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Entertainment Today: Showbiz news

By United Press International   |   April 26, 2002 at 6:13 AM   |   Comments

ROBERT BLAKE

Prosecutors in Los Angeles said they won't seek the death penalty in the murder case against actor Robert Blake. Instead, they'll seek life in prison without the possibility of parole if Blake is convicted of killing his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, in May 2001.

Blake was arrested on April 18, 16 days shy of the first anniversary of his wife's death.

The decision was announced Thursday after a meeting of the district attorney's Special Circumstances Committee, which routinely reviews potential death penalty cases.

Blake's lawyer, Harland Braun, agreed with the prosecution's decision. "It was the right decision and they made it early and quickly and ended the speculation," said Braun. "You reserve the death penalty for the most egregious cases."

Blake, 68, pleaded not guilty on Monday to one count of murder, two counts of solicitation to commit murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. Earle Caldwell -- described as a bodyguard and chauffer for the Emmy-winning star of the 1970s cop drama "Baretta" -- pleaded innocent to one count of conspiracy to commit murder.

A hearing is scheduled for May 1 to set a date for a preliminary hearing in the case.


BOB HOPE

Fans of Bob Hope will see new material from the legendary entertainer for the first time in years next week when NBC airs an hour-long special consisting mostly of out-takes and bloopers from his TV specials over the past 50 years.

Emmy-winning "Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer will host "Bob Hope's Funniest Out-takes" next Tuesday, the same night that "Frasier" features appearances by Grammer's former co-stars on "Cheers" -- Rhea Pearlman, George Wendt and John Ratzenberger. It's part of the network's NBC 75th anniversary celebration, but it's also a case of rolling out the heavy artillery for the start of the May sweeps -- when networks go all out for big ratings so they can charge the maximum possible advertising rates.

Grammer will also be one of the hosts of "NBC's 75th Anniversary Special," a three-hour special scheduled for May 5. The special will feature retrospective highlights of the network's TV legacy, embodied -- for Grammer's money -- by Bob Hope.

"All throughout my childhood," said Grammer, "the most important TV event in our household each year was the Bob Hope Christmas special."

The out-take special was produced by Hope's daughter Linda Hope, who thinks her father probably holds the record for longevity by any performer at any network. Hope began with NBC Radio in the 1930s, and then appeared on NBC TV until the mid-1990s.

At 98, Hope is one of the longest-living show business legends in history. His daughter said he is looking forward to turning 99 on May 29. "He's hoping he has enough breath to blow out the candles," she said -- in an echo of his trademark sense of humor.


STARS LINE UP FOR CANNES

Elizabeth Taylor will serve as honorary chair when American Foundation for AIDS Research, or amfAR, holds its annual black-tie event, Cinema Against AIDS Cannes, during the 55th Cannes Film Festival on May 23.

Sharon Stone, Sir Elton John, David Lynch, supermodel Iman and Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein will co-chair the event -- which returns this year to its original venue, Roger Vergé's Le Moulin de Mougins. Taylor will deliver the keynote address.

Celebrities will take part in a live auction, offering items including the first diamond necklace created for the new De Beers collection, valued at $100,000. De Beers LV is a co-sponsor of the event, along with Motorola.

The annual Cinema Against AIDS gala has raised more than $10 million for amfAR (amfar.org) since 1993.

Stone will also sit on the jury that awards the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, along with Michelle Yeoh ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Tomorrow Never Dies"). The jury will be headed by director David Lynch ("Mulholland Drive," "Blue Velvet").


J-LO

Jennifer Lopez, who plays a woman who takes up martial arts to protect herself and her daughter from an abusive husband in her new movie "Enough," said she felt butt-kicking tough when she was in training -- but does she still feel that strong?

"I did at that time," she told UPI. "Last year, when I did the movie. Not now. Don't write that! Let people think I can."

Lopez said she got a boot out of martial arts. "I'm very athletic," she said. "I've been that way since I was young, so I always ran and danced and did tennis and stuff like that, so that was more the easy part for me in this movie."

Lopez said the emotional part of playing a woman fighting back was much harder. She said when she first read the script, it struck her as "like a female 'Rocky'" -- but she said the story is about empowerment for everyone, not just women.

"Because anybody can relate to being in a negative situation or a negative relationship," she said, "because it's not a thing for women only, you know?"

Still, Lopez sees "Enough" as a switch on a longstanding storytelling convention -- the damsel in distress. "In a lot of movies," she said, "the woman is always being rescued out of these situations by a cop, by a guy, by whatever."

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


LIZA MINNELLI

Liza Minnelli is returning to Broadway.

Her new show, "Liza's Back!" -- which was produced and created by her husband David Gest -- will open at the Beacon Theater in New York on May 31. It'll also run on June 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8.

Minnelli recently completed a successful five-night appearance at London's Royal Albert Hall, playing to more than 15,000 fans.

"Liza's Back!" features new material by John Kander and Fred Ebb, including two new tunes, 'Liza's Back!' and 'Don't Smoke in Bed' and a new rap version of 'Liza With a 'Z'.' Other Kander/Ebb material included in the show are numbers from "Cabaret" and "New York, New York."

© 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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