Saturday, September 03, 2005

Jennifer Tilly Wins Poker Tournament 

Celebrity Autographs And Celebrity Addresses

Jennifer Tilly has won her second major poker tournament, and confidence in her playing ability.
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"I felt like I was suffering from the 'impostor syndrome,'" said Tilly, who jumped from the table after her win. "I had these niggling self doubts. But now I know I can really play. These women were extremely tough pros with blood lust at the poker table."

Tilly's victory at the World Poker Tour Ladies Night III at the Bicycle Casino on Thursday makes her the first woman to win that title and the
World Series' Ladies World Poker Championship held in June.

The win guaranteed her a spot in the $25,000 buy-in WPT Championship in April at Bellagio.

The actress, an Oscar nominee for her role in the 1994 film "Bullets Over Broadway," has been playing the game for a year. She said she learned pointers from her boyfriend, poker player Phil "Unabomber" Laak.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Fans Meet Old Time Hollywood Stars at Autograph Convention 

Celebrity Autographs And Celebrity Addresses

Autograph conventions offer fans the chance to meet the stars from television and movies. They offer the stars a chance to get involved in the growing business of celebrity memorabilia. At a recent convention in Los Angeles, fans bought pictures of their favorite Hollywood actors, many from movies and television series from decades ago.

Margaret O'Brien
Margaret O'Brien
One of the more recognizable people at this convention is the actress Margaret O'Brien, who started working in Hollywood in the 1940s, at the age of four.

"I did a lot of movies. Meet Me in St. Louis was the most famous, with Judy Garland; Little Women with Elizabeth Taylor and June Allyson, Janet Leigh; Jane Eyre with Orson Welles, and many, many more. So a lot of movies," she said.

Then came work as an adult actress in television series such as Rawhide, which starred a young Clint Eastwood, and appearances in a weekly suspense series from director Alfred Hitchcock.

"And worked with Lassie, who is at this autograph show," she said.

The theatrical dog is a member of a famous Hollywood family. He is a ninth generation descendant of the collie, Pal, that appeared in the classic 1940s film Lassie Come Home. Later descendants of the dog appeared in the Lassie television series from 1954 to 1971.

Another Lassie veteran, the actress June Lockhart, played in several movies that featured the well-known dog and then, in the 1950s, co-starred in the series. She says her Hollywood contracts prevent her from speaking on radio, but a costar from her 1960s series, Lost in Space, was more than ready to tell his story. Bob May played a robot in the light-hearted science fiction show.

"Lost in Space. I was the actor who played the part [of the robot]," he explained. "I did it the entire series, which is 83 episodes, three years."

Viewers never saw his face inside the robot costume, but fans are still thrilled to meet him.

A more recognizable actor, John Saxon, started in show business 50 years ago, and has appeared in many science fiction and horror films. He also played opposite kung fu star Bruce Lee in the 1973 martial arts classic Enter the Dragon. Mr. Saxon sometimes attends these autograph conventions, since he learned that movie memorabilia can be big business.

"There was a time when I paid a couple in Beverly Hills to answer my fan mail and to write notes back and sign photos," he said. "It would cost me, I think, about $500 or $600 or $700 a month to do this. Then I began finding people bringing me these photos back from shops from which they were sold, and I realized I was being inducted into a home cottage industry. "

He says he decided to get involved in the industry himself.

The convention was held at a Los Angeles hotel owned by another Hollywood star. Since 1971, the actress Beverly Garland has run a Holiday Inn near Universal Studios, and she still appears occasionally on television and in movies. She reminisces with guests about her long career.

"I did the The Joker is Wild with Frank Sinatra. The first big series that I did was called Decoy, the story of a New York police woman that we filmed in New York City," she said. Then I did My Three Sons; then I did Scarecrow and Mrs. King. And then I did The (New) Adventures of Superman."I go on and on and on. Do you think I can remember everything? I'm an old lady."

Actress Marla Gibbs, who appeared in the 1970s series The Jeffersons and a show called 227 a decade later, says these conventions give her the chance to meet old friends from Hollywood. She is a singer as well as actress, and the event also gives her a chance to promote an upcoming recording.

"My CD should be coming out the end of September, the first of October," she said. "The name of it is It's Never Too Late, and the name of my record label is 'Forever Thirty,' because I'm forever 30."

Mickey Sinardi
So, it seems, are many at this convention, although most have been working in Hollywood for many decades. Organizer Mickey Sinardi says the event is partly about business and partly just for fun, even for the performers. He says a famous comedian stopped by to meet the fans.

