rebecca Andrews. The event, emceed by Channel 2 news anchor Jovita Moore, featured remarks from Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta CEO Marilyn Midyette, who said, "We are here to celebrate a group of people who just don't get celebrated enough: women."

Keynote speaker Morgan Coffey said the leadership skills she attained during her scouting experience propelled her to co-found Stronghold Atlanta, which serves women and children who are victims of domestic violence. "Girl Scouts represent the greatest talent pool in history," she said.

Women in Technology Foundation Director Vicki Hamilton, who chaired the event, announced an anonymous gift of $100,000 during the luncheon and reminded everyone to mark their calendars for the Green Gala, to be held March 17 at the 200 Peachtree events facility.

"When we impact a girl, we change the woman she becomes," Hamilton said.

Local sites show up in new 'Footloose' movie

Study acting, wait tables between auditions, spend money on head shots — that’s one path to breaking into the movies.

Photo courtesy of Randy Burnett Sue Burnett of Peachtree City poses with her husband's 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge, featured in the "Footloose" remake. 
Christopher Quinn, Christopher Quinn Acworth Presbyterian Church was the setting for some crucial scenes, including Ren and Ariel's first meeting and a father-daughter showdown. 
2003 Staff photo The now-closed Cowboys served as the spot where the film's teenagers cut loose and enjoyed a night out.

And then there’s the method used by the Burnetts of Peachtree City: Own a totally “cherry” 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge that’s featured in the new “Footloose” remake. It’s the same car seen in a publicity shot where star Julianne Hough rests her own short-clad jeans, er, bumper against the front grill.

“Julianne’s fingerprints are still on the hood!” Sue Burnett joked in an email where she sent a photo of herself striking a more PG version of the pose.

Filmed entirely in and around metro Atlanta, “Footloose” opened last Friday and earned about $16 million in its first weekend of release — twice as much as another ’80s remake, “The Thing.” While you might not happen to spy Delta pilot Randy Burnett driving his GTO around town, you can plan to check out these other real-life sites with “roles” in the film:

Now starring:

New Senoia Raceway, 171 Brown Road, Senoia. 770-599-6161,

In the role of: A racetrack where engines race, tempers flare and much melodramatic expositive dialogue is thrown about. It’s where we meet Ariel’s nasty boyfriend, a driver who smacks both her and Ren around at various points in the movie. It’s also the setting for a so weird-it’s-wacky monster bus race where Boston-born Ren proves he’s as tough and tough drivin’ as any Southern bad ol’ boy.

In real life: The self-described “Fastest 3/8th mile dirt oval in Georgia,” the track on Ga. 16 hosts racing by late models, B-Cadets, hobby and mini stock cars every Saturday night from April to September. Plus, family events and entertainment.

Bonus shot: If you weren’t among the thousands of locals who were extras in a race crowd scene — or if you were, and want to return to the scene — the New Senoia Raceway Champions Awards Banquet is at 3 p.m. Saturday. Gates open at 2 p.m.

? Now starring:

Starlight Six Drive-In Theatre, 2000 Moreland Ave., S.E., Atlanta. 404-627-5786,

In the role of: What else? A drive-in. But not just any drive-in, it’s where the teens in the movie’s fictional Bomont, Ga., can be found getting their dance on outside at night — despite the ban on boogeying. In one key development, the good reverend unexpectedly shows up in the snack bar area and catches a glimpse of Ariel getting her groove on. All you-know-what ensues.

In real life: In business since 1949, the Starlight is still a fully operational drive-in. Currently showing double features on four screens, the cost is $7 for adults and $1 for kids ages 3-9.

Bonus shot: Right now on Screen No. 4, you can catch “Footloose” in the place where “Footloose” was filmed. Just watch out for the Rev. Shaw Moore before you “cut loose!”

? Now starring:

Acworth Presbyterian Church, 4561 Church St., Acworth. 770-974-6551, www.acworthpresbyterian?

In the role of: The church of the Rev. Moore (Dennis Quaid), the minister/city councilman who pushes for the teen dancing ban. It’s where his wild child daughter Ariel (Hough) and new boy in town Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald) first meet; later father and daughter have a dramatic showdown there.

In real life: Founded shortly after the Civil War, APC celebrates its 140th anniversary this year. Sunday service is at 11 a.m., preceded by Sunday school at?9:45 a.m.

Bonus shot: The house where Quaid’s character lives is on Northside Drive in Acworth, very close to the church. Its usual occupants, Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood and his wife, Carol, relocated elsewhere during the 18 days that shooting took place at the 110-year-old house. When they first knocked on his door, location scouts had no idea that Allegood, like Quaid’s character, was a politico. “They were staircase hunting — you open the door and look right at ours’” said His Honor, whose wife was an extra in the first church scene. “Now we have the ‘Footloose’ House.”

? Now starring:

Cowboys, 1750 N. Roberts Road, Kennesaw.

In the role of: The big city dance club that Ren, Ariel, Willard (Miles Teller) and Rusty (Jonesboro resident Ziah Colon) revel at one night like former teetotalers suddenly set loose in Vegas. The crowd mostly wears boots and jeans.

In real life: Cowboys, which used to bill itself as the “biggest party outside the Perimeter,” is closed. But an experienced club operator out of Dallas has signed a lease for the space and plans to open another music/dance club there by December, according to the city of Kennesaw’s development department.

Bonus shot: The movie’s young protagonists have about a two-hour drive from the fictional Bomont to reach the club. As they approach, they’re awed. You, too, can have the same feeling by driving along the Downtown Connector. Just not at rush hour.

Now starring:

Bostwick Cotton Gin, Ga. 83, Bostwick

In the role of: The cotton gin where Ren gets a part-time job and that’s the setting for the climactic prom scene. And the fist fight with a group of toughs led by Ariel’s ex that precedes it.

In real life: The still- operational cotton gin is a centerpiece of the 360-population town of Bostwick, in northern Morgan County. The film’s production crew also turned a former cotton field into a “mini-city” for its trucks and trailers, said Angie Howard, a city councilor, and shot a field scene on Mayor John Bostwick’s farm (his great-grandfather built the town).

