Frank Ramaesiri, the St. Louis jewelry salesman who sold the video of a topless sunbather to Penthouse, telling the magazine it was Anna Kournikova, testified on Tuesday he mistakenly thought the woman was the tennis star due to the diameter of her nipples. Now how would Ramaesiri, a non-professional photographer, know the diameter of Kournikova's nipples, you may ask? Reuters reported that the salesman told the court he had seen pictures of the Russian beauty in a sweat-soaked tennis dress revealing her nipples, and "the diameter matched what we had on film," he said. Plus, he added, the sunbather looked Russian.
The "sunbather" was actually Judith Soltesz-Benetton, the daughter-in-law of fashion designer Luciano Benetton. While Penthouse has issued a formal apology to both Kournikova and Soltesz-Benetton, the women are still pursuing cases against the infamous magazine for damages.
Steven Spielberg is finally making his life complete--he's graduating from college. After dropping out nearly three decades ago to pursue his career, the famed director, 55, will receive a bachelor's degree from California State University Long Beach, where he recently finished courses in the film and electronic arts major.
Jason Alexander, on the other hand, wants to teach college. The former Seinfeld star will be instructing other young actors on the University of Southern California campus under the George Burns Distinguished Visiting Professor in Performance program.
Rapper Jay-Z won't be moving into that $6.5 million penthouse in New York's trendy TriBeCa complex, after all. He pulled out of the deal without giving a reason, but owner Peter Arnell blames neighbors for sabotaging the deal. Arnell claims two tenants, Lynn Fisher-Hill and Lewis Taffer, posted notices in the halls, referring to the rapper's criminal record and lifestyle of violence, The Associated Press reports.
Jennifer Lopez shelled out the dough for her new Miami home. She recently bought a $9.5 million waterfront mansion in Miami Beach, with a view of Biscayne Bay. Her celebrity neighbors include Lenny Kravitz, Ricky Martin and the Bee Gees, Barry and Robin Gibb.
Bernadette Peters and Gregory Hines, two veterans of the Broadway stage, will be hosting the Tony Awards June 2. This marks the second time for Hines, who co-hosted with Glenn Close and Nathan Lane in 1994. It'll be the first hosting gig for Peters.
Anne Heche may be heading for Broadway lights. She could replace the departing Jennifer Jason Leigh in David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Proof at the Walter Kerr Theater in New York. Mary-Louise Parker originated the play's lead role of Catherine, the grief-stricken, troubled daughter of a math genius, in spring 2000.
In the Biz
Another large ensemble piece for Robert Altman? Go figure. Variety reports the veteran director may sign up to helm The Company, a large ensemble project about ballet dancers, with Neve Campbell (Scream) attached to star as a young dancer distracted by other things. Apparently, there are about 50 roles to be had--piece of cake for Altman.
Jay Kay, the lead singer of the funk band Jamiroquai, was involved in an altercation Wednesday at the post-premiere party for Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones in London. Kay's agent told Reuters the singer found his new car damaged and confronted the suspected culprit. Kay suffered some facial injuries.
There is no love lost between rapper Eminem and Vice President Dick Cheney's wife, Lynne Cheney. She has been very vocal in her criticism of the recording industry, often citing Eminem's music as offensive. He countered by flinging a four-letter word at her in his song, "White America," on his soon-to-be released album The Eminem Show. Now, now, Marshall.
In a rare appearance, three of rock and roll's greatest legends--Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Bo Diddley--were honored by Broadcast Music Inc. They received BMI's Icon Awards at the 50th annual pop music awards show Tuesday and were recognized for their "unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers," Reuters reports.
Pop acts plan to perform at three benefits concerts this weekend to raise money for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, The Associated Press reports. The shows will kick off in New York at Madison Square Garden with the Backstreet Boys, Destiny's Child, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Billy Joel. The "United We Stand" concert Sunday in Washington will feature the Backstreet Boys and Destiny's Child, as well as 'N Sync, Michael Jackson, P. Diddy, KISS and Mick Jagger. Country stars Tim McGraw and Trisha Yearwood will also take to the stage Sunday at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville.