"A lot of stars, people like Jonathan Winters, who was here earlier, and others, they don't have to come here to make a living, but they like doing it," he said. "It's a lot of fun. They come here to meet the crowd."

For Steven Christianson, a Canadian visitor who is here with his girlfriend, Kristen, the convention offered a chance to see some familiar stars, including one that he loved in his childhood. He was thrilled to meet Ron Harper, who starred in the 1970s television series Planet of the Apes.

"It was a real treat because he was not only one of the people that I'd watch every Saturday morning on the Planet of the Apes series, but I actually had a 12-inch [30-centimeter] action figure of this actor, and I think he got as much of a charge out of that as we did meeting him," he said.

Mr. Christianson bought an autographed picture of the star for $20.

Actress Rena Owen, who appeared in two Stars Wars movies, displays her own action figure as the alien space character Taun We. She is selling photos that retrace her varied career in science fictions films and television series.

"Oh God, I've been in this industry 20 years," she said. " I did years of theater and then eventually television, Gideon's Crossing, Angel - I had a recurring role on Angel[playing] Dinza, the goddess of all lost creatures. Whatever comes my way, honey."

Fans can hear tales of life in Hollywood. Richard Yniguez has played roles opposite Lucille Ball, Anthony Quinn, Glenn Ford and many other stars.

"And it's been a career of over 30 years now, and it's just been fun, interesting, and most of all exciting," he said.

Hollywood hopefuls can also get advice from veterans. Actor Jeff Conaway started working on the New York stage at the age of nine. In the 1970s, he appeared in the Broadway version of Grease, the rock and roll musical, then co-starred in the movie. He worked in the comedy series Taxi and the science fiction show Babylon 5. He says acting is a great career, but it has its ups and downs. And this is his advice to aspiring actors.

"I just say just get ready to work hard and get ready to be rejected and get ready for some heartache, and get ready for some good times too because the art, the craft is a wonderful thing," he said.

He says entertainment is also a business, and today, a growing part of the business involves celebrity autographs, pictures and memorabilia from Hollywood.

MSNBC auctions off autographed guitar 

Celebrity Autographs And Celebrity Addresses

Exclusive online bidding to raise additional funds for hurricane relief
This Gibson will be autographed by Aaron Neville and Harry Connick Jr., among others.

NBC's January charity broadcast to raise assistance funds for victims of the South Asia tsunami raised over $18 million and attracted over 19 million viewers.

Hundreds have died and tens of thousands of refugees have been stranded and homeless after Hurricane Katrina plowed through the Gulf Coast on Monday. On Thursday, Congress worked to approve $10 billion in aid to help victims of the tragedy.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Ledger drawcard at Venice film festival 

Australian heart-throb Heath Ledger is set to be one of the star attractions when he arrives at this years prestigious Venice International Film Festival, which launched with a martial arts epic from Hong Kong.

The 26-year-old actor stars in three of the movies being premiered during the glittering 10-day event, including Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm and Lasse Hallestrom's Casanova.

But its Ang Lees controversial, gay cowboy flick, Brokeback Mountain, which is sure to cause a stir as Ledger shares more than a few, sexy on-screen kisses with American co-star Jake Gyllenhaal.

As well as being in town for Brokeback Mountain, the Taiwanese director is one of several film-makers being recognised during this years Asian-themed festival along with Hong Kong director Tsui Hark, whose Seven Swords opened proceedings.

The next 10 days will see some of Hollywood's biggest names descend on Venice for the city's 62nd festival, including Russell Crowe, George Clooney, Matt Damon and Gywneth Paltrow.

Crowe, 41, will be busy touting his boxing drama, Cinderella Man, just a week after reaching a confidential settlement with New York concierge, Nestor Estrada, over a phone throwing incident in June.

This year's impressive guest list reflects a bid by organisers to reclaim some of the glitz-factor from Cannes and festival-goers will be treated to an unprecedented nine Hollywood premieres.

"This shows how important Venice now is for American cinema," said artistic director Marco Mueller last week.

Hotly-anticipated is Clooney's second directorial outing, Good Night, And Good Luck and the swarthy star's appearance is expected to be a huge draw-card.

Clooney's political thriller is one of 19 films in the running for the prestigious Golden Lion prize which will be announced by the jury on September 10.

The Venice International Film Festival runs from August 31 to September 10.

