Archive for the 'media' Category

P. Diddy Pal Rick Ross Must Pay Big Bucks For Vicious Blogger Attack

Rick Ross, a rapper who Billboard says is being managed by Sean P.Diddy Combs, lost a major and potentially career damaging civil case in Manhattan yesterday.

A Federal court jury ruled that Ross would have to pay $300,000 to DJ Vlad, aka Vlad Lyubovny, for allowing his entourage to beat the guy to a pulp.

Ross, aka William Leonard Roberts II, records for DefJam. Lyubovny was beaten up by Ross’s entourage at the Ozone Awards on August 10, 2008 in Houston. The blogger and DJ is also a vice president at SRC/Universal Records.

The reason? Ross was angry that Vlad had revealed in a blog that prior to being a rapper, Ross was a corrections officer in Florida. Lyubovny’s injuries included a broken eye socket, a broken nose, nerve damage to his face, cheek, upper lip, teeth and gums– all of which required seven stitches under his right eye following the attack.

Brian D. Caplan of Caplan & Ross, who represented Lyubovny at the trial, issued a statement: “There is no place in civilized society for members of the media to have to fear retribution for their news coverage and commentary. The jury awarded Mr. Lyubovny $250,000 in punitive damages against Rick Ross to send a message that such conduct will not be tolerated or condoned.”

Weirdly, it’s since all this happened that Combs, according to Billboard, has become close pals with Ross. According to a report yesterday in Billboard, not only is Combs managing Ross, but Ross is helping to write Combs’s next album. He’ll need the money.

Combs may feel sympathetic to Ross. In 1999, he was accused of attacking Universal Records exec Steven Stoute in his office, ambushing Stoute and beating him with a Champagne bottle, a telephone, and a chair. The case was settled out of court, with Combs pleading to harassment instead of felony assault and reportedly paying Stoute half a million dollars.

Miramax May Finally Return to Its Rightful Owners

Miramax–the name and the catalog–may finally be returned to its rightful owners, the Weinstein brothers.

I was the first to write several months ago that once Disney decided to close Miramax, they should give the name back to the Weinsteins. Well, Disney does nothing for free, except when you wish upon a star. So the Weinsteins are in the middle of talks to buy it all back. They’re joined supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle, who also owns half the debt of Barneys department stores and most of Sean P Diddy Combs.

There are others in the bid for Miramax, including billionaire brothers Alec and Tom Gores, whose brother Sam owns the Paradigm Talent Agency and is married to former “Another World” star Jensen Buchanan. The other horse in the race belongs to David Bergstein, who once owned ThinkFilm.

Bergstein is a terrible choice. He destroyed ThinkFilms and is now embroiled in a nightmare case in bankruptcy court. Giving Miramax to Bergstein would be like putting it in an incinerator, no matter how much money Bergstein says he’s representing. No one at Disney, especially Bob Iger, wants to be part of that legacy.

The Gores are an interesting family. The two brothers–Alec and Tom–could not be less like brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein. For one thing, the Gores were very much a part of the Anthony Pellicano case. Alec hired Anthony Pellicano to wiretap Tom’s phone and that of Alec’s wife, Lisa, because he thought they were having an affair. It’s amazing they still talk to each other, let alone are combining to buy a company.

Alec Gores’ second wife, Hedi, is on the board of Madonna’s Raising Malawi, a front for the Kabbalah Center of Los Angeles. She’s used Alec’s fortune to help underwrite the cause.

Alec Gores does have a connection to filmmaking: back in 2004, he commissioned actor Tom Arnold to write and direct a $5-million feature film called “The Kid & I” starring Gores’ 18-year-old son, Eric, whose mother Gores allegedly wiretapped just three years earlier.

Eric Gores, like the character he plays in the movie, suffers from cerebral palsy. He co-starred in the vanity production with Joe Mantegna, Linda Hamilton, Jamie Lee Curtis and Shaquille O’Neal.

“The Kid & I” is notable for being the only film in which Arnold Schwarzenegger has appeared since becoming governor of California. Gores, by coincidence, donated $7,000 to the Republican Party, George W. Bush and failed California U.S. Senate candidate Bill Jones during that period.

Obviously, neither the Goreses nor Bergstein is an appropriate owner for a catalog that includes three Best Picture winners and dozens of hits from “Chicago” to “Good Will Hunting,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “Il Postino,” “Pulp Fiction,” and “The Cider House Rules.”

In the end, Disney is a family company. Bob Iger knows that. It’s built on the Disney family legacy. Miramax is very much the same, dedicated to the memory of the Weinsteins’ father, Max, and their very much living and feisty mom, Miriam. If the Weinsteins prevail, Disney and Iger get gold stars. Everyone’s happy. And the movie universe is in balance again.

Oprah Book: Ex-Employees Could Make Good Unnamed Sources

Who woulda thunk it?

The mainstream media has accepted the word of Kitty Kelley, a trash biographer who depends of unnamed sources, over Oprah Winfrey, a woman who’s obviously made too much money and been too successful as a broadcaster and philanthropist.