Someone claiming to represent Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeta network has asked both CNN and Al-Jazeera TV to submit six written questions for him, that he will then answer on video tape, Variety reports. The proposal came from Al-Jazeera, which then notified CNN. The news network submitted six questions on Tuesday.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show will reopen Oct. 30 at Broadway's Circle in the Square for a 10-week run ending January 6, The Associated Press reports. Bat Boy will also resume this week, with the hit London musical Mamma Mia! premiering Thursday.
Rowan Atkinson, who starred in the hit TV shows Blackadder and Mr. Bean, is worried that proposed anti-terror laws outlawing "incitement to religious hatred" could curb freedom of expression, Reuters reports. Atkinson said there should be no subject about which jokes should be banned, including religion.
Comedian Denis Leary is putting on a New York benefit Monday night to honor the firefighters who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, People.com reports. According to Leary, Harrison Ford has offered to help, as well as Matthew Broderick, and Nathan Lane. Leary hopes to raise $250,000.
Whoopi Goldberg has become the first woman to receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, The Associated Press reports. Chris Rock, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal took part in the event, which will be televised on PBS Nov. 21 at 9 p.m.
A United Nations panel ruled Tuesday that actor Rip Torn has the rights to the Internet domain name riptorn.com, The Associated Press reports. Torn complained to the World Intellectual Property Organization after someone from Oakville, Ontario registered the domain name in March 2000.
Novelist and politician Jeffrey Archer, who is serving a four-year sentence for perjury and perverting the course of justice, has been moved to a prison where security is less strict, The Associated Press reports. The North Sea in Lincolnshire allows inmates more freedom of movement.
Russell Crowe has been offered a role in The Cinderella Man, playing real-life heavyweight boxing champ Jim Braddock, Variety reports. Lasse Hallstorm will direct the movie, which has been in development for several years now.
Ted Turner will have a cameo role in the Civil War film Gods and Generals, The Associated Press reports. Turner will reprise his role as Col. Waller T. Patton from the 1993 film Gettysburg. Gods and Generals, which is being financed by Turner, is a prequel to Gettysburg.
Actor Denzel Washington has finally received the greenlight to direct his first feature film for Fox Searchlight studios, keeping up with the trend of actors wanting to take a stab behind the camera.
The story, one that Washington has wanted to bring the screen since 1998, is about an aspiring screenwriter who suffers an abusive childhood, joins the U.S. Navy and works for a time as a security guard on the Sony lot. Washington may play a psychiatrist who helps the young man while he is in the U.S. Navy. No other talent is attached as yet.
Todd Black and Jason Blumenthal of Black and Blu Entertainment will produce, along with Randa Haines and Washington. Black met the screenwriter, Antwone Fisher, at a screenwriting class in South Central Los Angeles and guided him through the development process.
"It's just a really great story…and the one with which [Washington] wants to make as his directorial debut," Alan Nierob, Washington's publicist, said Friday.
And Washington is not alone.
Here's a short list of other actors who are currently directing new projects:
Tom Green: MTV's original JackAss has taken his schtick to the big screen with his upcoming debut release, Freddy Got Fingered, which he also wrote. The story revolves around Green, who at first reluctantly moves back home, but soon realizes the sweet deal he's got going. The film opens April 20.
Billy Bob Thornton: Thornton, who directed last year's All the Pretty Horses with Matt Damon, is next up with the dark comedy Daddy and Them. The film was made a few years ago, but Miramax delayed its release. The story focuses on a poor Arkansas family dealing with their uncle's arrest for murder. Thornton also costars with Laura Dern, Diane Ladd and the late Jim Varney and. The film will be released later this year.
Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming: Leigh (eXistenZ) and Cumming (Josie and the Pussycats) teamed together to co-write and direct their debut film, The Anniversary Party, during which love and relationships are explored. It has an all-star cast, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Beals and Kevin Kline. A release date has not been set.
Danny DeVito: DeVito, who last directed the 1996 comedy Matilda, takes on a comedy called Death to Smoochy. The host of a children's show (Robin Williams), is fired for nefarious reasons, ends up seeking revenge on his replacement-a blue rhino named Smoochy (Edward Norton). Also stars Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich). Slated for a 2002 release.
Joe Pantoliano: The prolific character actor (The Matrix; The Sopranos) is turning his attention to directing. His debut film, Just Like Mona is about a teen-age boy, coming of age in the 1960s, who must deal with his foulmouthed, drunken mother. The film stars Diane Lane, Andy Garcia and Marcia Gay Harden. A release date has not been set.