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By United Press International   |   Feb. 25, 2012 at 4:00 AM

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WHITNEY HOUSTON: The owner of a New Jersey funeral home Friday denied she sold a photo of Whitney Houston in her coffin published by the National Enquirer.

Carolyn Whigham, the second-generation chief executive officer of Newark's Whigham Funeral Home, told the New York Daily News she is "devastated" the image of Houston in her open casket at her private wake last weekend appeared on the cover of the tabloid.

"We did not take that photo. We did not sell the photo. We would never do something like that," Whigham told the Daily News.

"Whitney was a friend," she said. "I'm the one who flew to Los Angeles and got Whitney from the coroner's office. I did everything to protect her."

Whigham said she has been inundated by negative e-mails since the photo first made headlines.

"I'm worried about my employees, worried about me," Whigham said. "I've been in business since 1943. This is my name, my character. Honestly, this is my life's work. We would never do something like this."

She told the newspaper she has spoken to Houston's family and they do not blame her business.

The image shows Houston looking peaceful and beautiful in a purple dress, wearing sparkly earrings and a brooch, with makeup meticulously applied to her eyes and lips.

Emblazoned on the cream-colored lining of her coffin were musical symbols and the word "Nippy," the nickname her family called her.

The Grammy Award-winning recording star was found dead Feb. 11 in her bathtub at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. Her death at age 48 is under investigation, but a lethal combination of prescription drugs and alcohol is suspected as the cause.


GERARD BUTLER: Gerard Butler's manager says the Scottish actor was discharged Friday from the Betty Ford Center in California.

Butler underwent three weeks of treatment at the Rancho Mirage facility for prescription drug abuse, TMZ reported.

"Gerard left Betty Ford early this morning and he's healthy," the actor's manager Alan Siegel told the celebrity news Web site Friday.

Butler's problems began during his physically demanding 2006 action picture "300," observers said. The actor had since been struggling with pain management, but the problem became worse when he was hurt in a surfing accident in December while filming "Of Men and Mavericks."

TMZ cited sources close to Butler as saying the actor realized he was relying too much on prescription drugs and wanted to kick the habit before it became a full-blown addiction.

Butler, 42, also developed issues with cocaine, the insiders told the celebrity news Web site, but his biggest problem appears to be pain management from past injuries, they said.

His film credits include "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life," "The Phantom of the Opera,"

"Beowulf & Grendel," "P.S. I Love You," "Nim's Island," "RocknRolla," "The Ugly Truth," "Gamer," "Law Abiding Citizen," "How to Train Your Dragon," "The Bounty Hunter," "Coriolanus" and "Machine Gun Preacher."


SACHA BARON COHEN: British actor Sacha Baron Cohen may walk the red carpet at Sunday's Oscar ceremony dressed as the title character from "The Dictator," a producer said.

Hollywood's Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited Cohen to attend the prize presentation on behalf of his film "Hugo," which is up for 11 Oscars including Best Picture.

However, the academy said this week Cohen is not welcome on the red carpet or inside the venue dressed as the militaristic, Middle Eastern character to promote his upcoming movie "The Dictator."

"While I applaud the academy for taking away my right to free speech, I warn you that if you do not lift your sanctions, and give me my tickets back by 12 p.m. Sunday, you will face unimaginable consequences!" Cohen, dressed as the fictional Gen. Aladeen, said in a video message Friday. "On top of all this, I paid Hilary Swank $2 million to be my date, and she will not refund a penny."

Swank famously fired her manager last year after she was criticized for taking money to be at a party for Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a politician accused of torturing dissidents, killing opponents and encouraging the abuse of women.

The actress later apologized for being a guest at the event and vowed to donate her six-figure appearance fee to charity.

After Cohen's "Dictator" video clip debuted online Friday, Oscar telecast producer Brian Grazer told TV's "Extra" the actor can wear what he wants.

"We're thrilled to have him and he'll be on the red carpet dressed as 'The Dictator,'" Grazer said.


RYAN REYNOLDS: Ryan Reynolds is to lend his voice to the titular speed-obsessed snail in the cartoon "Turbo," California's DreamWorks Animation said Friday.

The cast will also include the voice talents of Paul Giamatti, Snoop Dogg, Michael Pena, Luis Guzman, Bill Hader, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz, Kurtwood Smith and Samuel L. Jackson.

Set for theatrical release July 19, 2013, the movie tells the story of an "ordinary garden snail with dreams of racing greatness," the studio said.

"Ryan Reynolds' infectious enthusiasm and humor will bring life to the lead role of 'Turbo' and set the tone for this amazing roster of all-star voice talent," DreamWorks Animation Chief Creative Officer Bill Damaschke said in a statement Friday. "This high-octane journey will take audiences on the race of their lives and completely redefine the traditional notion of moving at a snail's pace."

David Soren is to direct the film based on his own original concept.

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