Bonus shot: Want to see where it all happened? Including the fist fight? Tours of the cotton gin are available during the 22nd annual Cotton Gin Festival in Bostwick on Nov. 5. There’s also a fun run, arts and crafts festival and — with some 200 vehicles — the biggest tractor parade in the state.

? Now starring:

R.L. Osborne High School, 2451 Favor Road, Marietta. 770-437-5900,

In the role of: Bomont High, home of the Fighting Panthers and the place where Ren meets his new best bud, the cowboy- hatted, two-left-footed Willard. Important scenes here have Ren defending himself against a totally baseless drug charge and Willard declaring his lifelong allegiance to the Georgia Bulldogs.

In real life: Cobb County’s oldest high school, home of the Cardinals. With an enrollment of about 1,600 students, it posted the district’s largest year-to-year gain in SAT scores for the class of 2011.

Bonus shot: Four framed handprints of crew members are at the school now.

Oprah and protégés give Atlanta fans a treat

Oprah Winfrey is well established as one of the most powerful media personalities in the world. Not surprisingly, her fledgling cable network, OWN, has been under major scrutiny for its early ratings woes.

Provided Oprah and her team of lifestyle experts, including design guru Nate Berkus, financial whiz Suze Orman and Dr. Mehmet Oz will speak at the O You! conference Saturday, Oct. 15 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

It's easy to forget she also owns a hugely successful women's magazine: O. After 12 years, it has a steady 2.4 million subscribers and, according to publisher Jill Seelig, more than 15 million readers a month. In recent years, the magazine has hosted an annual conference called "O You!" in different cities to reward its loyal readers. It features live seminars from the magazine's regular contributors.

Saturday, Winfrey and several protégés, including Dr. Mehmet Oz, Suze Orman and Gayle King, will regale 5,000 Oprah fans with words of wisdom and sage advice at a sold-out Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

In past years, the conference featured individual appearances. This time, the personalities will be grouped together in seminars by topic under the names of regular columns from the magazine, such as "Finding Your Passion" and "Feeling Better, Looking Better."

The day will culminate at 3 p.m. with an appearance and talk by Winfrey herself. In a rare print interview, she talked with the AJC earlier this week about the conference, the magazine and her network. Some excerpts:

AJC: Congratulations on your magazine making it 11 years.

Winfrey: Thank you. The magazine, if I may say so myself, it's one of the smartest, most thoughtful inspirational magazines out there. When I started it [in 2000], the idea was ‘Live your best life.' It's like that with the network, too. It took time to actually mold the magazine and create something with substance and light. In the beginning, it was a bit too stoic.

Q: You mean it was too serious?

Winfrey: Yes. I wanted to deliver a message of hope, inspiration, aspiration and fun. Sometimes, I have to be reminded to have fun... When we released the first edition, I thought it was a B-minus. The magazine hit its stride maybe six or seven years ago. We have some of the best writers in the business. I can't say enough about the magazine now. I am super A-plus proud of what my team has been able to do continuously sustain with that magazine. I probably spend the least amount of time with the magazine because it has its own momentum and the team understands the way I think.

Q: So how does the conference tie in with the magazine?

Winfrey: The conference is a celebration of the reader. If I wanted to just celebrate the magazine, I could bring the team together, have us pat ourselves on the back, drink some margaritas and call it a day. This is very different. This brings added value to our advertisers [which include L'Oreal, Truvia and Ikea] who can see, feel and connect with our readers. It's also a way for the readers to connect with our contributors: me, Dr. Oz, Martha Beck, Suze Orman, the team. Nothing beats the live experience. Nothing beats one-on-one.

Q: What do you plan to say on stage?

Winfrey: I'm probably going to build on what everybody else is saying. We as a society get really hung up looking at other people's lives and think that's the life I should be leading when in fact, that's not the life for you. I want people to slow down and begin to think seriously about what matters to them. People always answer the question of what they want with "I just want to be happy!" But people can't define what happiness looks like.

Q: OWN Network has been a bit slow out of the gate. Are you preaching patience?

Winfrey: I feel anything that is worthy of success takes time and effort and energy. I've only been off the air from my talk show since May 25. I only started giving OWN my full attention in late July, early August. We're all here to make a different kind of television, the type of television where you'll find pieces of light in the same way as the "Oprah" show. That takes time to build. We're building it. That's how I feel.

Q: Some people expected that since your name was attached to the network, it'd be an instant success.

Winfrey: Those are false expectations. Any successful network, whether it was Bravo, Discovery or TLC, they all had to develop and build. The difference for us is we're doing it with this big spotlight on us. Most people get to a point where something works, then get noticed. Not us.

Q: Does all the criticism bug you?

Winfrey: It's really OK. For me, it's about the long-term vision for using the network to do the same thing we did with the magazine and the talk show. I'm excited about "Lifeclass." [Oprah talks about lessons she learned from original "Oprah" shows.]. I'm excited about Rosie O'Donnell's talk show. Lisa Ling has done some of the best work of her career. We have a show called "Sweetie Pie's," which is fun. It's about a soul food restaurant in St. Louis. It's charming and entertaining but the message is it's hard to run a business in these economic times.

Some of those joining Oprah:

Nate Berkus

-- Best known as: A design expert with his own "Nate Berkus Show," seen locally at 8 a.m. weekdays on WATL-TV.

-- Conference duties: "I'm presenting with Peter Walsh. We've worked on home makeover for 10 years. I'm really excited to be on stage with him. We want to solve problems and give people information they can legitimately put to use... It's not inexpensive to attend the show. This is a vacation for many people who saved up all year to come. I want to deliver something that is a great experience and leaves great memories for them."

Gayle King

-- Best known as: Oprah's BFF, host of the daily "Gayle King Show" on OWN and editor-at-large of O magazine.

-- Conference duties: "I do the welcoming remarks. I'm sure people are excited to see Oprah. Most people haven't seen her since May. I also like to walk around and just talk to people."

Suze Orman

-- Best known as: A tough-as-nails financial guru with a popular CNBC weekend show and a regular columnist for O magazine.

-- Her take on the conference: “There’s something about being able to see people that you’ve been reading about for years and years. It’s almost as if the people get a chance to touch you. It almost brings the magazine into true life."

