MASON IN FLAP OVER COMIC'S ANCESTRY
Controversial flip comic Jackie Mason is denying reports that he asked to have a fellow comic taken off the bill at a Chicago club because the comic is of Palestinian descent. Some time ago, according to the Houston Chronicle, Mason's wife and his manager had said that Ray Hanania was being "un-invited" to be the older comedian's opening act because of his ancestry. Now Mason is claiming that the reason related to Hanania's "unknown" status, saying that the billing was out of balance. Additionally, the club involved, Zanie's, told reporters that it has gotten some threatening calls about the planned double billing, with most people protesting the fact that a Palestinian (Hanania) and a Jew (Mason) would agree to appear on the same stage on the same night. Meanwhile, Hanania says that if the decision was made purely because he is "a lousy comedian," he can live with that.
OZZFEST UNDER A DARK CLOUD
Ever since the announcement that the matriarch of the Osbourne family, Sharon Osbourne, was diagnosed with colon cancer, the usually larger-than-life dysfunctional family has been subdued. Ozzy canceled out of some Ozzfest appearances and reluctantly rejoined the tour at Sharon's insistence. Now comes word from US Weekly that her cancer treatments may not be going well. The publication notes that during one two-week period Mrs. Osbourne lost 20 pounds and "looks white as a sheet." And there are published reports that she was taken back to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles late last week for unscheduled treatments. Amid all of this, Ozzfest performances have continued, but it's been obvious to many in the audience that Ozzy has something else on his mind. At one appearance, recently in San Francisco, he apologized to his fans for not being his "usual self." He talked about Sharon's cancer, telling the audience that she was going to "kick it."
DIANA REMEMBERED IN PEOPLE LAYOUT
It's hard to find anyone whose face has been on the cover of more magazines in the past few decades than has Lady Diana ... with the possible exception of Jackie Kennedy. Now, in its latest edition, People has dipped into its archives to print a retrospective of some of its best photographs of Lady "Di," from her early days through her tragic death. Included in the layout are many family photographs that were not released until after her death in that Paris auto accident. Diana was only 36 when she died (Aug. 8, 1997). The fifth anniversary is this week. It's interesting that when you go to most search engines and look up information on her death you see so many conspiracy theories. They were being proffered just minutes after her death was announced. At least her legacy continues in her two sons who, in some ways, bear an incredible resemblance to their mother.
HIGH SCHOOL REMEMBERS TRACK STAR
Yet another student-athlete has died on the field. A 16-year-old female track star at a suburban Atlanta high school collapsed on a cross-country track this week, just moments after finishing a race. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution says that the girl was a junior at the DeKalb Cedar Grove School and was serving as manager of the girls' track team. An autopsy showed that Shai Lauren Owens had a malformed heart muscle and abnormal blood vessels that supply the heart. Owens died about two hours after being stricken.
Medics told the publication that the girl had no pulse when they arrived and was in full cardiac arrest. She had just finished running a 3.1-mile race when she collapsed. Most of her fellow athletes thought she had just fainted. Ironically, she had been cleared by doctors earlier this year as being fit to participate in sports.
COUNTRY SALUTES 40 FABULOUS FEMALES
The popular country TV network CMT has compiled a list of what it says are the 40 most influential women in the history of country music. Not surprisingly, as did the AFI when picking the greatest movies of all time, many of the honorees are modern-day entries. But some "oldies" are among the top 40, including Patsy Montana -- the pioneering early day radio "cowgirl" -- and Maybelle Carter -- matriarch of the Carter clan of singers. The official list will be splayed out on a three-hour CMT network event, which will include interviews with a great many male stars about the network's choices. Some of those honored are (alphabetically): Lynn Anderson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, June Carter Cash, Patsy Cline, the Dixie Chicks, Dale Evans, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Lorrie Morgan and Kitty Wells -- to name a few.
AGASSI JOINS ALL-TENNIS CABLE CHANNEL
The Tennis Channel has a new financial backer. Las Vegas-based Andre Agassi says that he will work with the all-tennis network in future endeavors. The fledgling network was in the Big Apple this week to help cover the U.S. Open. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the owners of the network have disclosed little about future expansion plans, but says that the Wilson Sporting Goods company has signed on to be a major sponsor. Wilson has been a huge player in tennis racquets and supplies for decades. The Tennis Channel has also reportedly gotten the rights to air eight pro tennis tournaments, six of them here in the United States in the coming months. It's also, according to the publication, planning to produce a series about tennis standouts to be called "No Strings." The proliferation of multi-channel cable TV and satellite distribution has paved the way for a fast-growing number of "niche" channels to hit the air -- including two devoted exclusively to horses and equestrian events. I've always joked that the only format missing would be "The Cable Obituary Network." Its slogan would likely be: "Keeping the death watch, 24-hours-a-day."
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 404
The other day a friend mentioned that I seem to talk about the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" a lot, as if I owned some of its profits. That's not the case; it's just that in reporting on country music from time to time, I cross paths with the film, since it's award-winning, mega-selling soundtrack has led to a revival in bluegrass and roots music. So, today's question: "Did you see the movie? What did you think of it?" Put BROTHER in the subject line and send to email@example.com via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 399 (NEWS)
Last week we asked what you'd tell network news directors, if you were given their ear for a few minutes. From a random sampling, here is what we found. The following topics are being UNDER-reported: Religion, medicine and small-town news. The topics you say are being OVER-reported are: Urban crime, flash-in-the-pan fads, X-treme sports (skateboarding and people falling down seem to be everywhere), and anything relating to Madonna or Britney Spears. A few, including CWS, mourn the passing of hourly news on radio. "It's hard to find news on radio anymore," he notes. "NPR seems to have the most of it." Finally, HoneyPot wonders why field reporters only get about 10 seconds to report anything anymore. Additionally, a plug for this "network." Nearly all the news providers you find are run by entertainment companies now. UPI and a few other worldwide "wire services" don't work under that umbrella. Working in a non-ratings-driven environment can make you feel lucky. None of my colleagues has ever been told what to write or how to write it. Try telling that to people who think that all news is "managed." The only comment I usually get is: "Dennis, you're running out of ink." TOMORROW: An open forum. GBA.