Thursday, December 29, 2005

Rocky Mountain News

Meanwhile at the Jerome, Aspen locals Robert Wagner and Jill St. John hosted a release party for the winter edition of Aspen Peak magazine Wednesday night. The who's who invited were Kevin Costner, Will Smith, Thalia, Jason Binn and Mike Ovitz.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Grace Kelly Number One in Glamour Poll

GRACE KELLY's 1955 Oscar gown leads a new glamour poll of stylish stars drawn up by luxury car giants Jaguar.

The company looked at hundreds of awards night outfits to find The Gorgeous 100 - men and women who define Academy Awards fashion and style.

Kelly's EDITH HEAD-designed dress gave the HIGH SOCIETY star the edge just two weeks before she wed Monaco's PRINCE RAINIER. She beat AUDREY HEPBURN's 1954 look and MARLON BRANDO's stylish tuxedo outfit also in 1955.

Brando was the only man in the top 10, but TOM CRUISE, ROBERT WAGNER, CHRISTOPHER REEVE, PAUL NEWMAN and CLARK GABLE all made it into the top 20.

In a related Jaguar list, MARILYN MONROE's skirt-raising scene in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH beat out the finales of GONE WITH THE WIND and CASABLANCA to land at the top of an Iconic Movie Moments list.

The top 10 gorgeous Oscar heroes and heroines are:

10. JULIA ROBERTS (2001).

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Dancing with the Stars

Robert Wagner will not be appearing on "Dancing with the Stars" due to personal reasons.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

ABC's 'Stars' to stay on dance floor longer

LOS ANGELES - ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" is about to step on NBC's toes.

Just one day after NBC revealed it would move hit comedy "My Name is Earl" to Thursdays at 9 p.m., ABC announced Friday it is expanding "Stars" episodes to 90 minutes. That will take the network's summer hit, originally scheduled on Thursdays from 8-9 p.m., through 9:30 p.m. -- directly against "Earl."

ABC also announced a time slot for a half-hour results show for "Stars," Fridays at 8 p.m., and scheduled new crime drama "In Justice" at 9 p.m. Fridays. That will put reality series "Supernanny" on hiatus, and move sitcom "Hope & Faith" to 8:30 p.m.

Sliding in behind "Stars" at 9:30 p.m. Thursdays will be new comedy "Crumbs."

The expansion of "Stars" reflects just the latest jockeying for position on Thursdays, primetime's richest night in terms of advertising revenue. In addition to NBC's "Earl" move, Fox moved comedies "That '70s Show" and "Stacked" to 9-10 p.m., where they will face off against CBS' reigning hit, "CSI."

"Stars" will kick off its second season with a two-hour episode. The new expanded edition is believed to reflect an expanded roster of celebrity dancers; ABC is expected to disclose participating hoofers this week.

Both "Stars" and "Earl" premiere January 5. "Justice" bows January 6 and "Crumbs" starts January 12.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Review: Hart to Hart: The Complete First Season

In the retrospective featurette that graces the new DVD set of Hart to Hart: The Complete First Season, creator Sidney Sheldon accurately describes the sort of winky, black-tie tone he was aiming for in this serialized, early ’80s knock-off of The Thin Man films, in which Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers played a globe-trotting, make-cute husband and wife duo whose substantial personal fortune allows them to play amateur sleuths. With this in mind, the laidback charms of this show (after all, as the opening credit narration from co-star Lionel Stander cheerily notes of the Harts, “murder is their hobby”) can wash pleasantly over viewers seeking to relive their small screen past, when rakishness was embraced rather than castigated.

Wagner stars as Jonathan Hart, a self-made millionaire who is utterly bored with the business world. He runs his conglomeration of industries by loose proxy, leaving him the time to tend his magnificent coif and live a life of luxury and indulged inquisitiveness with his wife Jennifer (Powers), a former freelance journalist and his intellectual equal. Stander is their butler and sidekick, Max, who blends fruit-and-Jack-Daniels smoothies and is quick with a quip. While so many investigatory shows — be they cop, private investigator or, these days, forensic scientist — are little more than colorfully convoluted procedurals, one thing that’s notable about Hart to Hart is the amount of time it took to establish and delight in character. The cases the Harts tackle, therefore, are actually a little less than half the story, as the mock-exasperated interplay between the stars is what gives the show its true zing. The (little) action is dated and silly, sure, and the occasional stunt doubles among the worst you’ll ever see, but Hart to Hart has a great sense of its own style and mission.

While not without its low points (“Which Way, Freeway?,” wherein the Harts’ dog exposes an elaborate scheme to kill a reclusive jeweler and steal millions of dollars in gems, comes to mind), Hart to Hart works chiefly because of its leads. Wagner plays Hart in breezy, Steve McQueen-lite fashion, which isn’t as backhanded a compliment as it sounds; vacuumed free of his complications and surliness, one could see how the character of Hart — and indeed, this series — was a success with audiences, if never quite a critical darling. While it suffered some rocky reviews early on, Hart to Hart eventually went on to score six Emmy nominations and more than a dozen Golden Globe nods. Episode highlights here include a great opening pilot, “A New Kind of High,” “Hit Jennifer Hart,” “Cruise at Your Own Risk” and “With This Gun I Thee Wed.”

The full-frame transfers of the show look surprisingly good given their age, and the audio (in English and… Portuguese, with subtitles in the latter?) is equally crisp. Wagner and Powers sit with writer-director Tom Mankiewicz for a warm audio commentary track on the two-hour pilot. An abundance of anecdotes are shared (after a location set fire early during the shoot, the director of photography used gaffer tape to amend his novelty, pre-show crew T-shirt from, “I have complete confidence in my director” to read “some confidence”), and the banter between the three (“Did you learn that in star school?” jibes Powers to Wagner at one point) is loving and humorous. This track is a veritable blueprint for multi-party effectiveness, so balanced is it between yarns, interesting insight and quantifiable information. The aforementioned retrospective featurette clocks in at 22 minutes, and includes interviews with the stars, plus Mankiewicz, Sheldon, executive producer Leonard Goldberg and others. It too is a fantastic look back at the series, and a model of economic re-visitation — not too long, not too short.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

TV highlights: Nov. 14th - 19th

"Hope & Faith"

Robert Wagner returns in his guest-starring role as Hope and Faith’s father, who’s back in town earlier than expected for Thanksgiving. And what about that fellow who’s with him? The young man (Johnny Galecki) makes the sisters suspicious, at 9 p.m. on ABC. Friday, Nov. 18th.

It's time for Harold Lloyd

Harold Lloyd, the forgotten man of the silent-film age, is ripe for rediscovery on a seven-DVD collection out Tuesday.

The Lloyd Collection (New Line, $90) includes 15 full-length films, 13 shorts and a bonus disc with home movies, photos and a gallery of Lloyd's 3-D photos, with glasses included. "It's a very expansive look at one of the great careers in movie history," says film historian Leonard Maltin, who details Lloyd's life in the DVD extras.

From 1912 to 1947, Lloyd made more than 200 films, including his classics The Freshman and Safety Last! Starting as an extra, he became a box-office champion, surpassing the popularity of the era's more famous funnymen, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

Over the Fence, a comedy short from 1917, was the first of a series of films that starred Lloyd as "The Glass Character," an ordinary guy with horn-rimmed glasses and pancake makeup. Audiences took to the character, and Lloyd began making feature-length films throughout the 1920s. He would do talking films, but his popularity waned in the '30s.

He is considered the father of romantic comedy and daredevil hijinks, suffering an accident in 1919 when a prop bomb temporarily blinded him and blew off his right thumb and index finger.

Lloyd also realized the audience's need to identify with a character.

"He's the beginning of what Tom Hanks is today," says Suzanne Lloyd, Lloyd's granddaughter and sole trustee of his film estate. Still, "people have no idea of who he is except an image of him hanging off a clock (in 1923's Safety Last!), and they will say, 'I know him. He's Buster Keaton.' No!"

Many of his films have gone unseen by generations because Lloyd owned the rights to his films and kept them off television because he thought commercials disrupted the story flow.

"Where Chaplin and, to a lesser degree, Keaton were always in the public eye, he was missing in action for quite a while," Maltin says.

Interviews include family friends Debbie Reynolds, Robert Wagner and director John Landis, who notes that Lloyd used a stopwatch to make sure he had enough gags per reel.

Before he died in 1971, Lloyd had begun restoring his films, a project his granddaughter, with help from the UCLA Film Archive, took over after his death. More than five years ago, she began looking for a studio to release the DVDs. She also is working on a deal for a remake of Safety Last! with producer Mark Gordon (The Day After Tomorrow).

Maltin says the silent film star translates well to modern times.

"Not many years ago at a film festival for a morning screening of The Freshman, they brought in a bunch of fourth- and fifth-grade kids," he says. "By the end of the film, they were cheering out loud as (Lloyd) ran up the field with the football. Harold still works his magic."

(Harold Lloyd wore a prosthetic right hand after losing a thumb and finger in a prop explosion in 1919).

New 'Stars' Waltzing In

Names of probable contestants on the next "Dancing with the Stars" — including former NFL great Jerry Rice — are starting to leak out.

Robert Wagner, soap star Lisa Rinna and Nick Lachey's younger brother, Drew, are among the stars said to be on board already.

Kevin Nealon, the former "Saturday Night Live" comedian, says he's been asked to join the new cast but hasn't decided yet.

"It's like when I play 'Celebrity Poker Showdown,' " he told the Kansas City Star over the weekend. "I don't want to be the first one out. I don't want to look like an idiot. Or clumsy."

The sensation of last summer, "Dancing with the Stars" partners celebrities with real ballroom-dancing champions in an "American Idol"-like competition.

Each week, the couples create and perform a dance routine before a panel of eccentric judges.

A voting formula that combines judges' scores with results of viewer phone-ins decides which couple is eliminated each week.

In July, "General Hospital" star Kelly Monaco won the first "Dancing with the Stars" competition, beating John O'Hurley (J. Peterman of "Seinfeld") in a controversial finale.

The dance show's second run starts Jan. 5.