Dr. Mehmet Oz

-- Best known as: Host of "The Dr. Oz Show," seen daily at 4 p.m. locally on Fox 5 (WAGA-TV).

-- Plans for conference: "I'm not preplanning anything. Folks who come to this conference sometimes wonder if their best years are behind them. That's not the case. You are wherever you are... I'll be working on stage with Martha Beck, who I absolutely adore. Though I won't be talking the entire time, I'll be learning the entire time from her."

Friday, 9 December 2011

Oprah draws eager crowd

Here’s what happens when O, The Oprah Magazine comes to town:

Raymond Hagans, rhagans.photoshel Oprah Winfrey addressed a crowd of over 5,000 people at her O You! event Saturday the Georgia World Congress Center.

More than 5,000 people, mostly women, from 47 states and 25 countries outside the U.S. show up at an unholy hour and, with minimal shoving, cram themselves into a convention center to hear Oprah and her sanctioned experts talk about everything from prostitution (Lisa Ling) to power (Oprah).

The O You! tour, which took over the Georgia World Congress Center on Saturday, was described by editor-at-large Gayle King as “our way of bringing the magazine to life,” — a chance for loyal readers to get a live, condensed version of the monthly advice handed out in the 11-year-old publication.

It was a day reserved for the kind of positive thought and positive action on which media personality Oprah Winfrey’s empire has been built. Some attendees said they came for inspiration, some came with personal missions and more than a few simply wanted to see Oprah.

“She has had such a big year the past year,” said seven-months pregnant Heather Weeks, 33, who drove from Charlotte, N.C., with her mother, Jean Benfield, 59.

For years they had talked about visiting the Chicago set of Winfrey’s show, which ended in May, but they never made it, Benfield said. Weeks, soon to be a mother of three, hoped she might get some tips on getting control of her life. Benfield hoped fitness expert Bob Greene would drop just the right pearl to help her lose that stubborn 15 pounds.

King welcomed the audience and introduced keynote speaker Ling, host of “Our America” on OWN [Winfrey’s cable network]. O magazine editor-in-chief Susan Casey introduced Suze Orman, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Martha Beck, who each gave a few tips in their areas of expertise (finance, health and life coaching, respectively) and answered audience questions.

The rest of the day unfolded with standing-room-only seminars such as “Finding Your Passion,” and “Feeling Better, Looking Better,” in which other magazine contributors made appearances, including Greene, columnist Donna Brazile, O creative director Adam Glassman, beauty director Val Monroe, organization expert Peter Walsh and interior designer Nate Berkus.

Just after 3 p.m., Oprah emerged from behind the blinged-out O You! stage for a 45-minute love-fest that was mostly about learning to love yourself. “I am honored by your presence here and I celebrate you as you have come to celebrate yourselves,” she said. Winfrey talked about facing each day with fearlessness and the desire to serve, and acknowledged her most recent struggle to combat the fear of creating her own network.

Her new show, “Oprah’s Lifeclass,” has become the next vehicle in fulfilling her life passion, she said. “I’m on fire about creating the world’s biggest classroom,” Winfrey said. “I know that is why I was born.” She encouraged attendees to honor, celebrate and love the purpose and calling in their lives.

The sendoff resonated with Neissha King, 35, from Fort Benning. As a military wife, King was hoping to find ways to redefine herself after having relocated to the area four months ago. Being in the presence of so many other people seeking the same direction was reassuring, she said. “Going through the classes and seeing that you are not alone, and you are not the only one trying to figure out what you are doing ... you just realize people are people,” King said.

For four friends from Marietta, O You! was an emotional day they would never forget.

Tamarine Flatt, 45, Michelle Tisdale, 41, Kelly Wittes, 49, and Kim Dillehay, 47, had to leave their friend Sharon McLaughlin, 43, in Connecticut. McLaughlin is the Oprah follower in the group and the one who wanted them all to attend together, but she is in the midst of battling breast cancer — caught between chemotherapy and radiation — and was not up for the trip.

“We are putting together every single thing and collecting everything for her,” Tisdale said. “We are doing all the seminars she was going to do.” They also got books signed by all of her favorite authors and, though McLaughlin asked them not to call her from the event because she didn’t want to feel sad, Wittes took special care to video-record everything so McLaughlin would feel as if she had been there.

In an email to Flatt the night before the event, McLaughlin told her friends to “rock that convention.”

And they, along with several thousand other women, did just that.

Oprah draws enthusiastic GWCC crowd

Here's what happens when O, The Oprah Magazine comes to town:

More than 5,000 people, mostly women, from 47 states and 25 countries outside the U.S. show up at an unholy hour and, with minimal shoving, cram themselves into a convention center to hear Oprah and her sanctioned experts talk about everything from prostitution (Lisa Ling) to power (Oprah).

The O You! tour, which took over Georgia World Congress Center on Saturday, was described by editor-at-large Gayle King as "our way of bringing the magazine to life,"  --  a chance for loyal readers to get a live, condensed version of the monthly advice handed out in the 11-year-old publication.

It was a day reserved for the kind of positive thought and positive action on which media personality Oprah Winfrey's empire has been built. Some attendees said they came for inspiration, some came with personal missions and more than a few simply wanted to see Oprah.

"She has had such a big year the past year," said seven-months pregnant Heather Weeks, 33, who drove from Charlotte, N.C., with her mother, Jean Benfield, 59.

For years they had talked about visiting the Chicago set of Winfrey's show, which ended in May, but they never made it, Benfield said. Weeks, soon to be a mother of three, hoped she might get some tips on getting control of her life. Benfield hoped fitness expert, Bob Greene, would drop just the right pearl to help her lose that stubborn 15 pounds.

King welcomed the audience and introduced keynote speaker Lisa Ling, host of Our America on OWN [Winfrey's cable network]. O Magazine Editor in Chief Susan Casey introduced Suze Orman, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Martha Beck, who each gave a few tips in their areas of expertise (finance, health and life coaching, respectively) and answered audience questions.

The rest of the day unfolded with standing-room-only seminars such as "Finding Your Passion," and "Feeling Better, Looking Better," in which other magazine contributors made appearances, including Greene, columnist Donna Brazile, O creative director Adam Glassman, beauty director Val Monroe, organization expert Peter Walsh and interior designer Nate Berkus.

