- The Washington Times - Monday, November 14, 2005

Getting into Gere

Richard Gere went door to door with Albuquerque, N.M., sheriff’s officers who were checking on registered sex offenders for insight into a role he will play in the forthcoming movie “The Flock.”

He also interviewed Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, a former child sex crimes detective.

“None of us knew what to expect, especially from someone as big a Hollywood star as Richard Gere,” Mr. White told Associated Press.

“The women commented on how good-looking he was, and everyone else just thought he was a down-to-earth, nice guy,” Mr. White said.

In the film, Mr. Gere will play a federal agent tracking a missing girl he believes was abducted by a sex offender he is investigating.

Ad it up to here

The Writers Guild of America fired a shot across the bow of TV networks and Hollywood producers yesterday. Its beef: the proliferation of stealthy consumer-product placement in movies and on TV shows.

“Along with being asked to create memorable stories and characters, our writers are being told to perform the function of ad copywriter, but to disguise this as storytelling,” a WGA policy paper says, according to Reuters news agency.

The union wants to establish new guidelines on the practice — and actors want a piece of the action.

Screen Actors Guild president Alan Rosenberg said, “It is time for producers to work with artists on this issue, and the best way to do that is to establish a cooperative code of conduct that will protect the artist, the viewing public and advertiser-supported, free television.”

Counting country

Along with releases by Kenny Chesney and Big & Rich, the most anticipated country album this fall might be Carrie Underwood’s “Some Hearts.”

Miss Underwood, 22, won the “American Idol” crown in May, and the country music industry is hoping she’ll help reverse a 10 percent slide in sales this year, according to AP.

“Look at all the exposure she’s had. You’d expect it to be a lot like Kelly Clarkson,” said Bill Kennedy, vice president of sales for Capitol Records Nashville.

‘Rent’ control

After “Rent” won a Tony Award for best musical and a Pulitzer Prize in 1996, its young cast — most returning for the big-screen version, which opens Nov. 23 — was hot. But Taye Diggs, who plays turncoat landlord Benjamin “Benny” Coffin III, felt left out.

“There was a good-natured race — who was going to get what great gig next,” Mr. Diggs, 33, tells the New York Daily News. “But for some reason, it wasn’t happening for me. So when I got ‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back,’ I did a victory lap around the Nederlander Theater.”

As it did for many (including his wife, Tony-winner Idina Menzel, who also reprises her stage role in the film), “Rent” helped jump-start Mr. Diggs’ career. Before that, he had been performing at the Tokyo Disneyland in “Carousel.” When he auditioned to play Benny, he was working at a Pizzeria Uno on New York’s Upper East Side. He went on to TV’s “Ally McBeal” and the Oscar-winning film “Chicago.” The only problem with “Rent,” he says, is that as the villain, he can’t partake in the fun onstage.

“It was tough — during the ‘La Vie Boheme’ number, which is a party of a scene, Benny sits on the side and watches disapprovingly. I always thought that was a drag.”

What’s in a name?

The late Frank Zappa’s daughter Moon Unit tops a list of celebrity offspring with the most bizarre names.

Miss Zappa’s brother, Dweezil, also made the top 10 in a poll conducted by the British Web site www.getlive.co.uk.

Other “winners” include Apple Martin, infant daughter of Coldplay frontman Chris Martin and actress Gwyneth Paltrow; Misty Kyd, Texas singer Sharleen Spiteri’s daughter; Blur bassist Alex James’ son, Geronimo; and Heavenly Hirani Tiger Lily, daughter of the late INXS singer Michael Hutchence and Paula Yates.

Goin’ to the Dogg

Rappers Lil’ Jon and Ice-T may hawk their own energy drinks, but Snoop Dogg hopes to upstage them both with his new line of hot dogs, the New York Post reports.

The laid-back hip-hopper is lending his name to Foot Long Snoop Doggs, which will feature a wrapper that bears Snoop’s likeness, reports aversion.com.

Compiled by Scott Galupo from Web and wire reports.

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