By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  April 10, 2003 at 6:00 PM
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A 23-year-old California film school graduate has been tapped to direct a redo of the classic movie "Bye Bye Birdie." The Hollywood Reporter says recent University of Southern California grad Jon Chu was chosen after he gained a lot of attention in Hollywood for using a 20-minute student film project as his "calling card" when trying to find a job. Apparently Columbia likes his work so much it decided to let him get some real experience on a real movie. So Chu will direct a redo of "Birdie," working with studio-based Red Wagon Productions. By the way, his college film showed what mothers do when the kids and husband leave the house in the morning. The film is full of dancing and singing and apparently was the perfect entrée to bigger and better things.


There are indications actress Janeane Garofalo's strident condemnations of the Bush administration and war in Iraq could affect her career. She is set to play a producer on a new TV newsmagazine in "Slice O'Life." MSNBC reporter Jeannette Walls says the show's network, ABC, has been inundated with anti-Garofalo letters and e-mail. Many are threatening to boycott the network and its advertisers if it airs the show. The New York Post, following up on the story, says ABC has yet to comment on the story. Garofalo's most-publicized attack was several months ago when she told a Washington Post reporter "The war is a manufactured conflict for the sake of geopolitical dominance."


The popularity of Chris Cagle's newest album, coupled with the controversy surrounding the Dixie Chicks, has put Cagle at the top of the country charts. Billboard's latest Top Country Album rankings show "Chris Cagle," the singer's self-titled second album, in the No. 1 position. The Chicks long-standing top-ranked compilation, "Home," slid to second place. To the credit of the Chicks, however, it sat at the top position for 18 weeks. That is an achievement not often seen. Cagle is smiling because "Chris Cagle" hit the top in its first week of release. The energetic young singer-songwriter is making personal appearances at small-audience venues in Texas this week, appearing in stores in Dallas and Houston. Before that he was at a Wal-Mart in suburban Nashville. It was while performing there he was told of his Billboard achievement.


A major gay and lesbian group wants former Texas Gov. Ann Richards as keynote speaker, proving the outspoken Richards still is a major draw. Richards is best remembered for her scalding anti-Bush speech at a Democratic national convention. She has been asked by the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Council to be the primary speaker at its gathering June 28. Other details of the group's annual meeting have yet to be announced. Gossip columnist Liz Smith says the driving force behind this year's meeting is Andy Tobias, who is trying to give the meeting a real "Texas flavor." He says he'd like to have other Texans there to back Richards' appearance, including Phyllis George, Molly Ivins, Liz Carpenter and Marie Brenner. By the way, it was at the 1988 Democratic Convention that, in condemning the elder George Bush, Richards said: "Poor George can't help himself. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."


For a while singer Keith Urban couldn't talk -- now he's back in full voice after having treatments for a polyp on his vocal cords. Urban, according to CMT, is back on the road in support of his latest album, "Golden Road." Urban tells the network he had known about the polyp on his right vocal cord for years, but managed to work in spite of it. The strain eventually became too much and he was advised that if he didn't do something about it he might never sing again. The event that finally sent him to the doctor was the rupture of the cord prior to a performance, followed by a hemorrhage in the region. He managed to get through the night and saw the doctor the next day. Urban says he feels the worst is over and he will slowly mend. "I'm about 90 percent out of the woods right now," he told the network.


Acoustic Alchemy is among jazz groups that will get another showcase for their talents in California Wine County in the coming months. As that grape-growing and wine-making region of the Golden State becomes more of a cultural mecca, its latest musical project involves a series of concerts in Sonoma County, spearheaded by the Rodney Strong Vineyards. The company's 2003 concert series will feature a mix of smooth jazz styles. The initial concert will be in mid June. Acoustic Alchemy will headline the weekend. Richard Elliot, Peter White, Steve Cole and Jeff Golub have been invited for an August weekend of music. Rick Braun will be there later that month. The series ends with two September concerts. One is with Boney James. The venue is Healdsburg, Calif., about 90 minutes north of San Francisco. For more information on music in Wine County check out on the Internet.


Here's a variation on a question we asked a long time ago. It will require some footwork to come up with the answer: "How many steps is it from your car to your door?" Put UPI-STEPS in the subject line and send to via the Internet.


Last week we asked: "What is your snack or food preference when you are at your computer?" From our random survey, here are the results in order or preference:

-Microwave popcorn

-Peanuts and other nuts

-Chips and dip


-Ice Cream

TOMORROW: More of your thoughts. GBA

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