Just after 3 p.m., Oprah emerged from behind the blinged-out O You! stage for a 45-minute love-fest that was mostly about learning to love yourself. "I am honored by your presence here and I celebrate you as you have come to celebrate yourselves," she said. Winfrey talked about facing each day with fearlessness and the desire to serve, and acknowledged her most recent struggle to combat the fear of creating her own network.

Her new show, "Oprah's Lifeclass," has become the next vehicle in fulfilling her life passion, she said. "I'm on fire about creating the world's biggest classroom," Winfrey said. "I know that is why I was born." She encouraged attendees to honor, celebrate and love the purpose and calling in their lives.

The sendoff resonated with Neissha King, 35, from Fort Benning. As a military wife, King was hoping to find ways to redefine herself after having relocated to the area four months ago. Being in the presence of so many other people seeking the same direction was reassuring, she said. "Going through the classes and seeing that you are not alone, and you are not the only one trying to figure out what you are doing ... you just realize people are people," King said.

For four friends from Marietta, O You! was a personal and emotional day they would never forget.

Tamarine Flatt, 45, Michelle Tisdale, 41, Kelly Wittes, 49, and Kim Dillehay, 47, had to leave their friend Sharon McLaughlin, 43, in Connecticut. McLaughlin is the Oprah follower in the group and the one who wanted them all to attend together, but she is in the midst of battling breast cancer --  caught between chemotherapy and radiation --  and was not up for the trip.

"We are putting together every single thing and collecting everything for her," Tisdale said. "We are doing all the seminars she was going to do." They also got books signed by all of her favorite authors and, though McLaughlin asked them not to call her from the event because she didn't want to feel sad, Wittes took special care to video-record everything so McLaughlin would feel as if she had been there.

In an email to Flatt the night before the event, McLaughlin told her friends to "rock that convention."

And they, along with several thousand other women, did just that.

Reality show seeks Atlanta families with troubled teens

Are your teens driving you nuts? Let us rephrase that. Since your teens are no doubt driving you nuts, would you like to invite a reality show crew into your house for some help straightening them out? The Lifetime show "Supernanny" is looking for Atlanta families with troubled teens. The casting folks will be visiting in the coming weeks so they'd like to hear about you and your scowling, sulking little darlings now. Email them at If your home sounds sufficiently dysfunctional, they'll contact you to arrange an interview. Oh, and the life you save doesn't have to be your own here -- you can suggest someone else's kid, anonymously.

Boys & Girls Club welcomes Dominique Wilkins

The super young people active in the Atlanta Boys and Girls Club have much in common with former Atlanta Hawks player Dominique Wilkins. The longtime NBA player, who was a club member as a child, was inducted into the Boys and Girls Clubs of America’s Alumni Hall of Fame at the recent Great Futures Gala. The event, held at the Grand Atrium at 200 Peachtree, featured entertainment by club alums Kool & The Gang and raised more than $600,000 to support the organization nationwide. The gala was chaired by Turner Broadcasting executive Stuart C. Snyder and emceed by CNN's Brooke Baldwin.

Galas to benefit kids

The Oct. 22 Crystal Ball benefiting the Arthritis Foundation's Georgia chapter and an Oct. 24  luncheon benefiting Camp Kudzu both benefit groups of deserving children. Funds raised at the Crystal Ball, chaired by Winston and Michele Gandy and honoring Elizabeth Martin, support initiatives such as Camp Acheaway, an annual camp for children ages 6-17 who are living with arthritis. Camp Kudzu, chaired by Melanie Boltax and honoring Jane Dean, serves children with diabetes. Both events will be held at the Buckhead Ritz-Carlton. For information on the Crystal Ball, call 678-237-4468. For Camp Kudzu luncheon information, call 404-250-1811.

Whitney Houston goes all diva on Delta?

Whitney Houston reportedly wasn't ready when Delta was … to buckle her seat belt. The gossip site reported she nearly got bounced from an Atlanta to Detroit flight on Wednesday for refusing to buckle her seat belt. Delta would not confirm the story, but TMZ quoted several sources who said Houston was sober yet indignant, and finally allowed a crew member to buckle her seat belt for her. TMZ also quoted Team Whitney explaining that she “overreacted a little bit after missing an earlier flight.”


Ben Stiller seems to be follow Lady Gaga's tracks through Atlanta. He was spotted Thursday night at Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium, a quirky Edgewood Avenue watering hole where the glam rocker previously tried (without success) to purchase a Virgin Mary statue that's part of the decor. A few weeks ago Stiller and Gaga both happened to show up at Holeman & Finch Public House on Peachtree Road in south Buckhead. Stiller's here for the filming of "Neighborhood Watch," a movie also starring Adam Sandler and Vince Vaughn, who was spotted on Tuesday having lunch at Paces 88, the restaurant at the St. Regis. The project has been filming in the Inman Park area as well as west Cobb County.

Paula Deen enjoys Atlanta cuisine

Cookbook author, magazine mogul and Food Network personality Paula Deen was in town this week promoting her newest title, "Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible." Naturally we wondered where she dined during her down time. On Tuesday, she had lunch on the patio of Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse at Phipp's Plaza. Sunday, she showed up at the Dantanna’s in Buckhead and was so knocked out by Chef Tim Mastalski's potato salad and Krispy Kreme bread pudding that she gave him a hug. "Atlanta, you have been great!" she tweeted as she rolled out of town Tuesday.


Actor Denzel Washington is in town filming a movie called “Flight,” an action-adventure thriller in which he plays a heroic pilot with a mysterious past. (Home to the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s the perfect spot for such a project.) Friday night he checked out V103 host Frank Ski’s new self-named restaurant.

Charity events to benefit kids

Two upcoming events will help  groups of deserving children: Saturday night's Crystal Ball benefiting the Arthritis Foundation’s Georgia chapter and a Monday luncheon benefiting Camp Kudzu. Funds raised at the Crystal Ball, chaired by Winston and Michele Gandy and honoring Elizabeth Martin, support initiatives such as Camp Acheaway, an annual camp for children ages 6-17 who are living with arthritis. Camp Kudzu, chaired by Melanie Boltax and honoring Jane Dean, serves children with diabetes. Both events will be held at the Buckhead Ritz-Carlton. For information on the Crystal Ball, call 678-237-4468. For Camp Kudzu luncheon information, call 404-250-1811.