ABC has made no official announcement of the new cast.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


The movie version of HOOT will hit U.S. theaters in Spring 2006. It was filmed in Boca Grande and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It's being produced by Jimmy Buffett and Frank Marshall (who produced Seabiscuit). Wil Shriner is directing the film. Luke Wilson plays Officer Delinko, and Logan Lerman and Brie Larson play Roy and Beatrice. Clark Gregg (of "In Good Company"), Tim Blake Nelson (of "O Brother Where Art Thou") and Robert Wagner (of the Austin Powers movies, among many others) have roles in the movie. Jimmy Buffett is contributing original music. The studios are New Line and Walden.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

More "Hope and Faith" Info

HOPE & FAITH – “BLOOD IS THICKER THAN DAUGHTER” – FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18 (9:00-9:30 p.m., ET) -- Hope and Faith are surprised to spot their dad, Jack (Robert Wagner, reprising the role), in town earlier than expected for Thanksgiving. His suspicious behavior with his companion, a young man named Jay (guest star Johnny Galecki) leads the sisters to jump to conclusions. They soon learn their father is harboring a secret about Jay, which has a huge impact on their family ties.

Dancing with the Stars

Robert Wagner is scheduled to be a celebrity dancer on the next season of ABC's smash hit Dancing with the Stars.

Robert Wagner Returns as a Guest Star on ABC's "Hope and Faith"

Robert Wagner (“Hart to Hart,” “Austin Powers” trilogy) reprises his role as Hope and Faith’s father, Jack Fairfield, on ABC’s hit comedy, “Hope & Faith.” On the Thanksgiving-themed episode, “Blood Is Thicker Than Daughter,” Hope & Faith learn that their father is harboring a secret which has a huge impact on their family ties. The episode will air FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18 (9:00-9:30 p.m., ET).

Additionally, Mr. Wagner is currently filming a family comedy entitled “Hoot,” and lending his voice to an animated comedy-adventure feature, “Yankee Irving.”

“Hope & Faith” stars Faith Ford as Hope, Kelly Ripa as Faith, Ted McGinley as Charley, Megan Fox as Sydney, Macey Cruthird as Hayley and Paulie Litt as Justin.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Hart to Hart DVD Box Art, Stills and Clips

Category 7: The End of the World

Emmy Award nominee Randy Quaid ("Elvis"), Gina Gershon ("Bound"), Shannen Doherty ("Charmed"), Emmy Award winner Tom Skerritt ("Picket Fences"), Emmy Award winner Swoosie Kurtz ("Sisters"), Emmy Award nominee James Brolin ("The Reagans"), Golden Globe nominee Robert Wagner ("Hart to Hart") and Adam Rodriguez ("CSI: Miami) star in CATEGORY 7: THE END OF THE WORLD, a new four-hour event mini-series by the same team behind the successful "Category 6: Day of Destruction" mini-series. As previously announced, the movie will be broadcast as the "CBS Sunday Movie" on Sunday, Nov. 6 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) and Sunday, Nov. 13 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Robert Wagner plays a U.S. Congressman and Judith's father.

Friday, October 21, 2005

TV on DVD By R.D. Heldenfels

I was not a fan of Hart to Hart when the romantic adventure ran on ABC from 1979 to 1984. But I enjoyed the audio commentary on the new DVD of Hart to Hart: The Complete First Season (Sony, premiere movie and 22 episodes, six discs, $49.95).

Executive producer Tom Mankiewicz and stars Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers offer a relaxed and conversational look at the show during commentary on the premiere. They joke about the plots and dialogue, offer up trivia (Sugar Ray Robinson was Wagner's first choice to play servant Max) and have such a good time, it makes the show seem better.

The DVD also includes a short feature on the making of the show.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Hart to Hart - More Details and Artwork for Season 1

This is my boss: Jonathan Hart (Robert Wagner); a self-made millionaire. He's quite a guy. This is Mrs. H. (Stefanie Powers) She's gorgeous. She's one lady who knows how to take care of herself. By the way, my name is Max (Lionel Stander). I take care of both of them - which ain't easy. 'Cause when they met, it was murder.

Created by bestselling novelist Sidney Sheldon, HART TO HART: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON stars Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers as Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, a fabulously rich couple who always seems to become entangled in an exotic blend of mystery, intrigue and adventure. Accompanied by their loyal servant Max (Lionel Sander), the smart and sexy twosome jet set around the world, where they solve cases ranging from espionage to murder, in 22 breezy episodes that mix excitement and danger with just a dash of romance.

Sony announced last month, that Hart to Hart - The Complete First Season will be available for DVD on October 25th, 2005. Sony has now sent me more artwork for Hart to Hart - The Complete First Season. The back cover shows the below extras will be featured on the DVD:

* Commentary for Hart to Hart Pilot Episode

* Featurette: The Hart of Season One - Includes Interviews with Sidney Sheldon - Creator; Leonard Goldberg - Executive Producer; Tom Mankiewicz - Write/Director; Robert Wagner - "Jonathan Hart"; Stefanie Powers - "Jennifer Hart"

Hart to Hart - The Complete First Season is available for pre-order at Amazon, for only $34.96.

Hart to Hart on DVD

Hart To Hart: The Complete First Season: The six-disc set has 23 episodes of Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers as a crusading couple who defy danger and spark romance. Fullscreen with extras including a featurette.

A Hart to Hart Reunion

The Insider -

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Production Wraps on TAG Entertainment's ''The Wild Stallion''

TAG Entertainment Corp., a full service entertainment company specializing in the production and distribution of family oriented motion pictures, announced that it has completed production of the feature film "The Wild Stallion." It's slated to be released worldwide in February 2006 and will be distributed internationally by Myriad Pictures, an independent producer and distributor of major motion pictures and television programming and with whom TAG has a letter of intent to acquire.

"The Wild Stallion" was shot entirely in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is the story told from the perspective of an emotionally connected young girl determined to protect the area's endangered wild mustangs. Hannah, a 10-year-old city girl, is sent reluctantly to stay with family friends on a Utah ranch. There, she befriends 9-year old C.J., who takes Hannah into the mountains for a rare glimpse of the area's wild mustangs, including a fabled "Black Stallion" which is rumored to be an escaped racehorse. When Hannah learns that the magnificent wild mustangs are mysteriously disappearing, she and her new friend decide to investigate. Hannah and C.J. team up to use their pluck, amateur detective skills and sheer guileless determination to expose this scam and help protect the wild horses forever.

The film stars, Robert Wagner ("Austin Powers in Goldmember", "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me", "Hart to Hart"), Paul Sorvino ("Goodfellas", "Nixon", "Mr. 3000", "Bulworth"), Connie Selleca ("I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus", "Hotel", "A Life of Laughter: Remembering John Ritter"), Fred Ward ("Henry & June", "Sweet Home Alabama", "Tremors", "Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult"), Miranda Cosgrove ("The School of Rock", "Grounded For Life", "Drake & Josh") and Danielle Churchran ("The Cat In The Hat", "Little House On The Prairie", "Crossing Jordan").

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Anchor Bay set to release The Fallen Ones on DVD

Promising primeval chills with blood-racing CGI special effects, Anchor Bay Entertainment plans to release The Fallen Ones on DVD, loaded with special features, on Sept. 20th with a suggested retail price of 19.98.

First aired on the Sci-Fi Channel in May 2005, The Fallen Ones has an all-star cast featuring Casper Van Dien, Robert Wagner, Kristen Miller, and Tom Bosley. The film was written, edited and directed by special effects master Kevin Van Hook.

The film follows Matt Fletcher (played by Van Dien) an archaeologist who uncovers a hidden tomb containing the mummified remains of a long dead warrior – who just happens to be about 42-foot tall.

The giant has been buried since the time of the great flood, as described in the Bible, and soon evidence is uncovered that reveals the creature to be Ammon The Destroyer – the unholy offspring of a human woman and a fallen angel.

The DVD will come loaded with special features including “Giants In The Earth” – the making of The Fallen Ones; “Creating Aramis the Mummy;” “Animatics: Pre-Visualization by Forum Visual Effects;” and audio commentary from Van Hook and others from the film’s crew.

The Fallen Ones special features will also include a storyboard gallery; theatrical trailer; still gallery; and the screenplay for DVD-ROM.

The Fallen Ones is available for pre-order at Amazon. As of yet, there is not a release date for the UK. Visit the film’s database for more information.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Yankee Irving

"Yankee Irving," a computer-animated feature Christopher Reeve was directing from his home at the time of his death in October, has added a deep bench of voice talent to the cast.

Rob Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg, Brian Dennehy, William H. Macy, Mandy Patinkin, Dana Reeve, Robert Wagner, Richard Kind, Raven Symone and New York Yankees manager Joe Torre have joined the lineup. Jake Syzmanski, star of the upcoming Nick Jr. series "Go, Diego Go," voices the title character.

"Yankee Irving" is about a boy who travels across the country on a mission to return Babe Ruth's bat before the deciding game of the 1932 World Series. It is in production at producer IDT Entertainment Animation's studio in Toronto with an anticipated summer 2006 release via Twentieth Century Fox. Dan St. Pierre and Colin Brady are co-directing.

It's a Hoot

Robert Wagner will star in New Line's "Hoot," now lensing in Florida.

He joins Logan Lerman, Brie Larson and Luke WilsonLuke Wilson in the Wil Shriner-directed family film, adapted from Carl Hiaasen's novel.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

'Thin Man' movies released on DVD

I can't imagine a better life than the one lived on "Hart to Hart," a television series from 1979.

I mean, who wouldn't want to be Jonathan Hart (played by Robert Wagner)? You've got a dish of a wife played by Stefanie Powers, and you’ve got a gruff, stogie-chomping manservant played by Lionel Stander. In your free time, between fabulous parties and ski trips to the French Alps, you solve murders.

The only couple that ever had it better than Mr. and Mrs. Hart was Nick and Nora Charles in the "Thin Man" movies.

Nick and Nora, played by William Powell and Myrna Loy, were the prototypes for the Harts -- and they also would have drunk them under the table.

Powell and Loy made six "Thin Man" movies from 1934-1947, and now they're all together in a DVD box set full of gin-and-vermouth benders and rakish, screwball one-liners.

In the 1934 original, "The Thin Man," we learn that Powell’s character used to be a private detective. He gave it up to live the good life with his rich and sassy wife.

But when he bumps into a woman at the bar, she convinces him to look for her missing father -- an eccentric scientist/inventor.

Detective work follows, but it takes a back seat to Nick and Nora’s lightning-quick repartee. Even with their characters’ dueling hangovers, Powell and Loy still outpace the screwball banter of duos like Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. They might be the best on-screen couple in Hollywood history.

While the 1934 original is the clear standout of the collection, the others have their charms. "After the Thin Man" (1936) stars a young Jimmy Stewart as a nice guy who isn't is as nice as he seems.

