Thursday, January 27, 2005

The WB's 'The Starlet' reality acting competition to premiere March 8

The WB has announced that The Starlet, a new Top Model-like reality series in which ten young aspiring actresses will compete to win a prize package that includes representation and a one-year talent deal with The WB, will premiere Tuesday, March 8 at 9PM ET/ET.

Similar to the network's scheduling of the just-concluded High School Reunion 3, The Starlet will air in the place of repeat broadcasts of The WB's One Tree Hill drama.

Evoking images of last summer's lowly rated Next Action Star NBC series, The WB states that The Starlet will put its aspiring actresses through an "intense Hollywood boot camp" featuring acting classes, live performances, screen tests and brutally honest critiques by three-person judging panel. Headed by Academy Award-winning actress Faye Dunaway (how the mighty have fallen), the panel will also include film actress Vivica A. Fox and famed casting director Joseph Middleton.

Like Action Star, Starlet will feature representation and an acting role as part of the prize package awarded to its winner -- in this case a one-year management contract with 3 Arts Entertainment and both an overall The WB talent deal and One Tree Hill guest starring role. Similar to NBC's scheduling of the made-for-TV feature film starring Action Star's winners, the One Tree Hill guest appearance will occur in the Hill episode airing the week following Starlet's April 12 finale.

Living together in a home once owned by Marilyn Monroe, the contestants will participate in screen tests filmed at renowned Hollywood locations including Los Angeles' old Orpheum Theater, Griffith Park's Bronson Caves, and the Sunset Strip's Comedy Store.

In addition to working with their acting coaches, the young women will also receive help from other guest stars already familiar to The WB viewers, including Jaime Pressly (Jack & Jill) and David Gallagher (7th Heaven).

The aspiring actresses will also get exposed to the perks of stardom, with each episode also featuring the women competing to win special rewards that include attending the film premiere of Ocean's 12 with Days of Our Lives hunk Matt CedeƱo, a photo session with sought-after photographer Simon Gluckman, a power dinner with a Hollywood director, and a makeover with top stylists.

Katie Wagner, daughter of actor Robert Wagner, will serve as The Starlet's host.

First announced in June 2004 under the working title of Wannabes, The Starlet was originally presented as a Jamie Kennedy production, however reality producer Mike Fleiss also joined the production in the interim, resulting in both Kennedy and Fleiss now having executive producer credits.

The one-time producer of Fox's Who Wants to Marry A Multi-Millionaire? disaster who first rose to prominence as a result of the ratings success of his ABC The Bachelor series, Fleiss has produced numerous other reality series in recent years -- with mixed results.

Cashing in on his initial Bachelor success, Fleiss quickly signed deals to create two additional reality series for ABC -- Are You Hot? and The Will. While Are You Hot? made it to the airwaves in Spring 2003, the televised meat market (complete with laser pointers) is near universally considered to have represented the bottoming out of the currently resurgent network, with even ABC's chairman later acknowledging the series was "in bad taste." Unfortunately for Fleiss, The Will also didn't fare any better. ABC gave up on the series after leaving it in development for over a year, and although Fleiss managed to somehow convince CBS to pick up the project, they clearly didn't think much of it. The Will finally premiered more than two years after it was first announced -- but in the original programming wasteland known as Saturday nights, where CBS still was unhappy with its performance and promptly canceled the series following a single 90-minute premiere broadcast.

Fleiss also produced a ten-episode The Two-Timer reality comedy series that ABC had scheduled for broadcast in Summer 2004, however the network suddenly pulled the show from its summer schedule despite promoting the series during its May 2004 Bachelor finale. While ABC executives cited a desire to not rush the series' post-production work as the reason for canceling the show's June 23 debut only two weeks before its broadcast, the network also failed to follow through with its statement that Two-Timer would air later that summer -- nor has the series aired since. Fleiss also sold ABC a Joe Millionaire-like series called Rich Guy, Poor Guy in early 2003, but like Two-Timer, despite casting call notices aired during The Bachelor and a nationwide casting tour conducted in conjunction with The Bachelor, the series has never seen the light of day.

