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Farewell, Eartha Kitt

Orson Welles called her "the most exciting woman in the world" - and, when I saw her perform at the old Gold Coast Jazz Festival in the early 1990s, I agreed. Now Eartha Kitt is dead at 81. More here.

Casting stones in TV land

I'm not the only one who senses humbug over the reaction to the Andrew O'Keefe video. Here's what Tracey Spicer has to say. The fact is, you'd be hard-pressed to find a soul in the media world (or any other walk of life) who hasn't had a few too many and been a bit worse for wear, especially at Christmas time. O'Keefe's only crimes, it seems, were being famous and being caught on camera.

Is Michael Jackson dying?

Michael Jackson has "potential fatal health issues" according to this Fox News report. Author Ian Halperin - who, it must be noted, has a Jackson biography ready to hit the shops - says Jackson suffers from the genetic disease alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and as a consequence is going blind and is in urgent need of a lung transplant. So much is written about Jackson that it's hard to know what to believe, so I'll take this with a grain of salt for now.

Only in America

"I feel like I could be a good senator - I'm every woman and the consummate New Yorker."

So says Fran Drescher, of The Nanny fame, who is eyeing Hillary Clinton's vacant Senate seat. God bless America.

Top of the flops

Ever wondered why movie stars get paid so much? Well, so apparently did S. Abraham Ravid, a professor of finance at Rutgers University. And he's discovered through years of research that the appearance of a "big name" in a film makes no difference to its performance at the box office. Forbes magazine quotes him as saying: "Star participation has no statistical correlation with the success of a movie, no matter how you define 'a star' or how you define 'success'." The article, which notes that stars including Will Ferrell, George Clooney and Nicolas Cage all had big flops in 2008, continues:

While top-shelf stars like Ferrell and Cage often sell more tickets, he says their movies are often that much more expensive to produce and, as a result, rarely turn a sizable profit for their studios. Put another way, stars do well for themselves and their agent and management teams, but they fail to deliver for the studios that employ them.

And that, of course, begs the question: Why not make more little films with no names (like ths year's Twilight), and make lots of money, than blow a wad on star vehicles? While the business concept of a "loss leader" may come to mind, my guess is that many studio bosses are too caught up in the Hollywood mystique for their own (and their shareholders') good.

Hugh's the boss

Hugh Jackman is to host the Oscars. Expect a song and dance number, and maybe some good-natured jokes about Australia (the country and the flopped film).

Good old days

I've just finished reading biographies of Ronnie Barker and Spike Milligan (right), both of which hark back to a "golden era" of broadcasting. The Barker book (by Bob McCabe, BBC Books) reveals that the audience for The Two Ronnies in the UK in the 1970s and 80s peaked around 20 million, accounting (by my calculations) for about two-fifths of the UK population and certainly well over half the viewing audience. I know times have changed, and there are many more viewing options, but it certainly puts the popularity of some of today's "stars" in perspective. The Milligan book (by Humphrey Carpenter, Coronet) reveals how the Goon Show scripts were vetted by the BBC, and one of the criticisms was that "there is no British embassy in Calcutta".

Bill's big night out

"After divorce, some men just want a whole new life. It sounds like a midlife crisis, but I don't think it's worrisome. After being married for a long time, sometimes men just like to have some fun and feel free.

So says Manhattan psychotherapist Rachel Moheban about actor Bill Murray's apparent habit of turning up at parties frequented by young women, then dancing, drinking and (in at least one case) helping them find cabs to go home. Seems perfectly harmless to me.
Meanwhile, actor Billy Murray (of The Bill fame) is flogging the services of a company called "Injury Lawyers 4 U" in British TV ads.

Dial 007 for a quote

One of the things that intrigues me about Scotland is the almost-universal reverence for Sir Sean Connery. The James Bond actor is an icon here. What gets me, though, is that he's Mr Rent-a-quote on the issue of the day - from his support for an independent Scotland and his backing of the Homecoming 2009 event to his opposition to the merger of the Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB - but he doesn't live here, and he hasn't for a very long time. In fact, I think I am safe in saying that I've spent more time in Scotland in the past 20 years than Sir Sean has. I don't doubt his sincere feelings for the land of his fathers, and I acknowledge that it is possible to have a keen interest in local events from afar. However, I don't see why people here go running to the Bahamas or wherever he chooses to be to get his opinion on what's good for Scotland, and then quote it as if it's holy writ. After all, he is an actor and he's working outside his field of expertise.
PS: In Australia, who would dream of saying, let alone thinking: We must get Paul Hogan's view on the global economic crisis?

Not the news

Paris Hilton can't get a record deal, according to this report. Well, of course she can't, because she can't sing. For the same reason, I can't get a record deal either - but you don't hear me bitching about it.

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