The return of Hannity

Radio and television talker Sean Hannity can't get enough of his old stomping grounds. He was here just the other day broadcasting his Fox television show from Centennial Olympic Park and his radio show from the studio of AM750 and 95.5 FM News/Talk WSB, which airs him from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays. A onetime Atlanta radio show host, he's already planned a return trip. He'll host a Christmas Salute to the Troops concert Dec. 18 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. The event will feature artists Michael W. Smith and John Ondrasik and Marine turned author Col. Oliver North. The event will benefit the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund for the education of children of U.S. service members who have been killed or permanently disabled in an operational mission or training accident. Tickets go on sale Friday and range from $54.85 to $163.85. If you can't wait that long, go to details on ordering early.

Tweet of the day

"I'm loving all the marriage proposals I've received via Twitter! Yes, I do! Let's go to Vegas."

- Actor Kenny Wormald, who plays the lead role of Ren in the remake of "Footloose," riding high amid the movie's success. It was filmed in metro Atlanta. (See more details about the filming here in today's Living section.)

Interview with the vampires: "Twilight" cast visits Atlanta

Ow. Our ears are still ringing from this week's visit from“Twilight: Breaking Dawn” cast members Jackson Rathbone, Ashley Greene, Charlie Bewley and Nikki Reed. The fan event promoting the movie coming out Nov. 18 and starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner, packed the Buckhead Theatre with screaming tweens (and many of their equally high-decibel moms.)

B 98.5 FM Morning Show team members Vikki Locke, Kelly Stevens and Jessica Forkel were on hand to moderate a question and answer session, and soundtrack artist Christina Perri performed. At times during the evening, the din in elegantly restored theater sounded like a cave of bats. Sort of appropriate, really.

Luckily we got a few quiet moments back stage with the actors before the event began. Here’s what we talked about.

AJC: Are you sort of sad that this is the next-to-last “Twilight” movie?

Greene: Maybe we’re in denial. We’re still going to see each other. It’s not over yet!

Reed: We stepped into this knowing how many books there were. We knew what we were getting into.

Greene: It’s nice to finish out the franchise.

AJC: Talk about the dynamics on the set as the series became so incredibly popular.

Rathbone: It’s been an incredible learning experience. I’ve been able to learn from an amazing cast. I’ve heard stories where the love of the books has brought a mother and daughter closer.

Reed: It did change. The first movie was so much more innocent. When you’re making a movie you’re just hoping one person will watch it. There is a hierarchy on the set. It would be weird to say we all have the same size trailers. We all still look at each other as equals though. As wonderful as Rob, Kristen and Taylor are – and this is their movie – everyone on this entire franchise has to work hard. What’s important is to focus on doing good work.

Bewley: This has really changed Kristen’s career. Rob is so upright and well-spoken. He knows when he walks in a room he commands attention, and everybody wants something from him.

Greene: We are like family. It’s not something most people have experienced. For me, it was one of my first gigs. We all kind of grew up a little bit. We’re all extremely thankful to have been involved in this. We’re all going to miss each other.

Rathbone: It’s important to realize we are artists. What we do is more recognized because of what we do. People are artists in their own right. We’re no different than anyone else.

AJC: What’s it like when you meet fans?

Reed: When you play the mean character in a series, that does affect how people think of you. The first thing people say to me when they meet me is, ‘So, you’re not mean?’

Greene: Our characters are such a departure of who we are. I don’t like watching movies I’m in!

AJC: You all do so many interviews. What’s your least favorite question?

Bewley: Team Edward/Team Jacob questions. It’s so annoying.

Reed: But that’s what fans want to know!

AJC: So, Team Edward or Team Jacob?

Greene: Because I play his sister, I’m team Edward.

Reed: I’m not. I’m very much Team Jacob. When I read the books, I was so invested in their romance. I think (Bella) should be with Jacob.

Watch for SCAD-Atlanta Friday night in TV movie

Early this fall, a project starring actress Lea Thompson, known for her roles in the movie "Back to the Future" and sitcom "Caroline in the City," visited SCAD-Atlanta to film some scenes.  Known during projection by its working title "Gamers," the television movie is now billed as "Game of Your Life," and stars Titus Makin Jr. of "Glee" fame as a young computer whiz.  You can watch it on WXIA at 8 Friday night. If you tune in, keep your eyes peeled for SCAD students and interactive design and game development professor David Spencer, who may appear in some frames, essentially playing themselves.


Keyboard and vocal artist Tori Amos, in town for a Tuesday performance at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, was spotted Sunday evening at the Buckhead location of Morton's The Steakhouse...After performing her sold-out concert at the Tabernacle Friday night, Mary J. Blige celebrated with friends at Luckie Food Lounge at a party hosted by Hennessy. Accompanied by her husband, Kendu Isaacs, Blige joined friends including Monica, Jeezy and DeVyne Stephens.

Stars head back to school

Atlanta native and Westminster Schools alum Ed Helms of "The Office" and "Hangover" fame was back at his alma mater for a private talk and reception for the Westminster community recently, and veteran actor Gene Wilder visited the first graders in Kristin Ahler’s classroom at Holy Innocents Episcopal School the other day. The star of "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory" and "Young Frankenstein," Wilder endured a grilling inquisition from the bright young scholars, who wanted to know about his acting career and how much candy he got to eat on the "Willy Wonka" set. Wilder's step grandson is a student at the school.

Looking for love and or fame?

Casting folks from Los Angeles-based Shed Media are headed to town next week, in search of married couples whose relationships need a little tune-up. The casting producer's previous projects include “The Millionaire Matchmaker,” “The Marriage Ref” and “Supernanny.” Email with your name, age, city, contact, some photos and a paragraph about yourself and your marriage if you think a little relationship TLC administered while cameras roll will help rekindle those flames.