Fleiss has had better luck working with The WB, where despite producing a couple of flops (The WB's Superstar USA, Big Man On Campus), his High School Reunion series has performed well enough to have aired three editions.

However Fleiss' biggest non-Bachelor success has arguably come at cable's TBS network, where he executive produced the network's reality-comedy adaptation of Sherwood Schwartz's classic Gilligan's Island sitcom. Despite mixed reviews, The Real Gilligan's Island series delivered great ratings for the network and will return for a second edition later this year.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown

Robert Wagner is scheduled to appear as a player on February 22, 2005. He serves on the Board of Directors of The Silver Lining Foundation and is playing for them.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The Fallen Ones

A link to the Web site for R.J.'s new movie The Fallen Ones.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Saint John's Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon

Join host Robert Wagner at the 24th Annual Saint John's Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon on Sunday, April 17, at Griffith Park. The Relay Marathon is comprised of over 20 divisions. Each individual runs 5.2 miles before passing on the baton for a total of 26.2 miles. There's something for everyone, including races for children. Spectators can cheer on their favorite TV or radio personalities as they compete in the popular Media Invitational Relay Challenge. There's also live entertainment and a health and fitness expo. Proceeds benefit Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica. For more information, call 310-829-8968 or visit

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Maternity milestone

EAGLE COUNTY - Imagine a pregnant woman in labor having to go all the way to Denver to have her baby.

Not too long ago, that's exactly what most expectant parents in Eagle County had to do.

That's why Jan. 10, 1980 - 25 years ago Monday - is of particular importance to the Vail Valley Medical Center and health care in Eagle County. It was the first time a baby was born in Vail on purpose.

"Prior to that, babies that were born here were on stormy nights when they couldn't get down to Denver," said Dr. Kent Petrie.

Petrie was the physician who delivered the Vail Valley Medical Center's first baby - a boy named Cody Merle Kuehl. His birth to parents Barbara and Randy Kuehl of Edwards was such a big deal to the community then that hospital staff called in periodic updates to a local radio station deejay, who announced the mother's cervical dilation over the airwaves.

"This was before patient confidentiality laws," Petrie said.

Things have changed since then. Petrie, who moved here in late 1979, notes how much the local hospital has grown in size and advanced in technology. But that day in January, back when the hospital was a clinic and it had less than 20 beds, is a fond memory for veteran staff.

"This town made it up to be such a big deal," said Anne Robinson, a perinatal educator for the hospital.

A day of many firsts

Petrie started at the Vail Hospital, as it was called then, in August of 1979. It was his first medical practice after finishing his residency in St. Paul, Minn. He was immediately assigned to set up a maternity care center at the hospital.

"I was kind of excited about it," he said.

There was one birthing room, which was considered state-of-the-art at the time, Robinson said. Even in Denver, women still were giving birth in operating rooms.

The hospital still didn't have an obstetrician at this time (one came on year later), so Petrie was responsible for deliveries. The hospital was not equipped to deal with Caesarian sections or high-risk deliveries, either.

The Kuehl baby was not only the hospital's first planned delivery, it was the Kuehls' first baby. Cody Kuehl was first to become a third-generation Eagle Countian; his grandmother, Carol Favale, also lived in Edwards. It was Petrie's first official delivery, too.

The maternity care center opened Jan. 1, 1980. Nine days passed. Then Barbara Kuehl went into labor.

"The excitement spread through the hospital and the valley," Petrie said. "We were all a little nervous. It made me pretty nervous."

Lights, camera, action

Making things even more exciting - or nerve-wracking - was that the TV show "Hart to Hart" was filming an episode in the Vail hospital.