As of now, and thanks to the internet, Kelley’s assertions about Winfrey in her new book have been presented as a fait accompli. No one’s bothered to check them out. They’re just reprinted millions of times, from the New York Post to the Washington Post.

This column was the only one to call Oprah’s aunt in Mississippi, Mrs. Katherine Esters, to see what Kelley had wrought. And Mrs. Esters, as I wrote here yesterday, disputed Kelley’s claims. She says that Kelley manipulated and hounded her, that she never told Kelley family secrets.

It seems to fall on deaf ears.

The New York Post just laid it out, happily enough: “Lesbian fling, prostitution, and abuse lies.” That’s it, case closed. Unbelievable. Even worse: the lofty Howard Kurtz deigns to roll in the mud, writing about Kelley and using her interview with the slimy Michael Jackson hunter Diane Dimond, formerly of “Hard Copy,” to bolster his argument. Has Kurtz ever been able to book himself on Oprah? Probably not.

Kelley must be pleased. Her attempted assassination has no doubt caused the pain she sought to inflict on Winfrey. She’s endeavored to ruin a career far more substantial than her own by miles. Good work!

Kelley had a lot of help in this project. Unnamed sources are usually disgruntled ex-employees. In this case, Kelley has said she used people who’d signed confidentiality agreements. They’d have to give back their monetary settlements if they were caught.

It’s not hard to find the culprits. Oprah’s show has not had a lot of turnover, and the staff has always been treated well. But back in 1994 there was a huge amount of turmoil. Lots of people left or were fired. This could be an Agatha Christie mystery. (It was covered in Entertainment Weekly at http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,304426,00.html.)

Also, Kelley’s book is published by Crown, a division of Random House. Maybe they’re getting even. Back in 1994, Oprah abruptly canceled publication of her scheduled autobiography by Knopf, another Random House division. She returned the advance. But the decision left Random House holding the bag without its anticipated best seller.

And let’s not forget: there was some kind of manuscript or treatment from that book. It’s no doubt out there, somewhere.

Of course, the current Random House is not the company started by Bennett Cerf and run so beautifully for many years by Bob Bernstein. Kelley’s book is the kind of thing only hacks like Lyle Stuart would publish in the old days. How times have changed.

Anderson Cooper Gets First Interview with Dr. Kevorkian

Wasn’t Anderson Cooper just swimming with sharks last week on “60 Minutes”?

Now he’s doing something even more courageous: he’s interviewing Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

Dr. Death is giving Cooper his first post-prison interview this Friday. It’s not actually on CNN, but set for a lunch time live get together at CNN headquarters in New York.

The interview will be preceded by sandwiches and snacks, according to the invite, and a welcome from CNN’s prez, Jon Klein.

You have to give Cooper credit for doing this. His own brother, Carter, committed suicide at age 23 in July 1988. Anderson wrote about it in his blog back in 2005: http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/08/16/brother/

Talk about a charged meeting. Kevorkian has said he helped at least 130 people die of physician assisted suicide. He served 8 years of a 10 to 25 year prison sentence for second degree murder. He’ll turn 81 in May.

This lunch time interlude suddenly is the hottest ticket in town, as Dr. Kevorkian has agreed to answer questions from the audience. The last time he was in public, by the way, was right before he went to jail. It was Time Magazine’s 75th anniversary at Radio City Music Hall. The crowd included Henry Kissinger, Joe DiMaggio, and Muhammad Ali, but Kevorkian was who everyone wanted to, if not meet, look at.

EXCLUSIVE: Oprah’s Aunt on Kitty Kelley: “I found out she wrote ugly things. She didn’t get anything ugly from me.”

Oprah Winfrey‘s cousin, Katherine Esters, who is known as “Aunt Katherine,” disputes some of the claims made by trash biographer Kitty Kelley in her new book about the talk show host. She does feel manipulated by the tabloid sensationalist.

Mrs. Esters is 82, still lives in the Mississippi town where Oprah was born, but hasn’t seen or heard from her cousin in a while. She told me this morning that she’s considered the town historian in Kosciusko, and that when people want to know something genealogical they come to her.

That’s what Kelley did, says Mrs. Esters, who has short term memory problems, is on dialysis and has a respiratory condition. She told me that when Kelley arrived at her home, she had no idea what kind of books she wrote or who she was. “I asked her if Oprah sent her and she said she did not. She said she was writing an unauthorized biography.” Mrs. Esters says Kelley’s visit was close to the time that New Yorker writer Henry Louis Gates came to get pictures so he could trace Oprah’s ancestry. There may have been some confusion.

“I asked my friend to find out who she was,” Mrs. Esters says of Kelley. “She went on line and found out what kind of books she wrote. When Kitty came back the next day, I didn’t give her much of an interview.” The intrepid Kelley did follow Mrs. Esters to her dialysis appointment. “She tried very hard to get me to make derogatory statements about Oprah. I would not.”

Two key issues: Mrs. Esters says she is sure she did not tell Kelley who Oprah’s father was. “I told her to ask Oprah’s mother who her father was. I wish she’d quoted me properly. I’m sorry if Kitty made me something that I’m not. I really am sorry.