Buzz in our ear

Keep an eye out for Cuba Gooding Jr. He's starring in a Hallmark channel movie filming here called "Crew Nine," previously known as "Crew Six." (It's not uncommon for movies to undergo slight name changes, as today's first item illustrates. The Billy Crystal-Bette Midler movie that's been filming here is going to be called "Parental Guidance," after trying out the names "Us and Them" and "Call Me Artie.") Hallmark's previous made-in-Atlanta projects include "The Lost Valentine," which starred Betty White and Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Young actress to serve lemonade for a cause this Sunday

At 12, Bailee Madison is not only an accomplished actress, but a philanthropic powerhouse.
She is in Atlanta now, filming "Parental Guidance," starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott. Other credits include “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” with Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce, “Brothers” with Natalie Portman and “Just Go With It” with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston.

This Sunday she'll lend her talents to an effort that's become dear to her: the Wynnewood, Penn.-based Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer.

"Alex’s Lemonade Stand was founded by a little girl named Alex Scott who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, which is a type of brain cancer, a day before her first birthday," Bailee said during an interview that aired Friday morning during the B 98.5 FM morning show with Vikki Locke and Kelly Stevens. "After she turned 4 years old she told her mom and dad that she wanted to have a lemonade stand, not for herself but to help other kids who were going through what she is and to help the doctors find that cure."

Alex is survived by her cause.

"At 8 years old, she sadly lost her battle, but her parents and her brothers and everyone are keeping this tradition going," said Bailee, who was honored this year at the Variety Power Of Youth Awards, saluting the industry's young activists. "It’s basically one cup of lemonade at a time; we can find this cure for childhood cancer. I’m very blessed to be involved. It’s something that I’m so incredibly honored to be a part of. I have so much love and respect, so does our family, for this foundation. It’s very exciting."

She'll be manning a lemonade stand in Alex's memory from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Four Seasons hotel, 75 14th St. If you're not able to go but would still like to make a donation, see the foundation's web site at

"We’re going to have some warm apple cider since it’s a little bit chilly outside," Bailee said. "We’re still going to have that lemonade, and we’re hopefully going to be bringing awareness to this cause. It’ll be super fun."

Because B 98.5's morning show broadcast from the Christmas on Peachtree festival at the 200 Peachtree this week, the conversation naturally turned to the holidays.

"What do I want for Christmas? I love to cook and that’s always what’s on my list. The one thing I wanted last year was a crepe maker," Bailee said. "I just got a new puppy, so it'll be my puppy and all of us. It'll be fun. I love Christmas, cooking together in the kitchen, cuddling by a fireplace, decorating the Christmas tree with tons of Christmas music. That's my favorite part."

Erin Andrews files $10M suit over nude video

ESPN reporter Erin Andrews has filed a $10 million lawsuit in connection with a videotape shot through a peephole that showed her nude in her Nashville hotel room.

Andrews is seeking $6 million from the West End Marriott Hotel and $4 million from Michael Barrett, the man who shot the 2008 video, the Tennessean newspaper of Nashville reported.

In the lawsuit, Andrews charges that Barrett phoned the hotel and was told which room Andrews was staying in. He then rented the room next to hers, altered the peephole on the door to her room and videotaped her. He subsequently posted the video on the Internet.

Barrett was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in federal prison.

The lawsuit says the incident "has caused and continues to cause her great emotional distress and embarrassment."

A Marriott spokesman told the Tennessean that the company has changed its policies to upgrade guest privacy in the wake of the incident.

Date Night For George Clooney And Stacy Keibler!

We like these two together!

George Clooney and his girlfriend, Stacy Keibler, seem to still be going strong, and were spotted enjoying a date at Craig's restaurant in WeHo last night!

Ch-ch-check 'em out (above)!

We like these two together! They both seem so relaxted together, right?

Hope you two are enjoying the honeymoon period!

It's as close to a legit one as you're probably going to get!

ScarJo: Marrying Ryan Reynolds Was The Best Thing I Ever Did! Explains Where She Went Wrong!

Wow, it sounds like this woman really wants her ex back!

After hearing rumors of Scarlett Johansson trying to get Ryan Reynolds back earlier in the year and then of the distress she felt when she found out he was getting serious with Blake Lively, it looks like ScarJo is fully realizing what she lost.

In the latest issue of Cosmo, she says marrying him was the best thing she ever did:

I'm a big believer that when something feels right, you should do it. I'm a big believer in instinct. Getting married was the right thing to do because it was natural. It grew out of a romance and love and a desire to have a future with somebody, and I was very fortunate that I married somebody who turned out to be the person I thought he would be.

Relationships are complicated. Being married is a living, breathing process. I think I was not fully aware of the peaks and the valleys. I wasn't prepared to hunker down and do the work. Both of us were extremely busy. We spent so much time apart. It's very difficult.

Well she obviously doesn't regret the marriage, but it definitely sounds like she regrets the divorce. Aww, that's kind of sad… but we guess we all have to learn somehow!

Maybe she should go to a yoga retreat in India like her character in He's Just Not That Into You! Since it doesn't look like Ryan's gonna be taking her back any time soon, she might as well focus on loving herself and finding peace.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds's Romantic Ice Cream Date

How sweet is this?

Ryan Reynolds took girlfriend Blake Lively on an old-fashioned date in Connecticut Friday night, where the two held hands and shared ice cream out of the same cup.

The couple spent the evening walking hand in hand at the annual Ridgefield Downtown Holiday Stroll, in picturesque Ridgefield, where carolers roamed the streets, kids posed for pictures with Santa and couples took rides in a horse-drawn carriage.

After strolling around the holiday festival for a bit, Reynolds, 35, and Lively, 24, stopped into Deborah Ann's Sweet Shoppe, where they "tried a few samples of ice cream off of those little spoons," says an eyewitness at the ice cream parlor.

"They picked their own flavors, English Toffee and Chocolate Fudge Brownie, but put them in the same cup and shared it."

"They left holding hands," says the eyewitness, who further described them as "very nice. They just blended in. They seemed very happy together. They were very excited about the ice cream."

Brooke Mueller 'Can't Stay Sober on Her Own': Source

What's next for Brooke Mueller, besides her Colorado District court date on Dec. 19?

Mueller, the 34-year-old ex-wife of Charlie Sheen was arrested Friday night in Aspen for cocaine possession and assault, a spokeswoman for the Aspen Police Department confirmed to PEOPLE.

