News Roundup, Feb. 20: Celebs Speak Out in TV Spot

Top Story

Antiwar celebs are making their political views known via–what else? the small screen. Martin Sheen, who plays fictional U.S. President Josiah Bartlet on NBC’s The West Wing, headlines a TV ad that debuts in Los Angeles and Washington today. Sheen and other stars including Janeane Garofalo and Mike Farrell are part of a group called Artists United to Win Without War that is urging Americans to join a Feb. 26 “virtual march” on Washington to oppose war with Iraq. Groups advocating a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis have had a difficult time buying national air time for antiwar spots because CNN and other networks are reluctant to air any advocacy ads, regardless of the issue, Variety reports. The ad will air on CNN and Fox News Channel in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., through next week.


A superior court judge ruled Wednesday that Michael Jackson‘s response to a lawsuit brought by his former business manager will be included in the pop singer’s upcoming trial, The Associated Press reports. Myung Ho Lee, head of Union Finance and Investment Corp., sued Jackson last April, claiming the singer owes him $13 million in back pay. Jackson, however, alleges Lee breached contracts and did not act in good faith while giving him business advice. If the matter isn’t settled in mediation scheduled for April 17, it will go to trial on June 18.

R. Kelly claims a 24-year-old woman’s allegations that he sexually abused her at a recording studio on Chicago’s North Side are an attempt to damage his career, the AP reports. The statement by R. Kelly’s camp said the allegation came on the same day R. Kelly released his latest album and is “nothing more than an outrageous and blatant attempt at character assassination.” Police say all they are dealing with at this point are allegations against the singer.

Adam Rich, who played Nicholas on the 1970s TV show Eight is Enough, was charged Tuesday with a misdemeanor count of driving under the influence, the AP reports. Rich was arrested Dec. 18 after California Highway Patrol officers said he drove onto a closed section of Interstate 10 and nearly struck a patrol car. Rich failed a field sobriety test and officers said they smelled the odor of marijuana in his car, but didn’t find the drug. Prosecutors said they didn’t immediately file charges because they had to wait for results of an additional chemical analysis.

Country singer Johnny Paycheck, best known for his blue-collar anthem “Take This Job and Shove It,” died Tuesday in a Georgia nursing home after a long battle with emphysema and related respiratory ailments, Reuters reports. Paycheck had nearly three dozen hits, beginning with the hard-driving 1965 song “A-11.” He earned two Grammy nominations during his career, the first in 1971 for the single “She’s All I Got” and the second in 1978 for “Take This Job and Shove It.” In 1997, he was entered into the Grand Ole Opry.


Alfred Molina, who recently starred as Diego Rivera in the Frido Kahlo biopic Frida, has been cast in the role of the evil Doc Ock in Columbia Pictures’ Spider-Man sequel for director Sam Raimi, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Alfred Molina has a remarkable facility for everything from classic drama to mainstream comedy, and he is the ideal choice for Doc Ock,” Columbia Pictures chairman Amy Pascal told the trade. Principal photography begins in April for a 2004 release. Stars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco are back for the sequel, as are producers Laura Ziskin and Avi Arad.


The romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding set a DVD sales record last week for its genre, selling more than 4 million units during its first five days in release, reports The Hollywood Reporter. According to Video Store magazine data, the HBO home video was also a hit in the rental charts, earning an estimated rental revenue gross of $19.56 million after five days on rental shelves. That equals the first week estimated rental gross earned by Warner Home Video’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone released last year. Although HBO executives were mum on exact sales figures, Nielsen VideoScan data showed that Greek Wedding topped both the DVD and VHS sell-through charts by a wide margin for the week ending Feb. 16. Hey, as Gus Portokalos would say, “There are two kinds of people–Greeks, and everyone else who wish they was Greek.”


Trista Rehn picked poetic firefighter Ryan Sutter over looker Charlie Maher in ABC’s two-hour finale of The Bachelorette Wednesday night. Sutter immediately dropped to his knees and asked Trista–the woman he’s known for six weeks–to marry him. The former Miami Heat cheerleader said yes. “This day is a day I dreamed about my entire life,” Rehn said. “I see smiles and laughter, I see babies and grandbabies, I see comfort and safety. I see me in a white dress and I see it with you.” The show, which faded in appeal compared to Fox’s Joe Millionaire, was ABC’s most popular show last week.

Jud Taylor, who has directed more than 40 telefilms, will be presented with a special achievement honor at this year’s Directors Guild of America awards on March 1, City News Service reports. Taylor, who was DGA president from 1981 to 1983, will receive the Robert B.
Aldrich Achievement Award for his “extraordinary service to the guild and its membership.” Taylor won a DGA award in 1987 for Foxfire and received an Emmy nomination in 1977 for Tail Gunner Joe. He has also directed episodes of series such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, The Fugitive and Star Trek.


Hip-hop star Nelly, whose 2002 Nellyville was the second best-selling album, has postponed his planned tour of Britain until the fall, citing “an unforeseeable personal matter,” his promoter Clear Channel said in a statement. Nelly was to perform with fellow rapper Eve next month in cities in England, Wales and Ireland. The statement did