She added: “For all practical purposes, Vernon is her father.” Mrs. Esters says of Kelley: “She’s just a smart person who can cross you up on stuff.”

“But one place where Kelley may have it right: Mrs. Esters is adamant that Oprah had whatever she needed as a child. She concedes they were poor, but says: “Oprah’s mother worked for a well to do family. Oprah got their hand me downs. She had dolls.” Winfrey’s famous cockroach story, she says, is invented. “I asked her once why she told that story, and Oprah said people were not interested in the truth. They want something sensational.”

Mrs. Esters says she has not heard from Winfrey in some time. “She’s out of reach to us,” she says. She says that she’s also not much in touch with Winfrey’s mother, Vernita Lee, who lives in Milwaukee.

“I’m not close to Vernita now. Because Vernita is rich, and I’m poor. And she doesn’t relate to me the way she did when she was poor. Rich people don’t care for poor people. She’s just as out of reach to me [as Oprah].”

As for Kelley: “I found out she wrote ugly things. She didn’t get anything ugly from me. She’ll say what she decides to say. It doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Aretha Franklin: New Album, Movie, and (Successful) Diet

Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, is on a roll.

She’s lost 23 pounds on a new, healthy diet and she looks fantastic. “I’m working on the next 23,” she declared backstage last night at City Center where the Queen sang her signature hit, “Respect,” for Good Housekeeping magazine’s 125th anniversary show.

Not only was Aretha a vision in a white gown specially designed for her new slimmed down figure, but she had lots of other news. Her new album, the first in seven years, is coming to us in May via WalMart. “A Woman Falling Out of Love” was produced by Franklin with Bebe Winans and Gordon Chambers. Aretha told me she wrote two of the songs–she is always her best composer–and the album features a duet with the amazing Karen Clark, of the Clark Sisters.

Isn’t that enough?

Yesterday, the Queen of Soul huddled with two different Oscar caliber directors about turning her autobiography into a movie. It’s really going to happen. And the big names are being mentioned, like maybe Denzel Washington to play the famous Reverend C.L. Franklin, Aretha’s dad, and any number of actresses–from Halle Berry to Jennifer Hudson— to play Miss Aretha. Of course, Aretha’s incredible sisters, Carolyn and Erma, will be represented as well. (I did suggest that Miss Franklin check out Viola Davis for her movie, too.)

Franklin was in fine voice last night,too, although she said she could hear “cracks.” Her back up singers included two of my pals, the great Vaneese Thomas (sister of Carla, daughter of Rufus) whose parents were married by Reverend Franklin, and Fonzie Thornton, of the original Chic (with Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards and yes, Luther Vandross).

‘Aretha was the biggest star maybe but not the only one at GH’s star-studded event. She was actually introduced by no less than Candice Bergen. The other performer of the night, Meryl Streep, got her introduction from Nora Ephron, who in turn was brought to the stage by Liz Smith. (Meryl gave a recitation from a speech by Susan B. Anthony.) Brooke Shields was a very charming emcee, while Broadway’s Laura Benanti and Kelly O’Hara opened the night with a fully produced song and dance number. No, those Hearst types didn’t hold back a penny!

Other notables included Marlo Thomas (who appeared with a rejuvenated Miss Piggy), Martha Stewart, Jessica Simpson, Hillary Duff, Gayle King, Kristen Bell, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Ann Hampton Calloway (who sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”) and the effortlessly funny Sarah Jones. And our very own Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was there, too–she’s helping make a National Women’s History Museum a reality in Washington, DC on the Mall (http://www.nwhm.org/).

PS Kudos to my pal Liz Smith — she gave hilarious speech and was in top form. She said that she loved getting scoops and had been on plenty of “hit” lists–Frank Sinatra and Donald Trump‘s each–but that she had always endeavored to write gossip in a flattering way. She did, she has, she does, and I sure wish the glut of what passes for gossip today took a page from her book. That’s how you achieve longevity in this biz.

Live Earth Is Back, Plans Big Day in Chicago

Remember Live Earth, aka 07-07-07? It was the worldwide rock concert that ended with a Police concert at Giants Stadium.

Now Live Earth organizer Kevin Wall is announcing a new mega event for Chicago and the world on April 18th.

His Live Earth group is sponsoring the Dow Live Earth Run for Water– billed as the largest ever global water initiative ever.  Over a 24 hour period, there will be a series of 6K run/walks all over the world. The culmination of this will be a Chicago concert featuring the group Collective Soul and Grammy winning legendary performer “Soul Man” Sam Moore.

Here are the cities included in the world wide walk:

Buenos Aires, Argentina; Cape Town, South Africa; Chicago, IL, USA; Hong Kong, China; Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia; London, UK; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Manchester, UK; Melbourne, Australia; Mexico City, Mexico; Milan, Italy; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New York, NY, USA; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; São Paulo, Brazil; Singapore City, Singapore; Stockholm, Sweden; Toronto, Canada; Washington, D.C., USA. www.liveearth.org.