The film crews and the show's stars, Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers, even got caught up in the excitement. The stars signed autographs for the family once the baby was born, Robinson said.

The show's impact on the hospital was long lasting.

"The hospital didn't have an official sign on West Meadow Drive," Petrie said. "So the crews quickly made a nice sign. That sign stayed up for at least six months. We never took it down until the snow melted."

The main event

Cody Merle Kuehl was born at 2:40 p.m. on Jan. 10, 1980. His arrival made the front page of the now-defunct Vail Villager and was covered by the Vail Trail.

"It went very smoothly," Petrie is quoted as saying in the Vail Trail article.

There were 70 births in the hospital that year, Robinson said.

That number has grown considerably over the years.

"We had 70 births last month," Petrie said.

Business is booming at the hospital's ever-more-advanced maternity ward. Hospital official say there were 600 births in 2004.

But that day in 1980 had a significant impact on Petrie, who planned only to stay a year in Vail.

"I was under the impression that I would just see tourists with orthopedic injuries from skiing, or with sore throats," he said. "That was very quickly changed when experiences like caring for a family that really was a three-generation family in town.

"I think that experience early on was that Vail really was a wonderful place to live," he said.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown

Robert Wagner will be on the Bravo Channel's Celebrity Poker Showdown on January 25th.

RJ and David Niven

Niv: The Authorized Biography of David Niven
By Graham Lord
Reviewed by Bruce Handy

Vanity Fair scribe and editor Bruce Handy was thoroughly entertained by Graham Lord’s biography of David Niven, aka “Niv.” And in case you were all, “Niv? Whaaat?” Mr. Handy explains to us that Niv is short for Niven. David’s last name: “(cf. Coop for Gary Cooper or Hef for Hugh Hefner).” Ohhhh, thanks for clarifying. To illustrate Niv’s self-deprecating attitude, Handy quotes him telling John Hurt: “I know exactly what my position is, old cock: I’m second-rate star.” We appreciated this penis reference and were appropriately satisfied with this week’s NYTBR vulgarity quota. But, boy oh boy, that was before we read on. Handy explains that Niv was known for being unreliable and as a result, Lord had a difficult time separating fact from fiction. He points to this example as one of the key mysteries that has had Niv scholars scratching their heads for decades:

One example: While Niven was in the Italian Alps filming a skiing sequence for The Pink Panther in subzero weather, his penis became frostbitten. He was advised to soak it in alcohol as a first-aid treatment, and, quickly returning to his hotel, went to the bar, asked for a brandy glass full of whiskey and took it to the men's room. Question: When another patron walked in, saw Niven with his penis in a snifter and gasped, "What are you doing?" Did the actor quip that he was urinating "in a brandy glass. I always do," (Niven's account in "The Moon's a Balloon") or "I always give it a drink now and then" (Lord's account, based on an interview with Robert Wagner)?

Answer: We’re putting our money on Robert Wagner. We assume the star of “Becoming Dick” (incidentally directed by Bob Saget) knows a thing or two about, um, “drinking” penises.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Fine Young Cannibal

Prince of Cool

New box set spotlights Chet Baker's lush life

You can gauge the significance of a modern jazz player by the number of times his or her name pops up in Miles Davis' contentious 1989 autobiography, Miles, and by the vociferousness of the attack.

By that standard, trumpeter and singer Chet Baker was a giant.

Blessed with chiseled cheeks and matinee-idol good looks, an ultra-smooth tone and a dreamy voice indicating he was definitely in touch with his feminine side, Baker became the poster boy of the West Coast jazz scene, a group of mostly white musicians that made post-bebop jazz popular with college audiences.

Davis had collaborated with some of the West Coast jazz guys, notably saxophonists Gerry Mulligan and Lee Konitz (both of whom appeared on Davis' landmark 1949 recording Birth of the Cool), and he goes fairly easy on them in his book, but he spares no venom for Baker.

