Entertainment News from December 1997
- Kathie Lee just can't seem to get a break. The New York Daily News reports that state authorities have shut down a Manhattan factory that manufactures clothing for the Kathie Lee Woman line. Chinese immigrants reportedly worked 60 to 80 hours in conditions “straight out of a Charles Dickens novel.” Gifford's people say that when the perky daytime talk-show host learned of the conditions, she immediately stopped production at the factory and paid workers back wages.
- President Clinton awards Bob Dylan (looking very uncomfortable in his black-tie get-up), Lauren Bacall, Edward Villella, Jessye Norman and Charlton Heston with Kennedy Center honors for lifetime achievement in the arts.
- Spin magazine names slain rapper Notorious B.I.G. artist of the year. His “Hypnotize” takes the single of the year honor. Radiohead is honored as band of the year.
- Peter Jennings says “I do” for the fourth time. ABC's World News Tonight anchorman marries 20/20 producer Kayce Freed.
- Actor Robert Downey, Jr. is sentenced to six months in jail and a subsequent residential drug treatment program for violating terms of his parole. Downey has been in trouble since the summer of 1996, when he was arrested for driving under the influence and possessing cocaine, heroine and an unloaded .357 magnum.
- A federal judge refuses to grant an injunction to stop the premiere of Steven Spielberg's Amistad but gives writer Barbara Chase-Riboud the go-ahead to pursue a $10 million plagiarism lawsuit against DreamWorks. Chase-Riboud claims the studio lifted parts of the film from her 1989 novel Echo of Lions, which is about an 1839 slave uprising. DreamWorks claims the movie is based on the 1953 book Black Mutiny and that Chase-Riboud is the one who should be accused of plagiarism.
- The League of American Theaters and Producers unveils on The Rosie O'Donnell Show the Broadway Line, a toll-free service that informs callers about what's playing on Broadway and sells tickets to the shows. “Our goal is to make going to Broadway as easy and accessible as possible,” said Jed Bernstein, the theater league's executive director. Rosie O'Donnell is the first customer, buying tickets to Triumph of Love.
- Another of Hollywood's stars lands behind bars. Christian Slater is sentenced to six months in jail for the August incident in which the out-of-control actor bit a man and then attacked a police officer. After serving his sentence, Slater must check in to a drug-treatment center for three months.
- Mick Jagger becomes a father for the sixth time. Jerry Hall gives birth to Gabriel Luke Beauregard Jagger. Gabriel is Jagger and Hall's fourth child; the aging Rolling Stone has two children from earlier marriages.
- A federal judge temporarily orders Microsoft to separate its Internet Explorer from Windows 95. On October 29, the Justice Department filed suit against the software giant, claiming Microsoft has been violating a 1995 antitrust agreement in which the company said it would not tie the licensing of one product to another. The original suit sought a $1 million per day fine if Microsoft failed to comply. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson denies that request, however. Judge Jackson's final decision is expected in the second quarter of 1998.
- Elton John donates $33 million to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. The healthy sum comes from profits from his tribute song to Diana, “Candle in the Wind '97.”
- Autumn Jackson, the woman convicted of trying to extort $40 million from Bill Cosby, is sentenced to 26 months in jail. Jackson, whose mother once had an affair with Cosby, has claimed Cosby is her biological father and threatened to leak the information to the tabloids unless he pay her $40 million. Cosby denies he is the woman's father and has agreed to a D.N.A. test to prove it.
- Scream 2 proves frightful for the competition, piling up $39.2 million in its opening weekend, which is the highest-grossing December opening in film history.
- Word from Buckingham Palace is that Elton John will be knighted in January by Queen Elizabeth. But he won't be Sir Elton. He'll receive the honor under his given name, Reginald Kenneth Dwight.