Brothers banking on 8-minute film

The scenario reads like the opening to a joke you would tell friends at a house party.

But Brian and Dean Ronalds aren't looking for cheap chuckles over cocktails or material for the water cooler on Monday.

They're gunning for a spot in the movie industry.

The Ronalds brothers are no strangers to Arizona's growing independent film tapestry, having shot eight films in the last four years.

They hope their latest offering, an eight-minute dark comedy called Little Victim, gets them noticed.

Shot in May, Little Victim matched the brothers with screen veterans Robert Wagner and Lori Singer, along with Phoenix actress Laura Durant.

Here's the setup: Two men meet in a parking garage. One has good news, the other not-so-good news.

We could go on, but, hey, the movie's eight minutes long.

"Making a short film is just like a feature film, just on a smaller scale," said Brian Ronalds, 32, who acts in the film and also produced it. "You put a lot of care and effort into both."

Little Victim will be screened at 7:15 and 8:15 p.m. Thursday at Harkins Valley Art Theatre in Tempe, and Aug. 27 in Los Angeles. Ronalds' younger brother, Dean, directs.

The brothers have been building their resumé on the indy scene since moving to Gilbert from Los Angeles in 2001. This year, the Phoenix Film Festival named the Ronalds brothers Arizona Filmmakers of the Year.

The pair, however, are looking for more than just eight minutes of fame.

They recently gave up jobs at Qwest to take the plunge as feature-length movie artists. They are working on a feature-length version of The Netherbeast of Berm-Tech Industries Inc., a 2004 horror-comedy short film written by Bruce Dellis.

The original Netherbeast was six minutes long. Scottsdale cardiologist Kevin Berman agreed to be the executive producer of the full-length installment, which is scheduled to begin shooting in October or November.

"We're calculated risk takers," said Dean Ronalds, 29.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Hart to Hart - When This Show Came to DVD, It Was Murder! (Season 1 Announcement)

When people think of Sidney Sheldon, they think mainly of his thrilling novels (his 18th novel is due to hit the market next month). What surprises people is the number of film scripts and television epsiodes he's written...more than 200 of the latter. He also was the creator of two of the most popular sitcoms of all time: The Patty Duke Show and I Dream of Jeannie. Those were from the '60s. In 1979, Sheldon turned his talents toward creating a TV show that was as full of thrills as his novels were. The result was a show originally called "Double Twist", but which came to broadcast as Hart to Hart.

Starring Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers as Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, it was a show in the murder mystery genre that had the very wealthy husband-and-wife team looking for clues and killers among the well-to-do. But that summary, while on-target, doesn't begin to describe the charm brought to the show by the wonderful relationship that Wagner and Powers had with each other. He was a self-made millionaire, with the strength and determination to see anything through. She was a former journalist, with a nose for finding clues. Always on hand to help was Lionel Stander as Max, their friend and servant with the gruff voice but could be trusted to be there in a pinch. First season guest stars include Dee Wallace, Markie Post, Rene Auberjonois, Tommy Lasorda, Noble Willingham, Juliet Mills, and John Hillerman.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will bring out Hart to Hart - The Complete 1st Season on October 25th, on a 6-DVD set that runs 1139 minutes. List price is $49.95 SRP. Extras have not been announced by the studio yet, but Video Business reports that the set "contains all 23 episodes of the debut season, plus commentary and a featurette with cast and crew interviews." Here's the box art for you:

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Hart DVD Announcement Imminent

I just read that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is expected to release details of the DVD set "Hart to Hart: The Complete First Season" on Monday, August 15, 2005, with a likely release date of October 25, 2005.

Details at present: It's a 6 disc box set, with a suggested price of $49.95.

Obviously, this is subject to change until the official announcement comes, but this sounds about right. Most on-line retailers sell below the suggested price, so don't be scared by that price tag if you don't want to spend that much on DVDs. I'm sure a lot of you would pay more than that, as Hart on DVD has been long awaited. No mention of extras - wait for the official announcement.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Can't golf? This is the tourney for you

It's time to get trashed.

The 13th-annual Trashmasters golf tourney comes down in Snowmass on Friday. It's Realtor Boone Schweitzer's charity game, which rewards players for making really bad shots. And he has names for them - like the the "Billie," in honor of Bill Clinton for a lie so bad it's unplayable. (The joke's getting old, but it's a classic.) And there's the "Willie," named for Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again." A bad backswing is a CEO. "It's for a little jerk at the top," says Schweitzer.

Over the years many bold names have played the game, including Dan Quayle, Michael Douglas, Chip Beck ("Mr. 59") and Wayne Rogers. This year Robert Wagner will play. And Woody Paige's ESPN show "Cold Pizza" is coming to Snowmass to cover the tourney and interview the more colorful Trashmasters live. FORE!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Actor Wagner will attend film premiere

SCOTTSDALE - Best known by some for his It Takes a Thief television show and by others for his recent appearances in the Austin Powers movies, actor Robert Wagner will appear Friday in Scottsdale to help celebrate a new local film.

Wagner will be at the premiere of the short film Little Victim, a dark comedy about what lies at the end of the rainbow and the diminutive measure of a man.

The event starts at 7:30 p.m., with showings of the film at 9 and 10 p.m. at Farrelli's Cinema Supper Club, 14202 N. Scottsdale Road.

The film was produced by JuSpan Productions/Ronalds Bros. Films. The Ronalds brothers were selected 2005 Filmmakers of the Year by the Phoenix Film Festival.

'Working with Robert was like working with a friend,' said Brian Ronalds of Gilbert, co-producer of the film. 'The tone on the set was very comfortable, like family. The cast and crew had a lot of fun together, and I think it shows in the film.'

Little Victim also stars Lori Singer, who appeared in the TV series Fame, and local actress Laura Durant. Another producer was Gilbert resident Dean Ronalds.

Wagner has nearly 200 acting credits during his nearly 50-year career, including several Pink Panther movies, the 1974 disaster blockbuster The Towering Inferno and the 1979-1984 TV series Hart to Hart.

Premiere tickets are $5.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

New Ronalds Brothers' Short Film, LITTLE VICTIM, to Premiere July 29

Scottsdale, AZ -- Film icons Robert Wagner and Lori Singer are starring in the new JuSpan Productions / Ronalds Brothers film LITTLE VICTIM (, which premieres July 29 at Farrelli's Cinema Supper Club , 14202 N. Scottsdale Rd. in north Scottsdale. Tickets for the LITTLE VICTIM premiere are $5 at the door with a portion of the proceeds to benefit the Phoenix Film Project.

Farrelli's gets the evening underway starting at 7:30 offering a no host bar and appetizer / dinner menu. Screening will open with the award winning short film THE NETHERBEAST OF BERM-TECH INDUSTRIES, INC. and will then follow with LITTLE VICTIM and the MAKING OF LITTLE VICTIM. The premiere celebration continues with conversations with Actors Robert Wagner, Lori Singer, and Laura Durant, Producer/Co-Star Brian Ronalds, Producer Andy Putman-Nelson, Executive Producer Kevin Berman and Director/Producer Dean Ronalds. The cast and crew are scheduled to attend but not guaranteed. The evening will wrap up with a post-show mixer in Farrelli's theater lounge.

Robert Wagner, whose legendary Hollywood career lists nearly 200 credits over the past five decades, portrayed the dapper Howard. Baby Boomers remember Wagner fondly the handsome heartthrob from films like THE PINK PANTHER and as the suave millionaire detective Jonathan Hart in the television series HART TO HART, and today's audiences know him as Dr. Evil's eye-patched "Number Two" in the Austin Powers film trilogy.

Lori Singer, who played Howard's trophy girlfriend Tracy, made her breakout performance in the NBC television series FAME as the willowy cellist Julie Miller. This lead to her the celebrated role as wild child Ariel Moore in the film FOOTLOOSE. Lori also played opposite of Tom Hanks in THE MAN WITH ONE RED SHOE. Most recently Lori starred in the FOX sci-fi television drama VR.5.

Laura Durant is the nagging and finagling mother Irene. Laura has been performing Valley stages for the past 18 years in such productions as Equus for N2T, Romeo & Juliet for Southwest Shakespeare and Six Degrees of Separation for Phoenix Theater. Among her film credits include two JuSpan projects, PORTRAIT and A.W.O.L.. She is currently co-host of the television show SCREEN WARS, highlighting local Independent Filmmakers.

Brian Ronalds pulled double-duty as the film's producer and the role of the frantic Duane. Brian said that the film really makes a commentary on what people find important in life. "We focus on something that doesn't really matter while something that is important is ignored outright. It's a very absurd look at life; I think it's more of a reflection of ourselves: all around, really, we are little victims of circumstance."

LITTLE VICTIM signals yet another high point for the Ronalds Brothers' as their star continues to rise in the independent film festival circuit. Director / Producer Dean Ronalds knows their continuing success as filmmakers is one borne of perseverance. "We are calculated risk takers," he said. "We've learned to the importance of being deliberate in our decisions rather than rush into a project that might then have taken us down some very rough roads. The result is a group of films that we are very passionate about and that we enjoy making."

LITTLE VICTIM (, the eighth film by Brian and Dean Ronalds, signals yet another high point for the Ronalds Brothers' as their star continues to rise in the independent film festival circuit. With Brian as actor / producer and Dean as director / producer, the brothers have become an integral part in the rebirth of Phoenix independent filmmaking.

This year the Phoenix Film Festival recognized the Ronald Brothers' contributions to Valley cinema by naming them Arizona Filmmakers of the Year. During his acceptance speech, Brian summed up the potential of the burgeoning Valley film scene. "Phoenix is pregnant with potential," he said.

Monday, July 11, 2005


I got a note from Brian Ronalds. Little is up and running. :-)

Friday, July 01, 2005

Beyond the Slimy Wall: The Fallen Ones

We here at BOP are an eclectic group, and our tastes in movies run from the serious cinephiles to the foreign-film aficionados to niche film lovers. Thus was born the idea for this weekly column, devoted to horror films of all shapes and sizes, but concentrating on those B- and C-grade films that mainstream reviewers disdain, but are the bread-and-butter of every spook movie lover's viewing. So come with me as we venture beyond the slimy wall, uncovering the treasures - and burying the time-wasting bombs - that await those who dare to love the scare.

