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Entertainment Today: Showbiz news

By United Press International   |   March 12, 2002 at 4:45 AM
DAVID LETTERMAN

David Letterman is staying put. The star of "The Late Show" announced Monday during the taping of his program that he had decided not to leave CBS for ABC -- ending speculation that the Walt Disney Co. might replace its long-running late news show "Nightline" with the late-night comedy Letterman has specialized in for 20 years.

Monday's taping was Letterman's first show since returning from vacation. It was while he was out of town that the news broke that ABC had been trying to lure him award from CBS when his contract expires.

Instead of jumping networks, Letterman has agreed to a new deal with CBS that reportedly will pay him in the neighborhood of $31.5 million per year. His current deal is worth $30 million per year.

At the end of his opening monologue Monday, Letterman told his studio audience that -- while he appreciated the offer from ABC -- he does not want to be known as the man who replaced Ted Koppel, the highly respected anchor of "Nightline." The lead-in to the commercial then featured video of Letterman and Koppel in-line skating down the street.


ANNUAL OSCAR NOMINEES LUNCHEON

For a couple of hours Monday afternoon there were, probably, more movie stars per square foot at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., than anywhere else in the world -- as the cream of this year's movie crop gathered for the annual nominees luncheon.

Russell Crowe, Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Sissy Spacek and Nicole Kidman joined directors Ron Howard, Robert Altman, Ridley Scott and scores of nominees in the other categories for a meal and some fellowship -- part of the whirlwind that is an Oscar nominee's life between the announcement of the nominations and the presentation of the Oscars.

It was an especially sweet taste for Howard. Although he is one of Hollywood's most successful, respected and popular figures, he just earned his first Oscar nomination for directing "A Beautiful Mind," based on the life of the schizophrenic Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr.

Howard said he first became aware of the Oscars when "The Music Man," in which he was co-starred as a child, was nominated as best picture in 1962. (It lost to "Lawrence of Arabia.")

The 74th annual Academy Awards will be presented March 24.


DENZEL WASHINGTON

Denzel Washington spent most of last weekend fighting what a spokesman said was apparently some kind of virus -- so he canceled an appearance at the Directors Guild of America Awards on Saturday and made just a brief appearance at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday.

A publicist for Washington told UPI the Oscar-winning actor -- who is up for best actor this time around for "Training Day" -- started to feel bad Friday night or Saturday morning. At first, he wasn't sure if it was a virus or food poisoning, but now he's pretty sure it isn't food poisoning.

The spokesman, Alan Nierob, said Washington is anxious to get back to work, editing his feature directing debut -- an untitled movie based on the life of Antwone Fisher about his experiences growing up tough in Cleveland and turning his life around with the help of a U.S. navy psychiatrist. Fisher sold the script, his first, while working as a security guard at Sony studios.

(The above two items thanks to UPI Hollywood Reporter Pat Nason)


ELIZABETH TAYLOR

The American Medical Association honored Elizabeth Taylor Monday with its Presidential Citation for her tireless commitment to advocacy on HIV-AIDS.

Calling Taylor's role in addressing AIDS "one of her most memorable," AMA President Dr. Richard F. Corlin applauded the legendary screen actress for increasing public awareness of the disease and for raising millions of dollars for AIDS research.

In 1991, Taylor founded the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which has distributed more than $8 million to organizations around the world that provide support services for people with HIV-AIDS, prevention services and AIDS-related education. In addition, she's the Founding National Chairman of the American Foundation of AIDS Research, which has raised more than $160 million to combat the global epidemic. She also has testified before Congress on AIDS-related issues.

Corlin made the presentation to Taylor during the AMA's annual National Leadership Conference in Los Angeles.


CONNIE FRANCIS

1950s and '60s pop singer and actress Connie Francis is suing Universal Music Corp. in federal court in New York.

In court documents, Francis alleges that Universal over the years has breached its contractual obligations to her, systemically grossly underreported record royalties due her, and intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon her by licensing the use of her recordings in two sexually explicit motion pictures featuring rape scenes and deviant sexual conduct.

The entertainer's lawyer, Brian Caplan, said they're seeking tens of millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages, the rescission of her recording agreements, and the return of her master recordings.

Francis was raped in a Long Island, N.Y., hotel room in 1974, which led to years of depression. Later, she was a member of President Reagan's task force on violent crime, which addressed the issues of the plight of crime victims.


JERRY SPRINGER TRIAL

Jerry Springer and the producers of his daytime TV show are expected to be called to testify at the trial of a man charged with killing his ex-wife hours after they appeared on "The Jerry Springer Show."

The trial opened Monday in Sarasota, Fla.

The prosecution said Ralph Panitz, 42, snapped the neck of Nancy Campbell, but the defense said Campbell died of a heart attack.

Panitz, Campbell and his current wife, Eleanor Panitz, taped an episode of the Chicago-based Springer show titled "Secret Mistresses Confronted" in May 2000. The show aired in Sarasota on July 24, 2000, and Campbell, 52, died within hours. An autopsy showed she was strangled and suffered severe damage to her nose and face.

Panitz's attorney has argued that Campbell died of natural causes, but prosecutors note the couple had a history of domestic violence and that she had obtained a restraining order against her ex-husband the day she died.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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