But while the court will ultimately decide what is to become of Mueller, a source close to her tells PEOPLE: "Brooke can't stay sober on her own."

The source adds: "Maybe this [arrest] will force her to go into a treatment center for a long stay. Thirty-day rehabs won't work for her.

"Her family has been trying to get her to do this, now maybe the court will force her to get the help she needs! She has enough family to take care of the kids while she's away."

Mueller's rep, Steve Honig, told PEOPLE on Saturday, “We are declining comment.”

He later said, "I think anyone who is truly a friend of Brooke's would not be spending their time talking anonymously and behind her back to the media. I seriously question the validity of any comments made by these people alleging to be friends with Brooke."

Elisabeth Röhm's Holiday Surprise - Family

Elisabeth Röhm, best known for her role as Serena Southerlyn on Law & Order, is ending a very busy year.

The actress recently appeared on the big screen in Abduction, has upcoming films Chlorine, Transit and Officer Down to come and is found online on Facebook and @ElisabethRohm on Twitter.

In her latest blog, Röhm — mom to 3½-year-old Easton August with fiancé Ron Anthony — celebrates Thanksgiving with her father and family, and gets some great news: everybody’s moving to California!

Does your family live close to you? Tell Elisabeth about your experience in the comments.

The holidays are always full of surprises as well as time-honored traditions, right?! Well, we experienced a little bit of both in Santa Fe, New Mexico over Thanksgiving. As we indulged in turkey, stuffing, cranberries and the usual fare, my father and stepmother — along with my sister — announced that they are all moving to California come summer.

Needless to say, I was blown away by the news!

First of all, my parents are total diehard New Yorkers. What will they do without that hustle and bustle? Are they sure they know what they’re getting into by moving to California of all places? The bagels just can’t compare! Secondly, my sister has been happily living in South Carolina. I mean, that’s a far nicer place than Los Angeles!

On top of that, I also really associate myself with the Empire State. So how strange will it be come summer when we’ll all be living in California for significant chunks of time? It just doesn’t feel natural — New York has defined all of us for so long.

It’s true that Ron, Easton and I already live in Los Angeles, but we also enjoy our regular sojourns to N.Y.C. To think that now when we go there to live and/or work, my parents will no longer be there holding down the fort through those sweltering summers and brutal winters … I almost can’t accept it. It feels like the end of an era.

Yet we were all thrilled by the news because Ron and I have been on our own without any grandparent assistance since Easton came into the world. It’s been lonely and sad at times not to have family with us. It’s also been hard on us as parents without familial support around.

I’ve certainly talked about that a lot in this blog. Since we don’t have any hired help, we tend to get the short end of the stick when it comes to freedom or alone time. With this news at least comes a dinner on our own! I can feel the wind blowing in my hair as I write this, ladies. All I can say is, “Hallelujah!”

Not to mention that it will be very nice (and long overdue) to revisit my childhood with Dad and my stepmom. It’s been forever since we’ve all lived close to each other, and with the incentive of a grandchild, we are bound to make up for all that lost time. Not to mention that I’m thrilled Easton will get to know her aunt and uncle (who is already living in San Diego) even better, due to what will no doubt become ritualistic family time.

Does it cause me any anxiety to think of my parents moving to town? Perhaps, but it’s certainly outweighed by my excitement over the whole new chapter that lies ahead. My 20-something siblings, on the other hand, might be having their share of anxiety over living near their mom and dad. But truthfully, our parents are pretty cool, young at heart and seekers of fun. I’m sure — even for my younger brother and sister, who just achieved freedom — that they will enjoy the closeness of us all living in the same state.

This new chapter is especially exciting for us siblings who have spent many years apart due to our age difference and the separate households that we grew up in. Now we will have a chance to really spend time together. Easton will be able to see her aunt and uncle regularly, unlike myself who only gets to see my beloved Aunt Lolly a couple of times a year!

It’s going to be the end of an era and the start of what I hope will be an even happier time for my family. I feel truly blessed with this imminent change and as we know, change is good!

Really, it’s Easton that’s going to benefit the most and of course, that’s what really excites me. I watched her over the holiday, absorbing the attention of her grandparents like a sponge. I thought how lucky it is for her that she’ll get to be really close to them over the years, as opposed to seeing them three times a year for holidays, which was what my experience was.

Ours has always been a small and fragmented family, with my mother’s relatives in Tennessee and my father’s in Germany. I was the only child my parents — who divorced when I was 8 — had together, and to top it all off, I went to boarding school at the young age of 14. Thus, reaffirming my experience of family as something shared on holidays only. Boo-hoo.

I have always secretly wished for one of those loud, in-your-face families that have weekly dinners together. And now I’m going to get it! Be careful what you wish for, as they say. Gone are those low maintenance dinners with just Ron, Easton and I. So long to those comfortable little outings as a threesome. Now, all my relatives are moving to town to be close and to not let any more time slip by. I couldn’t be happier!

The idea of our being a clan that can see each other weekly for the first time is oddly a dream come true — even if it does produce a touch of anxiety! I mean, let’s face it, our parents always bring out the regressed teen in all of us that feels they can’t express their true feelings. Not to mention those parents are older, wiser and have done it all before. They are always full of advice, guidance and opinions.

Are we really ready for all that input? Sometimes togetherness can be exhausting, no? Most of us return from the holidays needing a holiday. I always much prefer telling part of the story rather than having to be accountable to my parents all these years later, which is so much easier achieved when you have an entire country between you. I mean, we’ve been doing really well here on our own in California all these years. Or have we? I think not. When it comes down to it, love and family are all that matter.

So as the tryptophan hit our veins, it all seemed like a dream as we talked about our future. With the drowsiness of Thanksgiving dinner enveloping us, we shared in the surrealism of this new chapter for our family come summertime.

For now it almost doesn’t seem real,, but I’m getting prepared for the change of a lifetime!

Herman Cain Drops Out of Presidential Race

The plain-talking GOP presidential candidate, who has been dogged by allegations of infidelity, has suspended his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

"False accusations," he told supporters Saturday outside his campaign headquarters in Atlanta, have created "a cloud of doubt over me and this campaign and my family. ... It hurts my wife, it hurts my family, it hurts me, and it hurts the American people because you're being denied solutions to our problems."