The Fallen Ones

Horror films, just like any film genre, seem to go through periods of topic convergence. Recently we've seen a resurgence of the zombie film, as well as animals-eating-people movies; a couple of years ago there was a slew of demonic possession and substantiation flicks; before that there was a slasher renaissance; and right around the millennium there were a number of supernaturally-caused apocalypse movies.

Another popular subject of late has been fallen angels, either with or without an accompanying war amongst the heavenly host. Some of these have focused, wholly or in part, on nephilim, which are the offspring of angels and human women and were, according to some of the apocrypha, giants. The Fallen Ones, another from the Sci-Fi Originals stable, follows the giant theory of nephilim, and also throws in an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it gambit for good measure.

The film begins by helpfully providing the uninititated viewer with a definition of nephilim, and continues to be instructive by showing us its version. It also provides us with details on the apocalyptic prophecy and the more manifest titular fallen one, an angel named Ammon. Ammon is the one who fills the viewer in on the dealio: His child must be put to sleep, but when he is awakened, the world of Man will come to an end and the fallen angels and nephilim will again rule the Earth. Oh, yeah; they'll apparently also keep some human women around as brood mares of sorts, but everybody else goes bye-bye.

As the opening takes place in ancient times - a specific era isn't mentioned - we of course have to fast-forward to the present, and an archeological dig that is ensuring there aren't any artifacts in the path of a planned oil-drilling project. Of course, the archeologist comes upon an artifact - there wouldn't be a movie otherwise - that just happens to be our nephilim, mistakenly classified as a statue. So the drilling project is stopped whilst the find is explored. This set-up also introduces us to the main characters on the side of Humanity, Yea!: the head of the oil company and long-time friend of the archeologist; the new geologist, who will soon be both the romantic interest and damsel-in-distress; the geek who knows tons about nothing of interest to anyone less than 200,000 years old; and a rabbi whose specialty is translating hieroglyphics and ancient languages. We also get the requisite Major Psychological Trauma What Our Hero Must Overcome, this time courtesy of the Demons of Major Guilt, which we know will be exorcised in the process of preserving life as we know it. Add a goodly number of Red-Shirts, a sprinkling of semi-mystical beings who seem intent on appearing and disappearing in the most unnerving manner, the better to whup ass and vanish folk, our aforementioned fallen-from-grace seraphim in his present guise, the old resurrected-true-love ploy and more details on that end-of-days prophecy, then add water and presto! Instant plot!

Actually, I'm making a bit more fun of The Fallen Ones than is warranted, for although the story arc does hew to the time-honored traditions of the wakening-an-ancient being/curse flick - yet another horror sub-genre - it blends together the requisite elements in an appealing fashion that isn't in lock-step with the genre's conventions. The tight plotting, character development - accomplished to a surprising level with an economy of screen time - and smart dialogue lifts The Fallen Ones a notch or six above the formulaic. The script also takes a veiled jab or two at religious fanaticism of all makes and models. The switching of heroic roles that takes place during the climax between the two obvious - and a quite unexpected - champions is a nice touch, as is the twist on one of the hallowed end-scenes of this genre that sends a frisson of chill up the spine of even the most grizzled of spook-movie watchers.

The film is further bolstered by a cast that is almost uniformly excellent, starting with Casper Van Dien as our tortured archeologist, giving a bit of thespic heft to a role that could easily have devolved into little more than a collection of dimpled smiles, chiseled features and convincing evidence of testosterone poisoning. Then there's the redoubtable Robert Wagner - slumming a bit and having a grand time - as the oil company chief who's like a father to Van Dien's character and is a father to our damsel; and a surprisingly effective Tom Bosley as the rabbi and ancient linguistics professor who is the first to discover just what has been unearthed and what will come to pass unless our hero can put a stop to it. I am moved to give special praise here to the method the script selects to provide Our Hero with said crucial info; it's a nice example of utilizing a character quirk that seems at first blush a simple throwaway meant to establish a bit of eccentricity, but is later recalled oh-so-ingeniously to impart that vital save-the-world info. And I've no idea of Bosley's heritage, but his Jewish accent sounded quite authentic and was never dropped, so if it was adopted for this role, my hat's off to Mr C for displaying a hitherto unknown talent. And while the damsel-in-distress could have been picked up from Central Casting, the gentleman who plays the not-very-angelic Ammon, Navid Negahban, combines dark good looks and Continental charm with just the slightest hint of malice, truly a celestial being to be feared.

And since the special F/X budget on most Sci-Fi Originals seems permanently fixed at $1.98, I feel compelled to call out the times when somebody on the production realizes that it's not such a bad idea to spend a shilling or two on your CGI. Not only are the nephilim effects quite good, but the rendering of Ammon as the fallen angel is stunning. Think of the skeletal crew of the Black Pearl decked out with the wispy cloth of your standard-issue wraith and then ratchet up the menace by a factor of ten. Chills-
down-the-spine time on this one.

Plus, stuff blows up real good during the climax. Can't go wrong with a really good explosion, I always say. And while I usually can do without the almost-requisite "It's over now. Or is it?" ending - not to be confused with the false ending of the slasher and AEP flicks, which is not only de rigeur but can be quite cleverly employed - I will give The Fallen Ones extra points for putting a nice coat of shiny paint on the old chestnut, and actually raising a few hackles at the thought.

All in all, The Fallen Ones is one of the better entries in the Sci-Fi Originals stable, and more than worth the two-hour-less-commercials time investment. And while the good-to-horrendous ratio still needs a deal of work, if the production arm of the Sci-Fi Channel keeps putting out quality work like this and the recently-reviewed DinoCroc, I might have to change my stock tone when preparing to review one of their offerings.

Then again, with Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy! on the horizon, I don't think I'll be worrying about that any time soon.

I see by the shadows falling from my bust of Pallas that our time is up. Until next time, then, when we will once again venture Beyond the Slimy Wall.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Little Victim Info

We're pleased to tell you that we finished principle photography (May 21 and 22) on a new short film called "LITTLE VICTIM" starring Robert Wagner and Lori Singer.

The short film was shot in Phoenix, AZ and directed and produced by Arizona's Ronalds' Brothers, Dean and Brian (me). Dean directed the film and
I produced and co-starred with Robert and Lori.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Natasha Gregson Wagner Joins 'The 4400'

LOS ANGELES - In the opening episode of season two of USA Network's science-fiction series "The 4400," government agent Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie), who works for the National Threat Assessment Command (NTAC), finalized her adoption of Maia Rutledge (Conchita Campbell).

The little girl is one of 4,400 people who vanished over several decades and then were returned en masse in a single day, apparently as part of a plot by people in the future to save the human race. Maia, who was born in 1938 and abducted in 1946, came back with the ability to predict the future. Not everyone could handle that, but Diana has taken on both Maia's powers and the challenge of being a single mother.

Just about the time Diana thinks she's gotten her new situation under control, chaos intrudes, in the person of her twentysomething younger sister, April (recurring star Natasha Gregson Wagner).

In "Voices Carry," airing Sunday, June 12, the free-spirited April blows into town for a tattoo exhibition and announces she's sleeping on her sister's couch. She also quickly forms an attachment with Maia, which disturbs her brand-new adoptive mother.

"She is the black sheep of the family," says Wagner, the daughter of Natalie Wood and Richard Gregson (and stepdaughter of Robert Wagner). "A lot of times in families, there is one sibling that is the misunderstood one, the rebellious one, the one that dances to the beat of her own drum. That's how I see April.

"April and Diana really do love each other and really are connected, but they are so incredibly different. And Diana has such a strict set of rules for the way she believes April and everybody else's lives should be lived, which is so different from the way April looks at things. But I feel April really misses Diana and sees the fact that she's adopted Maia as a way maybe to repair old wounds between them."

As to the nature of those wounds, Wagner says, "There are a lot of references to the past in the show, so Jackie and I came up with some ideas of what we thought had gone on between them. I have a lot of sisters, so it was interesting for me to deal with all the sisterhood stuff. Having sisters is very intense. It's the greatest kind of relationship, in a way. It's also one of the closest kinds of relationships, and it can be so loaded."

Wagner says, though, that she's not the black sheep of her particular family.

"No, that falls on another of my sisters. I did the right thing. I'm definitely the good girl. I would say I'm more like Diana, and she's more like April.

"It was interesting to delve into the world of April. It made me think a lot more about this one particular sister of mine."

While Maia upsets most people, April warms up to her, even taking her out for ice cream and fake tattoos.

"Maia doesn't freak April out at all," Wagner says. "They're much more of kindred spirits than Maia and Diana. April's younger, and she makes a huge effort to connect with Maia. It's not that hard. They instantly like each other.

"She thinks it's weird that Maia predicts things, but then she realizes it's amazing. And April believes in psychic powers and stuff."

"The 4400" films in Vancouver, Canada, which makes it a homecoming of sorts for Wagner, who filmed the short-lived FOX series "Pasadena" there.

"In fact," Wagner says, "I was just e-mailing last night with Dana Delany. I was saying that I have been thinking about her so much, because we spent so much time in that Sutton Place Hotel together, in the bar, particularly."

Oddly enough, another former "Pasadena" star, Mark Valley ("Boston Legal," "Keen Eddie"), also had a recurring role in season one of "The 4400."

"I love Mark Valley," Wagner says. "I watched the first season, and I was so excited Mark was on it. He's so good. Too bad we didn't wind up on it at the same time."

April doesn't get to have powers, as many of the 4400 do, but Wagner says, "That would be cool, but I kind of exploit Maia's superpowers at a certain point."

Aspen: Penny Parker

Back in Denver: Aspenites Robert Wagner and Jill St. John brunching at Mirepoix in the J.W. Marriott Hotel.

Friday, May 27, 2005

New on DVD - Broken Lance

Broken Lance
* * * 1/2
1954, Fox, unrated, no extras, $15

Cattle baron Spencer Tracy's sons by wife No. 1 aren't crazy about wife No. 2 (an Indian). Nor do they mind seeing the son of that union — easily the best of the bunch — taking a prison rap for the old man's transgressions. Savvy moviegoers will peg this as an obvious open-spaces transplant of 1949's House of Strangers, in which Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed Edward G. Robinson against a Little Italy New York setting.

Back story: A King Lear knockoff as well, this early stereo/CinemaScope color Western incredibly got the Oscar for best original story, which is otherwise no slam on a yarn well told. This was Tracy's first film away from his long MGM contract, during which he had become a superstar. Richard Widmark plays the rotten oldest brother tormenting Robert Wagner; Katy Jurado, as Wagner's mother, got an Oscar nomination.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Qwest for fame

By day, Brian and Dean Ronalds occupy cubicles at Qwest Communications International Inc. in Phoenix.