"A lot of white critics kept talking about all these white jazz musicians, imitators of us, like they was some great motherfuckers and everything . . . like they was gods or something," Davis wrote. "What bothered me more than anything was that all the critics were starting to talk about Chet Baker . . . like he was the second coming of Christ. And him sounding just like me, worse than me even while I was a terrible junkie."

Needless to say, Davis wasn't too pleased when Down Beat magazine named the upstart Baker as Best Trumpet Player of 1953.

A new three-CD box set, Chet Baker: Prince of Cool (Blue Note/Pacific Jazz), highlights Baker's talents and shows that the 1953 accolade was well-deserved. Culled from sessions recorded for the Pacific Jazz label between 1952 and '57, the set breaks no new ground; all of these recordings have been available elsewhere, and the 1994 four-CD compilation Chet Baker: The Pacific Jazz Years remains the definitive collection of his work from this period. Still, this newly remastered anthology, neatly divided into three categories, should serve as an accessible introduction to acolytes and offers an easy way for cognoscenti to get Chet-at-a-glance, with or without the vocals.

Disc one ("Chet Sings") focuses on those dreamy vocal numbers; disc two ("Chet Plays") zeroes in on his trumpet-led instrumentals; and disc three ("Chet and Friends") features the trumpeter in band settings collaborating with such jazz luminaries as Mulligan, Art Pepper, Stan Getz and Shelly Manne.

Liner note contributor Ted Gioia, author of West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960, writes, "[Baker's] Pacific Jazz recordings . . . feature some of the defining moments of [his] career. From misty-eyed vocals to in-the-groove workouts alongside tenorist Phil Urso and pianist Bobby Timmons, serving as counterfoil to various other 'name' players . . . Baker made his mark as one of the defining jazz artists to emerge in the 1950s."

Baker easily personified the icy romanticism that marked the cool-jazz scene. He also was one of history's most tragic jazz figures.

Born Chesney Henry Baker Jr. in Oklahoma, Baker grew up in L.A. and served two hitches in the Army. While stationed in the Presidio, he began frequenting San Francisco's jazz clubs.

After a second discharge in 1952, he rose quickly to prominence, with his big break coming that spring when sax legend Charlie Parker hired him for a few West Coast dates. That summer, Baker joined the Gerry Mulligan Quartet and recorded his first Pacific Jazz sessions. He was just 23.

He made his acting debut in 1955 in the film Hell's Horizon. His lush life also became the inspiration for the fictionalized 1960 Hollywood film All the Fine Young Cannibals, with Robert Wagner portraying Chad Bixby, the fast-living jazz musician based on Baker.

During the 1960s, the musician lived up to his image, developing a heroin habit and landing in jail. In 1966 he was beaten on the streets of San Francisco, an event that may or may not have contributed to the loss of his front teeth (Baker had neglected his dental hygiene for years).

In 1968, he began wearing dentures, which are a difficult adaptation for a trumpet player who depends on his teeth to shape his embouchure. Baker's touring and recording schedule diminished, and by the early '70s he had stopped playing altogether.

In 1973 he staged a comeback, resumed recording, though sporadically, and toured mostly in Europe. Elvis Costello hired him to perform the mournful trumpet solo on his classic "Shipbuilding" in 1983, introducing Baker to a new generation of jazz fans.

In 1987 photographer Bruce Weber began shooting a film documentary about Baker. Let's Get Lost, released the following year, won widespread acclaim and would have ensured Baker's return to prominence, but just weeks before its release, the trumpet player toppled to his death from an Amsterdam hotel window after ingesting heroin and cocaine. Fans still debate whether he fell accidentally, committed suicide or was pushed.

Prince of Cool affirms that at least for a few glorious years in the mid- to late '50s, Chet Baker stood on top of the jazz world, and there's no disputing that fact.

Monday, January 03, 2005


"I Takes a Thief" is scheduled to be released on DVD in 2005. I'll keep you posted. :-)