- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2008

No ordinary love

You need look no further than grocery checkout lines filled with tabloids pandering celebrity fodder as proof of our obsession with the rich and famous. So it’s not surprising that HBO is serving up “Bernard and Doris” (premiering tomorrow evening at 8), a made-for-cable film about tobacco heiress Doris Duke and her meticulous Irish butler, Bernard Lafferty — who was given control over her vast fortune by Miss Duke before her death in 1993.

Oscar winner Susan Sarandon portrays Miss Duke in her twilight years, a time of loneliness and self-isolation with Miss Duke spending most of her time cultivating her beloved orchid gardens. After two failed marriages, she sometimes bedded her male staffers, a tradition lost on the openly homosexual Mr. Lafferty (played by Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes) when he found his way to her mansion in 1987.

Fresh out of rehab and nearly penniless, he faced an uphill battle in convincing his notoriously demanding boss to keep him on staff. Yet six years later, he had not only managed to remain employed, but had been granted control over her estimated $1.2 billion fortune. (According to the New York Times, Miss Duke also left him $5 million and $500,000 a year for life for his role as co-executor of her estate.)

Dubbed “the billionaire butler” by the press, he died at 51 — just three years after his benefactress.

Rather than a biopic, “Bernard and Doris” (directed by Bob Balaban and written by Hugh Costello) states upfront that it’s merely a portrayal of “what might have happened” between the two during the years between their meeting and Miss Duke’s death.

While the movie centers on the platonic love story between the two, some believe that Mr. Lafferty helped hasten Miss Duke’s demise by increasing her prescribed morphine dosage. In real life, Miss Duke’s decision to name Mr. Lafferty her estate executor sparked numerous lawsuits and unlimited headlines. A court later cleared him of criminal wrongdoing, but he was stripped of his role as co-executor in 1995 by a Manhattan Surrogate Court judge due to his mismanagement of Miss Duke’s estate.

Lifetime ‘Flirt’

Heather Locklear is reuniting with Lifetime for a holiday-themed original movie tentatively titled “Flirting With 40,” the Hollywood Reporter says.

Based on the Jane Porter novel, “Flirting” is described as a lighthearted and poignant story about a divorced mother of two (Miss Locklear), who — while on vacation and on the brink of turning 40 — enters into an unexpected romance with a much younger man.

“Flirting” is set to premiere in December.

Marv joining TNT

Turner Sports has signed Marv Albert to a new eight-year contract to be the lead play-by-play man on TNT’s schedule of NBA games through the 2015-16 season, Variety reports.

Mr. Albert, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, was wooed by TNT’s main competitor ESPN, which offered him the chance to call the NBA Finals. The contract renewal allows him to continue working on a full schedule of post-season NBA games, including the conference finals, as well as the NBA All-Star Game and weekly regular-season games cablecast exclusively by TNT, Variety says.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports

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