At night and on weekends, the brothers are on a quest for Hollywood fame and fortune.

The Ronaldses are filmmakers who have their own production company, JuSpan Productions. And they apparently are pretty good at it. They have done seven short films and were recently named 2005 Arizona Filmmakers of the Year by the Phoenix Film Festival.

Last weekend, they filmed their eighth short, Little Victim, in a parking garage along Central Avenue. The stars: Robert Wagner, perhaps best known for the Hart to Hart TV series that ran from 1979 to 1984, and Lori Singer, who played the preacher's daughter in the movie Footloose.

"It took persistence to get them," said Brian, who acts in Little Victim and is the producer. "And we paid them a lot of money."

He said they were lucky to land Wagner because he has had a career resurgence since his role as Number Two in the three Austin Powers movies.

"They don't have to do this," Brian said. "They gave us a break. And they had a great time."

The nine-minute film, to be completed within a month, was directed by Dean Ronalds, written by Bruce Dellis and funded by executive producer Kevin Berman, a Phoenix cardiologist. Brian said it is about two men in a parking garage and something bad in the trunk of a car, "and it is really funny."

The Ronaldses, who are married and have children, next are working on a feature film, but they have no plans to quit their day jobs (Dean is an engineer and Brian is a business-development specialist).

"It's hard to go from being on camera on Sunday to being in your cubicle on Monday," Brian said. "But having families keeps us grounded and very level-headed."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Home opens many doors

Project raising money to help children develop

One house, four days and thousands of kids benefit. It's a mission straight from the heart of Home with a Heart, a charity benefiting the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center and Family YMCA of the Desert.

Family Development donated the land, and Home With a Heart gathered volunteers for labor, supplies and food to feed the construction crews. The four-bedroom, 2�-bath that was built over the weekend is located at Shadow Ranch community in Indio. It took 50 hours over four days to build.

The house will be auctioned and the proceeds will go to the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center and Family YMCA of the Desert, each of which were presented in advance with a $200,000 check on Monday.

"I want to thank the community here. They've been wonderful," said Sinatra. "Home with a Heart has brought the community together."

The closing ceremony and ribbon-cutting Monday also featured the Palm Springs High School band, which played gracefully despite the scorching 110 degree heat.

"Usually a house gets a heart when a family moves in," said Sabby Jonathan of Family YMCA of the Desert. "But this house got its heart a little early," he said, referring to the fact that it was built in less time than expected.

Family Development, headed by two sets of brothers who founded Home with a Heart, selected the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center and the Family YMCA as the beneficiaries of this event because of their focus on families.

The Barbara Sinatra Children's Center, founded by the late Frank Sinatra and his wife, Barbara, is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping sexually, physically and emotionally abused children.

The Family YMCA of the Desert provides a safe, nurturing environment for kids, in which they are able to learn new skills and build self-esteem.

"We're very proud to be a part of this community effort," said Rudy Herrera of Family Development. "In just four days, we're gong to accomplish something truly unique for a very special cause that is close to our hearts."

Robert Wagner, Gerald Ford, Jerry Vale, Joe Mantegna, Mary Bono, Kirk Douglas, Tony Bennett, Yogi Berra, Tony Danza and Cheryl Tiegs have contributed their artistic touches as well, interpreting the "Home with a Heart" logo that was on display during the four days of construction.

"My heart is filled with love, admiration and thanks," said Sinatra. "In my husband's memory, I thank you very much."

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Developer gives nonprofits a hand

Through the generosity of a local developer, two nonprofit agencies will soon receive a significant financial boost to their community service efforts.

Family Development is going to build an upscale home at Shadow Ranch in Indio - in the course of only four days - and will donate the proceeds from the sale of the new home to the Family YMCA and The Barbara Sinatra Children's Center. Each organization is expected to receive a check in excess of $100,000.

Family Development's "Home with a Heart" program - which began yesterday and will conclude on Monday - will also include a series of events to spark the public's interest in the project. The public is invited to watch the construction of the home from the ground up. Although construction has already begun, you still have a couple more days to watch hammers and paint brushes fly.

Attendees also have the opportunity to peruse - and purchase - celebrity art. Celebrities such as Mary Bono, Gerald Ford, Kirk Douglas, Robert Wagner and Yogi Berra were sent a line drawing of the Home with a Heart logo along with a box of crayons - and added their personal touches.

Lutherville woman collects mothers' wisdom

There came a time when Lutherville resident Marie True Evans found herself quoting her late mother from time to time. "As my mother used to say, ... " peppered her conversations.

They were simple but helpful truths her mother handed down to her six children - "orchids for the soul," as her mother's mother would have called them.

Evans found them comforting even as she repeated them, as if her mother were still speaking to her.

That led her to start writing down the things her mother used to say and to collecting the things that other mothers used to say.

Evans added her own pearls of wisdom to the necklace and pearls of wisdom provided by friends and friends of friends - from Meryl Streep to Barbara Bush, Betty Ford, Phyllis Diller and Natalie Wood - Robert Wagner wrote her a personal note.

The result was a book, "String of Pearls ... A Mother's Wisdom." Published this year by Graphics Management Press, it is available on or at the Ivy Bookshop in Lake Falls Village for $17.95.

Evans dedicated the book "to all the mothers whose words of wisdom have offered us comfort and guidance through the days of our lives."

Most of the profits from book sales will benefit breast cancer research, she says.

Neither she or nor her mother suffered from it, but breast cancer has touched the lives of so many mothers and daughters and it is one of the biggest fears that women have.

"I used to ask my mother to come with me when I went for a mammogram," she says.

Evans and her husband, John, a retired real estate executive, are home grown - both are Towson High School alumni. But they have residences on both coasts to be able to spend time with their three grown children.

Her mother, Mary True, has been dead six years now. She had been a popular concert pianist when she was younger and charmed audiences at the Hunt Valley Inn and the John Eager Howard Room in the Belvedere Hotel well into her seventies.

"Mother, you've got to get a day job," Evans told her. So her mother charmed audiences by playing at Nordstrom in Towson Town Center when she was nearly 80.

But it wasn't her mother's musical legacy that struck a chord with Evans, a former Miss Maryland and professional dancer and actress who made a career as a fashion consultant.

Her mother may have been a fabulous pianist, Evans writes in the book, "but it is her wonderful words of wisdom that I hear in my mind. I find myself quoting her almost daily."

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Developer to donate proceeds of new home's sale

You probably know the drill: the video speeds up on "Trading Spaces," to compress two days worth of renovation and redecorating in a recap running less than minute.

Then there's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," where an eyesore becomes a showpiece in seven days.

Combine the two and you'll get a sense of "Home with a Heart," where an upscale home will go up in the Coachella Valley in the course of only four days.

"It's like a dream come true for a non-profit," says Alison Elsner, Public Relations Director for the Family YMCA of the Desert.

Proceeds from the sale of the new home in Indio will be donated to the Family YMCA and The Barbara Sinatra Children's Center. Each organization is expected to receive a check in excess of $100,000.

"It's like something we would have never imagined in our wildest dreams," says Elsner of the home builders' generosity.

Family Development, whose projects include Generations and Bella Vida in Shadow Hills, first considered giving away a home as a way of giving back to the community. Then it occurred to them they could help more people and cover more ground with the current concept.

"We want to create enough excitement and interest in people to come out. Hopefully, they'll be inspired to see what can happen … create awareness for the good in people and what we can all do if we work together," says Family Development partner Vince Barbato.

The public is encouraged to check out the construction at Shadow Ranch from start to finish. Bleachers will allow you to see the action in spectator-sport fashion, from carpentry to landscaping and tile to granite installation, beginning at 6 a.m. tomorrow at through the ribbon cutting at 2:30 p.m. on Monday.

Barbato estimates over 500 workers will be on hand to complete a task that typically takes four months.

"It's a fascinating project," says Susan Reynolds, executive director of the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center. "It's interesting and educational and rewarding at the same time, which you don't always get in fundraising events."

In the spirit of an old-fashioned barn raising, the project will not be all work and no play.

Clowns and coloring contests are scheduled, DJ's and bands will perform, hot dogs and snow cones are for sale, and one-of-a-kind artwork will be on display.

Reynolds says celebrities were sent a line drawing of the Home with a Heart logo, along with a box of crayons.

You'll have a chance to see how, among others, Kirk Douglas, Tony Bennett, Cheryl Tiegs, Joe Mantegna and Robert Wagner added their personal touches. At the concluding ceremony on Monday, look for giveaways of a Frank Sinatra gift basket and CD collection, as well as a pair of Dodger tickets.

The ultimate winners, though, are the kids in the desert who will benefit from the generosity of the developers and the dozens of sponsors and volunteers participating. "What they're doing helps shape the community," says Elsner.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Fallen Ones

Robert Wagner has a role in "The Fallen Ones." The telefilm premieres Saturday, May 14, 2005 at 9 P.M. EST on the Sci-Fi Channel.

The last of the Ethiopian emperors

Thirty years ago, Haile Selassie, Ethiopia's last emperor died after a rule of 45 years. Daniel Dickinson travels to Addis Ababa to visit the emperor's former palace and meets one of his servants.

Seventy-eight-year-old Mamo Haile is a man with stories to tell about British royalty, international diplomacy, famine, film stars and a coup d'etat.

He used to be one of Emperor Haile Selassie's personal servants, a man who was once too scared even to look the emperor in the eye, but who was later trusted with serving Queen Elizabeth II orange juice.

You will find him shuffling around the first floor of Ethiopia's Ethnographic Museum, Emperor Salassie's one-time palace.

He keeps dust from settling on his former employer's regal but not so king-size double bed.

'Trusted servant'

He shows tourists into the once off-limits dressing room and royal marbled bathroom, complete with light blue Italian porcelain bath and his-and-hers washbasin.

These days, the grey-haired Mr Mamo cuts a solitary and serious figure in his threadbare jumper and white porter's coat, but it was not always like that.

His life as one of Haile Selassie's most trusted servants began when he was 17 after the emperor was helped back into Ethiopia by British forces, who had driven away the Italian colonisers.

"I was a poor soldier from the countryside and following the emperor's triumphant return to Addis, he picked me out of a parade to serve him," Mr Mamo told me.

