Saturday, February 28, 2009

'sNewz occasional series mentioning current events which held my interest this week...

Well, not actually THIS week, as several of these items have been lounging around my inbox while I go on and on about Ros and Guil, about which I seem unable to shut up. Ah, well...

Sarah Palin continues to be the gift which keeps on giving. I don't mind a bit if she remains in the national spotlight; the more she remains there, the more we learn about her ethically challenged lifestyle. Lately, she's been forced to reimburse the State of Alaska for various items which she charged to them, such as per diem payments made for nights she spent in her own home, and expenses for her children which she claimed were State Business Expenses. No wonder she's sometimes considered the Great Hope of the Republican Party; she already has their business practices down pat. So does her niece, according to EBay. A month or so ago, the famous pair of Naughty Monkey Double Dare high heels which the Pitbull wore to accept the vice-presidential nomination from the Republicans was sold at auction by Palin's niece. Some lonely soul bought those soles for a whopping $2,000 and change (they retail at less than 90 bucks). The Ebay auction included an autographed picture of Palin wearing the shoes, which were apparently given to this niece after the governor dumped her own wardrobe in favor of the lavish one the RNC provided. Oh, and regarding those designer togs which caused so much ruckus during the campaign, Palin insisted all the clothes were to be donated to charity after the election. According to the Washington Post, the wardrobe was recently spotted, stuffed into garbage bags and sitting in a corner of the RNC's Washington headquarters.

Here's another item which interests me, though it's probably past its expiration date by now. Everybody knows Michael Phelps was hit pretty hard by that unfortunate picture of him taking a hit off a bong at a party at the University of South Carolina (my alma mater! Those gamecocks know how to partaaaayyyy). He was suspended from swimming competition for three months, and Kellogg's yanked his picture from their Corn Flakes. (He didn't lose everything, though, as Subway kept him on to endorse their sandwiches. And why not? After taking several hits of the demon weed, Phelps and others are bound to get the munchies and head down to the local sandwich shop for a footlong). An extremely zealous law enforcement officer in SC raided two houses which were suspected to be Phelps's Columbia hangouts (this is, of course, many days after the party in which the incident happened. Nobody would have known about the incident had not some enterprising photo-journalist snapped the photo and sold it to a London tabloid for 100 grand). This SC sheriff arrested almost a dozen people, confiscating a few cigarettes worth of grass, and made noises about arresting Phelps, too, who had long since left his jurisdiction. A few weeks ago, Robo-Cop decided against attempting to charge Phelps, who has never denied his involvement but has issued the standard "I regret my behavior" apology in hopes of salvaging his endorsement career. He claims the incident was a one-time error in judgement, and everyone seems to conveniently forget that he made a similar "one-time error in judgement" a few months after the 2004 Olympics, where he won 6 gold medals but had yet to vault into the national limelight. At that time, he was pulled over and arrested for drunk driving in Maryland, at the age of 19.

The ongoing saga of the Mercury-infested Jeremy Piven seems to have reached its conclusion this week. It's a story which has caught my interest for months, though nobody else really cares much. I wrote about the details of Piven's sudden desertion of Broadway's Speed-the-Plow here. As a result of his action, the producers filed a grievance against him with Actors Equity. Piven's hearing this week was closed to the public and the press, but in true Hollywood style, our Jeremy gave an exclusive interview to the New York Times right after the conclusion of the hearing. Apparently, he broke down in tears while telling the horrible story of his poisoning, its side-effects, and his terrible mistreatment by the press, many of whom reported on Piven's wild night life during the run. He did not bolt from the show because he was bored and partying too hard, but because he was often disoriented onstage and sometimes could not breathe (this despite photos taken of Piven out on the town celebrating Britney Spears's birthday and other events). As for the hearing itself, the expected outcome was reached: with five producers representing the Broadway League, and five actors representing the union, the votes were split right down the middle, and no action will be taken against Piven by Equity. The producers still have remedies in court, but I have a hunch they will let the matter drop now that the show is long gone and they've insured that Piven's reputation is soiled. It'll be a while before another Broadway producer takes a chance on him.

(update 3/1/09: I spoke too soon. According to today's NY Times, "Speed-the-Plow" producers are proceeding with arbitration against Piven. So, the story goes on!)

This final item is brand new, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. The producers of the film versions of Chicago and Hairpray and the TV versions of The Music Man and Gypsy are prepping a new Damn Yankees feature film. The book is being rewritten by the guys who created the Beverly Hills Cop franchise, and the flick will star Jake Gyllenhaal and Jim Carrey. I think the idea of a new movie is a good one; I'm going against most musical lovers when I call the original Damn Yankees movie a disappointment. Though it creditably preserved the Tony-winning performances of Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston, those performances were far less dynamic onscreen. The movie was really sunk, however, by casting prettyboy Tab Hunter in the leading role of Joe Hardy, a role which requires singing and dancing, neither of which Hunter could do. (I don't know if Gyllenhaal can do those things either.) The original film is a weak imitation of the show, which holds a special place in my heart, and the fact that it failed to make major screen stars of either Verdon or Walston proves my point. Verdon returned to Broadway and Walston moved to television for the better part of their remaining careers.

As for Carrey in the role of Applegate (the devil), well, who knows? I really like his work in his quieter pieces such as The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (you know, his flops),but his wilder comic roles leave me pretty cold. Playing the Devil may encourage his baser impulses and turn the character into an over-the-top caricature. After all, remember the last time he reinvented a beloved character on screen?