Cain, who arrived hand-in-hand with his wife of 43 years, Gloria, said the decision came after "a lot of prayer and soul searching," adding: "My wife, my family and I – we know that those false and unproved allegations are not true. I am at peace with my God. I am at peace with my wife. And she is at peace with me. And I am at peace with my family and at peace with myself."

The announcement followed a week of the unconventional political hopeful's denials he had a 13-year extramarital affair with an Atlanta woman, Ginger White. White said in a TV interview Nov. 28 that she and Cain were involved in a sexual and romantic relationship and that he gave her money.

Cain, 65, had said he was going to spend Friday finally discussing the matter with his wife.

The reputation and standing in the polls of the former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive had already slipped in the past month after allegations from four other women that he sexually harassed them in the 1990s. Cain has vehemently denied all the charges, going so far as to call them "garbage."

Despite the suspension of his campaign, a defiant Cain insisted he would not be going away quietly: "The pundits would like for me to shut up, drop out and go away. Well, as my grandmother who lived to be 104 years old used to say when somebody was dead wrong, 'Bless their little hearts.' I am not gonna be silenced and I am not going away."

He also said he would be announcing his endorsement for president, and it would not be the incumbent.

Lauren Conrad Dresses Hospitalized Teens for the Holidays

‘Tis the season to go shopping! Lauren Conrad hit the mall recently, browsing racks stocked with the latest from her namesake line for Kohl’s. But she wasn’t shopping for herself — the former reality star was helping to style four teens from the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for the holidays.

“It’s really nice to be able to give back,” Conrad says in the clip above. “The feeling of giving a really good gift is so amazing … I can’t imagine getting a gift and feeling this way, especially with something like this.”

Conrad spent the day with the teens, giving them each a $500 gift card to shop, plus a stocking packed with beauty products and accessories. See more from the heartwarming day in the clip above. Tell us: Are you giving back this holiday season?

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Mindy McCready: Inside Her Troubled Life

Mindy McCready's life didn't always seem sadder than a country song.

Before the legal drama, controversial courtships, suicide attempts and rehab stints, she was the sexy songstress who topped the charts and made headlines both for her hits and then-taboo navel ring. She was also engaged to a TV star.

But booze and prescription pills fueled a downward spiral that last week may have reached its most precarious point. Now her problems involve a 5-year-old boy – her son Zander.

On Tuesday, McCready, 36, removed Zander from the Florida home of her mother, Gayle Inge, who has custody of the boy, and the singer said she was willing to risk jail time over her actions. She also insisted that she was in no condition to travel after revealing she's seven-months pregnant with twins.

Friday night, police found McCready and Zander hiding in what was believed to be the singer's boyfriend's house in Arkansas. By Saturday, Zander was being returned to McCready's mother.

The recent events are the latest in a train wreck of troubles, and those who have known her are only shaking their heads.

"I hope this all works out for the best," Dennis Rodman, who appeared with her on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, tells PEOPLE. "I really enjoyed getting to know Mindy. She is a great person."

Born in Fort Meyers, Fla., McCready, 36, became famous in 1996 with her Multi-Platinum debut album Ten Thousand Angels and fashioned herself as a role model to her younger brother, telling PEOPLE in 1997 that she'd grill him about sex and call him "a pig" when he smoked cigarettes.

McCready – whose women's anthem "Guys Do It All the Time" was instantly a smash – suffered a hardship in 1998 when she split from her fiancé, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman star Dean Cain.

She seemed to bounce back a year later when her third album, I'm Not So Tough, got solid reviews, but it wouldn't last.

In 2004, she was charged with prescription drug fraud in 2004 after illegally obtaining the pain medicine OxyContin, and was sentenced to three years of supervised probation and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

"It was a stupid thing to do," she later said, claiming her purchase was for a friend. "I am not a drug addict."

In 2005, the star was arrested again and charged with DUI and driving on a suspended license.

"I had not had a drink for four or five hours prior," she said. "I was driving home a drunk driver."

A few days later, her ex-boyfriend William McKnight was charged with attempted murder and aggravated burglary after allegedly breaking into her home and beating her up.

Covered in bruises, she testified against him in court, claiming he punched her, choked her and hit her head against a headboard.

"It's a bad situation," McCready told PEOPLE at the time. "I'm in a lot of pain, but I will get through it."

Mindy McCready in 2007, after being charged with battery and resisting arrest in Fort Myers, Fla.

Lee County Sheriff's Office / AP

She vowed to move forward, but just weeks later, McCready was charged in Arizona with identity theft, unlawful imprisonment and hindering prosecution, then hospitalized for apparently attempting suicide by drug overdose.

By her side was McKnight, telling authorities she wrote a four-page suicide note before consuming massive alcohol and ingesting several different substances. McCready left the hospital and went back to him.

"We're very much in love," McKnight told PEOPLE.

But in September 2005, McCready attempted apparent suicide again, reportedly taking 30 antidepressants while pregnant with McKnight's child.

Two years later, she served a several-month jail sentence, stemming from a probation violation after resisting arrest and committing battery during an argument with her mother.

Then came the strangest twist: Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens acknowledged making mistakes in his personal life after McCready claimed they had an affair. The singer alleges she was only 15 when they met.

It seemed like nothing now reported about McCready was positive, and along the way she lost custody of her child to her mother.

She headed back to rehab for undisclosed reasons following a trip to the emergency room and served more jail time for a probation violation.

She kept claiming that she was making strides to "put all of this behind me," but she soon wound up back in the hospital for another suicide attempt.

By 2009, her problems became fodder for a reality show. McCready joined Mackenzie Phillips, Heidi Fleiss and Rodman on season three of VH1's Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. McCready infamously suffered from a seizure that was documented on the series, mid-detox.

Her March 2010 album Still Standing, her first in eight years, documented her downfall but didn't save her.

Two months after the release, McCready was hospitalized for a mystery ailment. There was discrepancy over whether she overdosed on prescription pills or reacted badly.

Now she's facing the possibility of jail time for not returning her son to his legal guardians. Her ex, who was there during some of the darkest times, is hoping there is some silver lining.

"I got back on track," McKnight said last week. "My life is in order, I'm doing things right now. She has that opportunity … I wish she would do what's right."

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