"The emperor told me I was handsome and would work in his palace, but I was very scared of working for him and couldn't even look at him."

Foreign dignitaries

Mr Mamo soon graduated from messenger boy to bed maker, and finally became the man responsible for serving drinks to foreign dignitaries, a position he held for many of the 30 years he spent working at the palace.

And there were plenty of foreign dignitaries.

The fading black and white photographs now lining the halls of the museum reveal a ruler who saw himself at the centre of international politics.

They show him as a man who, during the Cold War, was willing to court both East and West.

Haile Selassie with Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, with Nikita Khrushchev of the then Soviet Union, with Richard Nixon, the former US president.

There are also pictures of a young Queen Elizabeth II on a visit to Addis Ababa as well as one of the American film star Robert Wagner, of whom the emperor was apparently a big fan.

"My job was to keep these foreign guests happy by serving them whatever drink they wanted," Mr Mamo said.

"I remember Queen Elizabeth, who came with her husband. She wanted orange juice. Marshal Tito wanted hard liquor, whisky I think."

Mr Mamo cannot remember what Nikita Khrushchev ordered, but does say he was a friendly man.


Mr Mamo talks proudly about just how popular Haile Selassie was, not just with the visitors from overseas, but also his own people, many of whom lived in extreme poverty.

That popularity did not last.

In 1973, an estimated 200,000 Ethiopians died in Wollo province as a result of a famine, a famine which was famously brought to the world's attention by the BBC's Jonathan Dimbleby.

According to his faithful servant, Haile Selassie at first knew nothing of the famine.

"The emperor was shocked and deeply saddened. I went with him to Wollo. He had no idea his people were suffering like this," he said.

It is difficult to imagine Mr Mamo voicing any criticism of Haile Selassie, perhaps that is not surprising given his length of service.

It is also difficult to imagine just how he felt when a group of army officers with a Marxist agenda, calling themselves the Derg, overthrew Haile Selassie in a military coup. It was 1974.

"The emperor took it calmly and as his servant I did the same. It was my duty," Mr Mamo said.

"He wanted to avoid bloodshed, so he gave up power for the good of his people and without fighting."


The last emperor of Ethiopia died a few months later from natural causes, according to the Derg who had had him under house arrest ever since he was overthrown.

No-one it seems, including Mr Mamo, knows the real story.

The emperor's loyal servant now wanders the rooms of the palace-cum-museum, surrounded by mementoes of a royal past.

He has worked here for the last 14 years on a meagre salary, remembering better days.

He insists on showing me the life-size tapestry of Haile Selassie as well as his military uniform and collection of medals.

He points proudly to the bed, saying he saved it from being destroyed by the Derg.

As I left the palace, I asked Mr Mamo how Ethiopia would be now if the emperor was back on his throne.

It was the only time he broke into a smile during our meeting.

"I would be more than happy to see him back in his palace," was what he told me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Jill St. John back to the stage


On her feet

My mother, Peggy, who returned home over the weekend after four months of hospitals and rehab following a Jan. 3 car accident, received some special words of encouragement for Mother's Day. Actress Jill St. John and her star husband Robert Wagner performed one show of the hit play "Love Letters" at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet last weekend. The Saturday show marked the first time St. John, 64, has been back on her feet performing since a terrible ski accident at her Aspen home in January. She had multiple fractures to her pelvis and required extensive surgery and the use of a walker for seven weeks and then four more weeks on crutches. The couple gave me notes of encouragement and autographed photos for my mother's homecoming.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

El Padrino filmmaker has the stars, but not the advertising

Damian Chapa has taken his new movie, El Padrino, on the road — literally. The gritty gangster flick, which stars Jennifer Tilly, Stacy Keach, Faye Dunaway, Gary Busey, Robert Wagner and Brad Dourif, as well as the filmmaker himself, is opening across the state without a major studio behind it.

Since there's no money for splashy billboards and TV ads, creative marketing has been a necessity. Chapa has been doing local radio spots, making appearances at nightclubs and distributing fliers at gas stations.

And don't forget the Padrino-mobile, a white van plastered with movie posters and equipped with loudspeakers to announce the opening date and credits as it travels up and down Houston streets.

"We had offers from big distributors, like Warner Independent. I'm a bit of a renegade, and I wanted to protect my investors. I wanted to see the value of the hard work. We're very excited. We're getting out there and working hard," says Chapa, chatting over enchiladas at La Mexicana in Montrose.

He's accompanied by his tireless promotion crew, which includes his charismatic father; a pair of cousins; and Pierre Chemaly, director of photography on El Padrino and Chapa's right-hand man.

Chapa chose to unveil El Padrino in this state because of his ties here. The 42-year-old actor, director and screenwriter spent part of his youth in Robstown, a small town just outside Corpus Christi. His father, grandmother and a few aunts still live there.

Chapa currently resides in Marina del Rey, Calif., but he has been in Texas for the past month promoting El Padrino. The movie has opened in McAllen, Laredo, Victoria and Corpus Christi. Oscar winner Dunaway even showed up for the El Paso premiere.

This weekend's opening at local Cinemark theaters marks the film's biggest rollout to date, and it's just the latest in a long line of challenges for Chapa, who wrote and directed the film.

"We're sort of out here without a paddle. We're fighting the hurricane," Chapa says. "It's hard enough being probably one of the few Latin films out there. It's been one city at a time. The grass-roots effort is the only way to do it."

Chapa portrayed Lyle Menendez in the CBS miniseries Menendez: A Killing in Beverly Hills, and he's been in big-screen movies Under Siege, Street Fighter and Money Talks. He has two sons, ages 15 and 5, and was once married to actress and model Natasha Henstridge (Species).

But he's probably best known for playing the lead in Taylor Hackford's Blood In, Blood Out (also known as Bound by Honor), a violent and controversial Latino epic about three brothers growing up in East Los Angeles. The 1993 film also featured Benjamin Bratt, Billy Bob Thornton, Ving Rhames and Delroy Lindo.

"He was the güero with the blue eyes," says an excited cashier at the Mexican restaurant, referencing Chapa's claim to fame. The film is a cult favorite among Latino audiences.

Soon enough, waiters, cooks and customers are clamoring for an autograph and a photo with "Miklo," Chapa's character in Blood In, Blood Out.

In El Padrino, which delves into the world of drug trafficking, Chapa plays Kilo, who has followed his father into the world of gangs but wants to leave it for a normal family life. Chapa says the issues raised are part of a larger spectrum that Latinos — and all minority groups — can identify with.

"All immigrant groups went through this thing of gangs, drugs, mafia. We all need to look at this more closely, because even though it's the minority of our people, it's the majority of the expression. We need to deal with it, and we need to show the young people that this kind of a life is not what you think it is," Chapa says. "We need to be able to have the freedom to express the diversity of our culture without being politically correct. This film doesn't sweep anything under the carpet."

"Damian is doing in the movie business what we are doing in the record business. He's doing his own thing and not letting anything stand in his way," says La Mafia keyboardist and producer Armando Lichtenberger Jr. The Tejano group is helping Chapa promote El Padrino and is in talks to collaborate on the soundtrack to a sequel.

"Doing independent releases is not easy," Lichtenberger adds. "You've got to have the drive to make something a success."

Lied Center - Lincoln, Nebraska

The Lied, which announced its 2005-06 season Friday in Ground Zero, will feature legendary folk artist Arlo Guthrie, Mel Brooks' "The Producers," the Nebraska premiere of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and actors Robert Wagner and Jill St. John in "Love Letters."

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

More 'Letters'

Last month's performance of "Love Letters" by actress Betsy Palmer at Munster High School attracted both praise and applause. If you missed the show and you're a fan of the play, here's an idea for this Mother's Day weekend. Actor Robert Wagner, 75, and his wife Jill St. John, 65, will perform "Love Letters" for one dinner show at 6 p.m. Saturday at The Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet. Tickets range from $32.50 to $65.50 and are available by calling (815) 726-6600. Other famous celebrity couples who also have performed "Love Letters" in the past include Charlton and Lydia Heston, Jayne Meadows and Steve Allen, John Rubinstein and Kathleen Turner, and Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Hotel Opening Is a Big Wynner

May 2, 2005 -- LAS VEGAS — This past weekend, Steve Wynn's $2.7 billion hotel the Wynn opened. So many private planes that they had to fly into the nearby airport of Hendersonville.

May 7, with a hip Brett Ratner party, the younger crowd tests out the place. This weekend was the older money. Not the tattooed navels set. The Tiffany jewels set. Like the Steve Roths. He owns Vornado realty. The Sidney Poitiers. He owns Oscars. The Donald Trumps. You know what he owns.

The Leonard Lauders. He was shop shopping. Checking out the hotel's Dior, Chanel, Brioni, Vuitton, Cartier, Graff stores. She'd gone antiquing. In a town where money goes as fast as marriages in L.A., antique shops and hock shops are a great bet.

It was Elizabeth Taylor in a wheelchair. Steve Lawrence, but Edie Gorme I didn't see. Leslie Moonves and Julie Chen, who said: "I went to work 4 a.m. to do the morning show. I finished 6 a.m., so I'm here to enjoy." Connie Chung and Maury Povich, who said: "It's the last opening where you'll ever see me." I don't know what that means but I wrote it down anyway. Dominick Dunne, trolling for Vanity Fair gossip, was to dine with a couple in the Steakhouse but couldn't remember who, and is probably still standing at the maitre d's desk. Robert Wagner and Jill St. John. She'd suffered a fall skiing in Aspen, had surgery, now has a cane and said: "My healing present, all I want is for my husband to take me for a visit to New York."

Faces like George Hamilton with ex-wife and best pal Alana; Burt Bacharach, who personally escorted his wife to the loo; Barbara Sinatra; Carl Icahn; Barbara Walters, with the Oscar de la Rentas. Charlie Rose who interviewed Steve Wynn. Names like Bud Yorkin, health nut Kirk Kerkorian, who's nearly 90, looks 60 and never had a facelift. Paul Anka who opens mid-August on a four-year deal with Atlantic City's Borgata. Food critic Gael Greene schlepping around the different restaurants. Remember Siegfried and Roy's horrific tiger mauling experience? Hospitalized Roy unable to talk for months and months? Both came, Roy in a wheelchair and speaking to friends.