- The opening of Paul Simon's $11 million Broadway musical, Capeman, is postponed for some fine tuning. The show about Salvador Agron, who, at age 16, killed two teenagers on a New York playground, was scheduled to open on January 8 and has been pushed back to January 29. The musical has received lukewarm reviews from critics who have seen it in preview. Choreographer Mark Morris is directing the troubled show.
- The Justice Department again asks a federal judge to impose a $1 million a day fine on Microsoft for essentially “thumbing its nose” at Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's ruling that ordered Microsoft to separate its Internet Explorer from Windows 95. After Judge Jackson's December 11 ruling, the Justice Department claims Microsoft responded by giving computer manufacturers three unworkable options, which include selling manufacturers an outdated version of Windows 95 packaged without Internet Explorer; allowing manufacturers to themselves remove Internet Explorer from recent versions of the operating system, though doing so would disable Windows 95; or ignore the ruling and continue to bundle Explorer on every copy of Windows 95.
- Celebrity stalking gets downright eerie when court papers reveal that Jonathan Norman, who was arrested in July near Steven Spielberg's Pacific Palisades estate, had planned to rape the Oscar-winning director. At the time of his arrest, Norman had in his possession three eye masks, three dog collars, nipple clamps, chloroform and a stun gun.
- Comedian Chris Farley is found dead in his Chicago apartment. The rotund actor, who weighed in at nearly 300 pounds, is best remembered for his broad physical comedy, which he showcased as a star of Saturday Night Live and in the films Tommy Boy and Beverly Hills Ninja. Farley had a history of substance abuse problems. He died of an accidental drug overdose.
- Barbara Chase-Riboud, the writer who's suing DreamWorks for stealing material from her 1989 book Echo of Lions for Steven Spielberg's Amistad, admits in an interview with the New York Times that she herself lifted entire passages from the 1936 nonfiction book The Harem for her novel Valide: A Novel of the Harem. Chase-Riboud said, “I have a technique of sort of weaving real documents and real references into my novel and making a kind of seamless narrative using both documents and fiction.” Though her admission has nothing to do with her suit against DreamWorks, it does support DreamWorks's claim that she lifted passages from Black Mutiny for Echo of Lions.
- Titanic, the most expensive film of all time (an estimated $250 million), opens nationwide to favorable reviews.
- Billy Crystal has big shoes to fill as host of the 1997 Academy Awards — his own. He'll have a tough time topping his lively medley of film theme parodies.
- Reclusive director Stanley Kubrik reveals plot information about his upcoming film, Eyes Wide Shut, which stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. The film, which has been shooting for more than a year, is based on the 1926 novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story) by Arthur Schnitzel about a married man who finds himself entangled in a surreal sexual underworld. Cruise and Kidman play husband and wife in the film.
- A jury awards Hunter Tylo almost $5 million for the emotional distress and economic loss she suffered after being ousted from the cast of Melrose Place for becoming pregnant. Lawyers for Spelling Television and Spelling Entertainment Group said Tylo violated a clause in her contract that prohibited a “material change” in her appearance. She was fired before her character debuted on the show.
- Woody Allen, 62, and Soon-Yi Previn, 27, marry in a small, private Venice ceremony. Previn's mother, Mia Farrow, does not attend the nuptials.
- It's certainly not a merry Christmas for the suits at NBC. Jerry Seinfeld tells the New York Times that this is the last season of his show, one of the most popular in television history. “I wanted to end the show on the same kind of peak we've been doing it on for years,” he said. “I wanted the end to be from a point of strength.” That statement can be disputed, however, as Seinfeld has taken a critical beating this year, with repeated complaints that the script has lost much of its satirical bite. NBC reportedly tried to convince Seinfeld to stick it out one more year, offering him the unheard of sum of $5 million per episode to stay. The show earns the network an estimated $200 million a year in profits.
- Titanic takes in a record $9.2 million at the box office, becoming the highest Christmas-day-grosser of all time.
- Will Smith and Jada Pinkett marry in a top-secret ceremony in a Baltimore suburb. They are expecting their first child this summer.
Entertainment News from November 1997