By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  April 2, 2003 at 6:00 PM
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The latest effort by lovebirds Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez continues to put audiences to sleep, despite a $5 million redo of the ending. The movie "Tough Love" apparently got a massive "thumbs down" from the first test audience. Gossip columnist Richard Johnson says he learned the director and producer got into a shouting match after the disappointing screening. They elected to spend big bucks to give the film a more traditional ending. The movie's original plot dealt with a relationship between the two stars but the plot twists included a young retarded man and Affleck's affections for a woman whose "significant other" is another woman. Re-doing the endings of movies is nothing new. In the heyday of movies MGM was nicknamed "Retake Alley." Louis B. Mayer often went to sneak previews, passed out comment cards, then went back to Culver City to "fix" the film. In the case of "Tough Love" the expensive fix apparently wasn't worth the money.


Natalie Maines, the Dixie Chick whose anti-Bush remarks ignited a firestorm of negative fan reaction, now says her statements were a joke. Maines, speaking with New Zealand television, says her remark about "being ashamed to come from the same state (Texas) as President Bush" got a lot of laughs from the London audience for which she was performing at the time. Maines told the reporter it was all done in good fun and the audience "went with it." She also noted it's apparently easier than she thought to get into trouble if you make any statement about religion or politics. Meanwhile, Maines continues to issue apologies as she tries to get her group's career back on track. She and the other Chicks have been taking a lot of flak over the statement and record sales are down -- along with the number of plays the Chicks' songs have been getting on radio.


The new works of contemporary artist Tino Rodriguez look as if they were painted by the Old Masters centuries ago. Their content, however, is described as "modern-day startling." The San Jose Mercury News says the rising young artist is presenting his first solo project there and the works are the things of surrealistic nightmares. The publication says Rodriguez combines images of today in a style reminiscent of the Renaissance. In his show, "The Darkening Garden: Tino Rodriguez," the young painter goes in search of the truth using Old World styles with themes that include religion, violence and sexuality. Rodriguez also treats the issues of coming to grips with his gayness in some of the paintings. He tells the paper he is "fascinated with the complexity of human sexuality, transformation, longing and transgression." The 37-year-old artist is a native of Mexico, where he encountered his first major art in the cathedrals of his home country.


Remarks by journalist Walter Cronkite about correspondent Peter Arnett's comments in Iraq are stirring debate worldwide. In a piece for the New York Times, later relayed in other papers, Cronkite notes "Under the Constitution, giving 'aid and comfort' to a wartime enemy can lead to a charge of treason. So far as I know no one has yet suggested that Peter Arnett be charged with that capital offense. But it seems that Mr. Arnett hangs by a rope of his own weaving." Cronkite should know -- he was a correspondent in World War II for what was then United Press, before it married International News Service to become United Press International. He reported both in print and on film for various newsreel enterprises. In his appraisal of Arnett's comments about this country "underestimating the strength of Iraqi resistance" and the "Pentagon's need to rethink the entire enterprise," Cronkite claims there "is no excuse for Mr. Arnett's lack of judgment, and he has apologized for it." He notes he understands the motivation to do an interview but that in doing so Arnett "cozied up" to Iraqi demands. Sadly, though, as long as Arnett was in the Iraqi capital his reports were of value, even to the U.S. military.


The head of MTV says his music network is not making a conscious effort to filter-out videos that might have an anti-war bent. Van Toffler tells the New York Post a report the network's European arm was not airing "insensitive" clips is not true. Toffler claims a memo he prepared suggesting the action be taken was never implemented. He also claims most of the better-known videos -- including Billy Idol's "Hot in the City" and "Corruption" by Iggy Pop -- have been gathering dust on the network's archive shelves for decades -- as far back as the Reagan years. The network head says there is a difference between "censoring" and being "sensitive." "We present all sides of the issue," he says.


Singer and country show host Rusty Draper has died following a long battle with a litany of illnesses. Although his death came in a Seattle hospital last week, word has just been released by Draper rode the song "Gambler's Guitar" to the No. 1 position on the charts in 1953. The Mercury Records single was heard for months in every nightspot with a jukebox and on every country and some cross-over radio stations across the nation. Like many singer-songwriters who had been slogging away at their craft for years, and then suddenly score a big hit, he became an overnight sensation. The Missouri native ended up in California where he hosted his own radio shows in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. In the 1980s he ended up on the charts again -- though never hitting No. 1 -- with a cover of the old song "Harbor Lights." Rusty Draper was 80.


Today, in light of the incidents involving reporters Peter Arnett and Geraldo Rivera, we are asking: "Do you think it was wise for the Pentagon to allow so many reporters instant access to what's going on in Iraq?" Put UPI-NEWS in the subject line and send to via the Internet.


Last week we asked: "If you had to spend a week sitting on a cross-country bus with a single seat-mate, which of these two would you chose -- John Wayne or Annie Oakley?" From our random dip, here are the results:

-More than 80 percent want to sit by "The Duke" on the trip.

-All but one of the remaining opted for straight-shooting Annie Oakley.

-One reader, whose name I won't print, asked "in what movie SHE appeared."

TOMORROW: The bus week winds down. GBA

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