Shaking all hands, papa President George Bush without Barbara but with Secret Service. On one side of the casino that breaks even on $2 mil a day — Lee Iacocca. Near the baccarat dealers imported from Foxwoods — Tommy Mottola. Chefs Daniel Boulud and Sirio Maccioni. Manolo Blahnik, who, when Mrs. Barry Slotnick asked: "Why aren't your shoes made wider?" blew her off with: "Ask my managers." And two great-looking broads side by side. I don't know about bewitched, bothered and bewildered. About be-furred and be-diamonded Natalie Cole and Patti LaBelle, I know. Sing and bling. Or as Patti put it: "Girl, only Jews and blacks really get it together."

Donna Karan fresh from Bali: "My late husband Steve's sculptures are in front of the hotel. How could I not be here?" Atlantis owner Sol Kerzner sniffing out the competition. Everyone whispering how great Don Johnson looks, and him whispering: "I'm happy to be here. It's our anniversary. My wife and I are married six years."

Paramount movie chief Sherry Lansing and husband Billy Friedkin, off to Israel for five weeks. Said Sherry: "I'm excited. I hear there's a Banana Republic and Gap in Tel Aviv." Steven Spielberg and Kate the missus. He got onstage when Hugh Jackman introduced him, and when he got off-stage he told me: "It was unrehearsed. I didn't know he'd call me, and I was worried I'd trip going up the stairs." Lordy, those amateurs are all the same.

Had anything happened in that ballroom, America's entire entertainment industry would have gone splat. It was songwriter Carole Bayer Sager, moneymaker Barry Diller, record king Clive Davis, Grammy-winning musicman David Foster, George Schlatter, who every four years organizes our Inaugurals.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

'Love Letters' starring couple is far from stationary

Rialto performance: Famous husband and wife take stage

Traditionally, it's good luck to tell an actor to break a leg before a live performance.

But Jill St. John wants everyone to know she's recovering well from the February skiing accident that resulted in a fractured hip.

"She's a very lucky lady," said her husband, Robert Wagner, during a recent phone interview.

"Of course," he mused, "being married to her, I'm a very lucky man."

St. John said she was moved by the number of cards and letters she received after her accident.

"I was overwhelmed by all the good wishes," she said. "(Written communication) is very special, so I wrote many letters thanking people for their thoughts."

Letters are what tell the story of a relationship spanning 50 years in A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters," which the couple will appear in May 7 at the Rialto Square Theatre.

The play chronicles, solely through correspondence, the lifelong relationship between a man and woman. The writings follow the characters from their meeting in second grade to middle age.

"It's a beautifully written story," Wagner said. "Good writing is an actor's dream. There are challenges. There's happiness and sadness. There's humor, but there are also missed opportunities. Like the best stories, it's a lot like real life."

In real life, there seem to be few opportunities that Wagner has missed.

His career includes more than 50 years of starring roles in movies and television. He's known for classic television series — such as "Hart To Hart" and "It Takes A Thief" — as well as recent roles in the "Austin Powers" film series and TV's "Hope And Faith."

St. John has appeared in many television shows and more than 30 movies, appearing with Frank Sinatra in "Tony Rome" and Sean Connery's James Bond in "Diamonds Are Forever." She also hosted "Good Morning America's" cooking segment for three years.

Both screen veterans said they enjoy the challenge of performing in front of a live audience.

"It's a privilege to be on the stage," Wagner said. "Whatever you do lasts for just a moment between you and the audience. Once it's in the air, it's gone and you'll never repeat it exactly the same way. Each time is different."

St. John said she found the needed physicality to be the biggest difference.

"If you have a quiet moment on film, they bring everything close to you. On stage you have to project your voice to be heard without losing the emotion of the scene," she said.

Both feel their off-stage relationship helps their performance and vice-versa.

"It's great to work with someone you can trust when you're out there," Wagner said.

"And it's easier off-stage knowing that you're working toward the same goals," St. John said.

In addition to performing, St. John is writing a series of three new cookbooks.

Wagner will be seen in "The Fallen Ones," which premieres on the Sci-Fi Channel on May 14. He's also producing a few upcoming movies.

"We're the quintessential show-biz family," Wagner said. "Our bags and makeup are always packed and ready to go."

For this production, St. John hopes audiences will be able to relate to the characters.

"It's a very personal story, but it shows the human condition," she said. "People of any age, from any level of society will be able to appreciate both the problems and the happiness that they see in the play."

"And," Wagner said, "I hope they fall more in love."

"Love Letters" will be at the Rialto Square Theatre for a dinner theater engagement at 6 p.m. May 7. A limited number of seats are available. Show-only tickets, for the 8 p.m. curtain time, will be sold too.

Tickets are $65.50 for the dinner theater or $42.50 for the show only. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the Rialto box office, at 102 N. Chicago St. in Joliet; by calling (815) 726-6600 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays or 9 a.m. and noon Saturdays; or by going to Tickets also may be purchased through all Ticketmaster outlets; call (312) 902-1500 or visit

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Wishful Shopping

A peek at items in PONCHO's gala arts-benefit auction Saturday at the Seattle Sheraton is like a look at a Neiman-Marcus' holiday catalog on steroids.

PONCHO treasures include the bronze sign off the Bon Marche flagship store (value: ``priceless,'' say auction gurus).

Also up for bid: two tickets for the 2006 British Open Golf Championship (value: $1,800); dinner for 10 at the Schwarz's, with film stars Robert Wagner and Jill St. John, plus blue-topaz-diamond earrings (value: $8,500), and a guitar signed by rocker Elvis Costello (value: priceless).

You may have to battle Mercer Island billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen for that one.

'Home with a Heart' effort shows valley's good soul

In these uncertain times when negative stories seem to dominate our television and wonderful human interest stories about good people doing good things seem to fall into the cracks - right after the weather and sports - it has been incredibly rewarding to witness so many of our valley businesses stepping up for a common good.

We have been very active in this valley for many, many years. Our company, Family Development, has experienced unprecedented success - building homes for families all over the valley. We have been so grateful to our homeowners. Their expression of confidence in our mission has been humbling.

When we named our new home building company, we knew that the name we chose carried with it a big responsibility. We needed to build homes that families could be proud to call their own. We needed to select locations that would maintain their quality for years to come, and we needed to provide caring customer service. In other words, we were going to build homes as if we were building them for our own families. We believed that the word "family" would guide us, and if we were fortunate enough to be successful, we would find ways to give something back to the community.

About a year ago, the idea came to us; "Home with a Heart" was born and now the time has finally arrived. On Friday, May 20 to Monday, May 23, with a great deal of help from volunteers, we will be orchestrating a four-day, 'round-the-clock home construction, from foundation to completion at our Shadow Ranch community in north Indio.

On Monday, when the home is complete, we will donate all of the proceeds from the sale of the home, a minimum of $300,000, to two local nonprofit organizations. We selected the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center and the Family YMCA of the Desert because they do so much for families and children in the valley.

We hoped that we could get people and businesses to help us with the home construction, but we never expected the outpouring of participation that we have received.

The Coachella Valley definitely has a heart for helping others. It started with our subcontractors readily volunteering their time and services and now we have an extended family of over 40 businesses throughout the valley taking part. Local restaurants are donating food, local entertainers are donating their talent; we even have local physical therapists coming out to keep the workers loose and in shape.

In addition, many of our country's finest celebrities have joined the cause. Kirk Douglas, Gerald Ford, Yogi Berra, Jerry Vale, Robert Wagner, Tony Danza and so many more have graciously donated personalized artwork.

As each day passes, bringing us closer and closer to the event, more an more people are coming aboard.

It is our hope that valley residents will come out during the event to witness what can happen when a lot of people come together for a common good. We hope the event proves to be exciting and inspirational.

We want to offer a "sincere thank you" to the community for all their support in the last couple of years and a special thanks to those who will be participating during the four-day construction event. Your enthusiasm for "Home with a Heart" says something great about what can be accomplished when a community works together to make a difference.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Couple revives art of letter writing

In the age of faxes, e-mail and on-the-run cellular connections, playwright A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters," starring Robert Wagner and Jill St. John, remains a welcome homage to the intimate, intensely personal and admittedly old-fashioned art of letter writing.

"Love Letters" will be at the Rialto Square Theatre for a dinner/theater engagement at 6 p.m. May 7. Very limited seating is available. Tickets also will be sold to the show only. The show begins at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $65.50 for the dinner and show or $32.50 to $42.50 for the show only. Tickets can be purchased at the Rialto box office, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet; by calling (815) 726-6600 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or between 9 a.m. and noon Saturdays; or online at On performance days, the box office remains open until the completion of intermission. Tickets also may be purchased through all Ticketmaster outlets by calling (312) 902-1500 or online at

Gurney's charmingly crafted acting exercise, which takes the form of reading, traces the lifelong correspondence between two friends and sometime lovers. And it suggests that the sound of a pen scratching on paper and the secretive folding of a letter into its envelope may foster relationships that are deeper and more meaningful than those dependent on modern technology.

Since its premiere in 1988, "Love Letters" has become a favorite vehicle for show-biz couples. The latest pairing is between Robert Wagner and his wife, Jill St. John, veterans of film and television.

One of the most popular and successful stars in the entertainment industry, Robert Wagner has had a career highlighted by three hit television series, "Hart to Hart," "Switch" and "It Takes a Thief," and a portfolio of movies for film and television. In summer of 1999, Wagner recreated his role of "Number Two," the villainous henchman to Dr. Evil, a cryogenically revived special agent who squares off against the title character in the sequel to "Austin Powers," starring Mike Myers.

He also was in the Sony release, "Crazy in Alabama," directed by Antonio Banderas and starring Melanie Griffith; and TBS's first original movie, "Fatal Error," starring Antonio Sabato Jr. and Janine Turner. In 1998, Wagner was in "Wild Things," starring Matt Dillon and Kevin Bacon, for Mandalay Films, playing attorney Tom Baxter. In 1997, he co-starred in New Line's box-office hit "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," starring Mike Myers and Elizabeth Hurley.

Jill St. John is known throughout the world as a film and television star. At the age of 10, Jill appeared in the first TV movie ever made, the Charles Dickens' classic, "A Christmas Carol." She made pictures with Frank Sinatra, such as "Tony Rome" and Neil Simon's "Come Blow Your Horn," and acted with Dean Martin in "Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed." She also played Tiffany Case in the James Bond film "Diamonds Are Forever" with Sean Connery.

She was the host of "Good Morning America's" cooking segment for three years. She is now writing a series of three new cookbooks.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Director to attend opening

South Texas man will appear at 'El Padrino' showing

Damian Chapa, director and star of the new film "El Padrino," hopes his film, which is layered with gunfights, explosions and car chases, captures the reality of gangster life.

