- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2003

When in Rome

Grammy-winner Lauryn Hill was at the Vatican this past weekend and spoke unexpectedly on an unmentionable topic: abusive priests.

Heads — including those belonging to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the pope’s vicar for Rome and head of the Italian bishops conference, and his deputy, Monsignor Rino Fisichella — turned when Miss Hill read a statement criticizing the Catholic Church hierarchy during a Christmas benefit Saturday evening.

According to Italian newspapers, the former Fugees singer was quoted as saying there was “no acceptable explanation for defending the church.”

“I realize some of you may be offended by what I’m saying, but what do you say to the families who were betrayed by the people in whom they believed?” La Repubblica newspaper quoted Miss Hill as saying.

Frenchie’s return

You can’t keep a good “American Idol” contestant down.

Frenchie Davis, who was booted off the TV talent show because she worked for an adult-oriented Web site, has landed her first professional lead role, according to Associated Press.

The Los Angeles-based singer and former Howard University student was scheduled to begin rehearsals yesterday for the top role in the upcoming production of “Dreamgirls,” the 1981 Tony-winning Broadway musical.

“There are a lot of people who were on ‘American Idol,’” Miss Davis, 24, told AP in an interview, “but not all of them are getting lead roles.”

Miss Davis will play Effie Melody White — the role made famous by Jennifer Holliday, who was awarded the Tony for best actress in a musical — in the “Dreamgirls” revival. It will be staged in San Jose and Sacramento, Calif., and Seattle early next year.

With a clean slate and a new gig, Miss Davis defends her record.

“I disclosed that I posed in lingerie on an adult Web site to pay my tuition for college,” she says. “I told them that in November, and it wasn’t a problem. In February, they decided to kick me off of the show.”

Jack and Diane

With “Something’s Gotta Give” topping the box office, there could be more little ditties starring Jack and Diane.

Diane Keaton told Newsday that she and co-star Jack Nicholson may work together again but splashed cold water on rumors that the two were an item in real life.

“I love Jack,” Miss Keaton said. “Words can’t describe how amazing that guy is, on every level, in every possible way.

“We used to talk on the set about the fact that for sure we’re going to be doing a series so we can be together all the time, since it doesn’t look like we were fated to be together in the other way.”

‘Red Dawn’ redux

Astute news watchers will have noticed in the extensive coverage of the capture of Saddam Hussein the U.S. military’s allusions to the movie “Red Dawn,” directed in 1984 by the staunch anti-communist John Milius.

There was the obvious: The operation that nabbed Saddam was dubbed Red Dawn.

Then there was the not-so-obvious: The two farm huts on the rural compound where Saddam was found were called Wolverine 1 and Wolverine 2, references to the name used by the stouthearted young resistors (as portrayed by Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell and Charlie Sheen) who battle the Soviets in the movie.

For those wondering where the term spider hole came from — yes, that’s from “Red Dawn,” too.

Because some on the political left are hard at negative spin in the wake of the dramatic capture, we thought we would revisit the reviews of Mr. Milius’ original “Red Dawn.”

Here are two we found on the Rotten Tomatoes Web site.

Janet Maslin of the New York Times harrumphed: “To any sniveling lily-livers who suppose that John Milius, having produced ‘Uncommon Valor,’ directed ‘Conan the Barbarian’ and written ‘Apocalypse Now,’ has already reached the pinnacle of moviemaking machismo, a warning: Mr. Milius’s ‘Red Dawn’ is more rip-roaring than anything he has done before.”

Marjorie Baumgarten of the Austin Chronicle, in a similar tone, writes: “This is the kind of teen movie that only an inspired but gun-crazy director like John Milius could make. The premise has the communists landing in Middle America, and it’s then up to a bunch of high school jocks and weekend hunters to save the day for God and country.”

Compiled by Scott Galupo from staff, wire and Web reports.

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