Men Aren't Going Extinct  

NEW YORK - Good news for men: The male sex chromosome isn't going extinct anytime soon. Researchers have found, contrary to the popular notion, that the male Y chromosome is not gradually decaying away.

In recent years, researchers have theorized that the male sex chromosome is heading for extinction over the next few million years. Unlike other chromosomes, the Y chromosome has no partner with which to swap genes when one gets damaged. The Y contains a wimpy 27 genes (versus 1,000 or so for the X chromosome), and has shed the vast majority of its genes since it diverged from ancestor chromosomes roughly 300 million years ago. It has been likened to a genetic wasteland.

But now researchers at the MIT-affiliated Whitehead Institute have compared the human Y chromosome to the chimpanzee counterpart, searching for genes that men may have lost or degraded since humankind diverged from chimps six million years ago. To their relief, they found not a single gene has been lost in that long period, indicating that the Y isn't falling after all.

By contrast, the researchers found that the chimpanzee male chromosome has lost five genes over the last six million years, which may be due to chimps' promiscuous sexual habits, the researchers theorized. Men have one X and one Y chromosome, while women have two X chromosomes.

"Somehow this idea...that the Y chromosome is headed for extinction...has achieved tremendous market penetration," says Whitehead geneticist David Page, the senior author of the study. "But despite all the doomsday scenarios, it actually looks like the Y is sailing along quite nicely. It has established a new lifestyle with fewer genes. Our species has a long to-do list, but I think we can cross this problem off the list. You can sleep a little better now."

The sex chromosome work is being published this week in the British journal Nature as part of a package of articles on the sequencing of the chimpanzee genome.

In several other articles, researchers from the University of Washington and elsewhere searched for key genetic differences that could help explain what makes us human. Overall, the researchers found that human and chimps were 98.8% genetically identical, with a mere 35 million chemical letters that differ between the chimp and human books of life. By another measure, searching through larger sections of DNA for whole sentences that are copied or deleted, the researchers found a slightly larger 2.7% variation between the two species.

"The chimp data allows us to provide a comprehensive catalog of all the variations between chimp and human," says University of Washington geneticist Evan Eichler. This data will help to narrow down to the minority of changes crucial to our human-ness.

Still, after all this work, researchers are only at the very earliest stages of figuring out why we are so much smarter than monkeys.

"The original idea was by comparing [chimps' genes]with the human genome we would discover why we write poetry or become reporters. Sadly today we can say almost nothing about that topic that we couldn't say before the chimp genome was done," says Whitehead Institute's Page. "We genomicists can pile up the DNA letters very quickly but are very primitive readers of the text. It is an overstatement to say we can read it at the first grade level."

The chimpanzee genome data provides another possible tool for companies mining gene data for key disease causing genes and genetic variations, although the mouse genome and other model systems such as tiny roundworms are likely to remain mainstays for this sort of work.

Companies known for their gene work include Celera Genomics Group and Human Genome Sciences (nasdaq: HGSI - news - people ). Big drug companies, including Merck (nyse: MRK - news - people ) and Pfizer (nyse: PFE - news - people ) and GlaxoSmithKline (nyse: GSK - news - people ) have also invested heavily in newfangled gene research over the years.

Thief slips away with Dorothy's shoes  

Tuesday August 30, 2005

Dorothy's shoes from The Wizard of Oz
Will they follow the yellow brick road home? Dorothy's shoes from The Wizard of Oz

Who could have done this wicked deed? The most famous shoes in movie history, Dorothy's ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, were stolen from a Minnesota museum on Saturday night.

The shoes, insured for $1m (£560,000), were one of four pairs worn by Judy Garland in the film. It had been on display at the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, the actor's native city, when someone entered the building through a window and broke into the small display case holding the slippers.

"There's not a whole lot of evidence," police chief Leigh Serfling said. "We're hoping that someone in the community has seen something."

The shoes belonged to a Los Angeles-based collector, Michael Shaw, who had loaned them to the museum for 10 weeks. "It's the worst nightmare for me," said Mr Shaw. "The theft is not only a crime against me, but against children. Those shoes have been used to raise money for Aids, for helping get kids off the street, reading programmes, and for children with Down's syndrome and autism."

"As director, I am devastated," said the museum's head, John Kelsch, in a statement. "Michael Shaw is a friend of this museum and has been a guest at the Judy Garland Festival for years. It is our hope that the slippers can be recovered immediately."

Other memorabilia from The Wizard of Oz on display was left untouched.

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