Chapa, who is from South Texas, will sign autographs at 7 p.m. tonight at Cinemark 12, 7806 Navarro St., in Victoria. The new gangster/action film opens here on Friday.

The R-rated movie, also starring Academy-Award winner Faye Dunaway, Jennifer Tilly and Robert Wagner, had its debut in El Paso on April 6. The independent film also features Gary Busey and Brad Dourif and showcases Latin actors Sal Lopez, Emilio Rivera, Ileanna Simancas and Ismael "East" Carlo.

The film, set in Los Angeles and Mexico, chronicles the life of a fictional gangster, Kilo Vasquez, played by Chapa. A young Kilo watches his father, a small-time gangster, and as he emulates him, becomes a powerful underworld figure. After Vasquez marries and has children, he questions his choices and finds that getting out of the business is more difficult than he had imagined.

"There are people like this who exist in my community and I express it because I've known people like this growing up," said Chapa of his gangster and drug-dealing characters. "I express it especially to young people so they understand what it's really like to be a gangster."

Chapa said he recognizes that being in gangs and dealing drugs can be profitable and appealing to youngsters at first, but that they may find unexpected and unpleasant consequences of their choices.

Chapa describes his film as a crossover movie that would appeal to those who liked "Scarface" or "Traffic."

Though he was born in Ohio, the 42-year-old Chapa moved to Robstown when he was young.

"I really love it down here," Chapa said. "It's where my whole family is from. I'm very proud of being part of the Tejano group."

Chapa dropped out of high school to do theatre in New York when he was about 20. Later, he moved to Los Angeles and film roles.

For one of his first parts, he captured the lead in Taylor Hackford's "Bound By Honor." The 1993 movie also featured Benjamin Bratt and Billy Bob Thornton. The film, also known as "Blood In Blood Out," became a cult classic.

Chapa also acted in movies such as "Under Siege," "Street Fighter," and "Money Talks." About four years ago, Chapa launched his own production company. "El Padrino" will be his first theatrical release as a director.

Chapa said it was difficult doing triple duty as actor, director and writer, but that it allowed him to better capture his vision.

"I think this is a violent film for intelligent people," Chapa said. "This is done to show the realistic life of a gangster. Sooner or later, the only place for gangsters is the pen or the morgue."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Thousands Participate in the 24th Annual Saint John's Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- The 24th Annual Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon, hosted by Robert Wagner and sponsored by Lexus, was held on Sunday, April 17, 2005 at Griffith Park.

One of the largest five-person relay races in the United States, the relay marathon is comprised of numerous divisions, according to age, gender and corporate/industry affiliation. Race teams are comprised of five people, with each individual running 5.2 miles before passing the baton. There are also special categories for the very young -- like the Diaper Dash and the Children's Race and the second annual media invitational relay challenge.

Winners of the Relay Marathon were:

1st Place: Nike Team Run LA with a time of 2:15:57

2nd Place: Run With Us #1 with a time of 2:20:24

3rd Place: Spiros III Mexico with a time of 2:23:27

Winners of 2nd Annual Media Invitational 5 mile Relay
Challenge were:

Electronic Media Division

1st Place: KCAL-9/KCBS-2 with a time of 37:35

2nd Place: KNBC News with a time of 38:59

3rd Place: KEARTH 101 Radio with a time of 39:48

Print Media Division

1st Place: LA Sport & Fitness #1 with a time of 31:01

2nd Place: LA Sport & Fitness #2 with a time of 35:13

3rd Place: with a time of 38:44

All proceeds benefit programs and services at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica. Since the first race in 1982, the Relay Marathon has raised $8.5 million.

Monday, April 11, 2005

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

Robert Wagner to Host 24th Annual Saint John's Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon at Griffith Park -- April 17

WHAT: Join host Robert Wagner, community leaders, runners and
spectators of all ages in celebrating the 24th Annual
Saint John's Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon at Griffith

WHEN: Sunday, April 17, 2005

Media Check-in: 7:00 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.

Relay Marathon: 8:00 a.m.

Media Invitational Relay Challenge: 10:30 a.m.

All media credentials will be available at the media tent
adjacent to the VIP/Sponsor compound on Sunday, April 17.
Please call Julie Watt at 310-656-4668 to obtain media
parking passes and event maps.

WHERE: Griffith Park

WHO: -- Marathon host Robert Wagner

-- Actors Faith Ford and Ted McGinley, stars of ABC
television's "Hope and Faith"

-- More than 10,000 participants including runners,
members of the media participating in the media
invitational relay challenge and spectators.

(Complete list of media participants follows)

WHY: All proceeds from the Marathon will benefit programs and
services at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica.
Since the first race in 1982, $8.5 million has been

DETAILS: One of the largest five-person relay marathons in the
United States, the Saint John's Jimmy Stewart Relay
Marathon is comprised of over 20 divisions, according to
age, gender and corporate/industry affiliation. Each
individual runs 5.2 miles before passing on the baton for
a total of 26 miles. The Relay Marathon has categories
for everyone including the Diaper Dash and the Kids
Races, as well as the second annual media invitational
relay challenge.

Teams Entered in the Media Invitational Relay Challenge













BBPR, Inc.
Julie Watt, 310-656-4668

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Celebrating Robert Wagner's Birthday

Robert Wagner celebrated his birthday in style at the Peninsula Hotel with his three darling daughters, Natasha, Courtney and Katie — and a surprise birthday cake presented by the still ravishing Charlie’s Angel, Jaclyn Smith. Unfortunately his wife, Jill St. John, was home recuperating from a terrible skiing accident that occurred in Aspen.

They were all at a cocktail reception to announce the Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon which will be held April 17 at Griffith Park. This is one of the largest marathons in the U.S., and all proceeds from the marathon benefit programs and services at St. John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica. Wagner has been hosting these races for 22 years, and spoke about carrying on the late Jimmy Stewart’s legacy.

Among the notables at the reception were Jimmy and Annie Murphy, and since it was the day before St. Patrick’s Day, most of the guests were attired in green. Since we spent the last 20 years celebrating at Jimmy’s famous eatery in Century City, we regretted the closing, but the talk on the street is that the Murphys will be associated with the Peninsula in some way. Can’t wait for these superb restaurateurs to be back in business again.

Michael Nathanson, president of MGM Pictures received the Sheba Humanitarian Award at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Nathanson, known for his strong business acumen and keen eye for talent, went from the mail room to the board room, and among the recent successes under his direction are Die Another Day, Walking Tall, and the Barbershop films. In that respect, Cedric The Entertainer (star of Barbershop 2) was on hand to present the award…and admitted he owes much of his success to his "boss.”

Others in the stellar line up included The Pointer Sisters, Jon Lovitz, Paul Rodriguez and Kathy Griffin, who presented an award to Jamie Masada, owner of the Laugh Factory. No folks, Michael Jackson was not on hand to congratulate Masada, who introduced him to his current accuser.

The money raised at the gala will fund a number of projects at Sheba Medical Center, the largest and most comprehensive healing complex in Israel and the Middle East. Bravo to all concerned for making this an evening of hope and compassion.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Duke's horse keeps special bond

Dollor's ears twitch and then get alert when he hears that well-known voice. The horse looks around searching for the man behind that voice. He is looking for an old friend.

The 17-year-old chestnut gelding carried that man with that well-known voice on his back for many years. They were movie stars together.

Dollor, a long-legged quarter horse, made his movie debut in one of John Wayne's finest scenes in one of the Duke's best ever movies, "True Grit."

Most John Wayne fans remember that scene at the very end. Rooster Cogburn's other horse, Bo, had been killed when the old, fat, one-eyed marshal charged across the valley at four bad guys. Rooster got them, but they got Bo.

In the final scene, Rooster has found a new horse. Kim Darby's character comments about the new horse. The marshal says that new horse can jump a four-rail fence.

And then with a sweep of his hat, John Wayne jumps his horse across the fence and the film ends with the horse and rider still in the air.

That was Dollor carrying the Duke, said Debra Keffeler of Midlothian, Texas. She's now the proud owner of Dollor.

She said John Wayne first rode the horse in that move when Dollor was just a 2-year-old. The horse then was owned by a California movie production company that furnished horses for John Wayne movies.

"The Duke had an exclusive contract with them that no one could ride Dollor but him," she said. "I think he liked the horse because their temperaments were a lot alike."

"True Grit" was made in 1969. John Wayne made nine more Western movies after that, including "Chisum," "Big Jake," "The Cowboys," "The Train Robbers" and "Rooster Cogburn."

Dollor was in most of those films. He was mentioned specifically by name several times in the Duke's last movie, "The Shootist."

Debra said the Duke had "The Shootist" script rewritten so he could use Dollor's name. That's how much he thought of the horse.

She bought Dollor — "for a whole bunch of money" — about a year ago from an Iowa man. Dollor lives in a $65,000 barn with her nine other horses.

He's in semi-retirement, content to munch on alfalfa hay and oats. But he still likes to go, she said. Dollor was used to traveling to all the Duke's movie locations, she said.

But what he likes best of all is listening to the sounds in one of his old movies. Debra plays the old movies for him.

"He gets all excited when he hears the shooting and that voice," she said. "Then the ears get alert, and he's looking for John Wayne."

Debra manages a Western clothing store in Ducanville, not far from Dallas. Dollor often makes personal appearances at the store. He also appears at banquets and openings of other stores.

"People cry when they see Dollor," she said. "They just want to touch him. It makes them feel good to see John Wayne's horse. John Wayne was an idol to lots of us as well as a legend.

"He was a good man. People want to keep his memory alive. That's why they let out their feelings when they see Dollor."

Debra said only two other stars have ridden Dollor since the Duke's death. Robert Wagner rode the horse in a segment of the "Hart to Hart" television show, and John Forsythe rode him in "Dynasty."

She doesn't ride Dollor. Nor does she allow others to ride him.

Several times requests have been made to allow someone to ride Dollor in a parade.

"I'm not going to allow some flashy blonde to ride John Wayne's horse in a parade," she said. "That just wouldn't be right."

Ol' Dollor is going to live out his days at her place eating good hay and oats, occasionally appearing before the Duke's fans.

And for a treat, he'll get to see a John Wayne movie just as often as possible, she said.

This column, by John Whiteside, originally appeared on Jan. 16, 1985.