- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2008

Big bucks for lighting up

Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Spencer Tracy, Bob Hope, Henry Fonda and other stars of Hollywood’s “golden age” were paid millions of dollars in today’s money for promoting cigarettes, a recently published study says.

Once-secret tobacco-industry documents show that American Tobacco Co., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Liggett & Myers Tobacco Co. and other major cigarette makers of the time paid lavish sums to A-list stars to endorse cigarette brands in newspaper advertisements, Agence France-Presse reports.

Almost 200 stars, including two-thirds of the top 50 box-office stars from the late 1930s and 1940s, took part in the campaigns, praising brands for taste or smoothness, for providing relaxation on a movie set or - as in the case of John Wayne, who eventually died of cancer - helping the actor’s voice.

In 1937-38 alone, one company, American Tobacco, paid stars $218,750, or $3.2 million in today’s values, to promote a single brand, Lucky Strike, the study found.

The testimonials often were timed to the launch of a new movie, which was mentioned in the ad in the same way that fast-food chains and soft-drink companies today tie in their products with blockbuster films.

The document trail stretches from 1927 - starting with a push by Al Jolson of “The Jazz Singer” fame - to 1951, when TV replaced cinema as the best promotional vehicle. In one documented case, the Lucky Strike name or jingle occurred 268 times in 135 minutes of broadcast time, the equivalent of once every 30 seconds when averaged out.

The research appears in Tobacco Control, a journal published in Britain, AFP reports.

Kidman praises ‘miracle’ waters

Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman says swimming in Australian Outback waterfalls may promote fertility and might have contributed to her unexpected pregnancy over the past year.

According to Associated Press, the Aussie actress, 41, who gave birth to daughter Sunday Rose in July, said she and six other women who swam in the waters of a small Outback town during production of the epic romance “Australia” became pregnant.

“I never thought that I would get pregnant and give birth to a child, but it happened on this movie,” Miss Kidman told the Australian Women’s Weekly in an exclusive interview for the magazine’s 75th-anniversary edition, released Wednesday. “Seven babies were conceived out of this film, and only one was a boy. There is something up there in the Kununurra water because we all went swimming in the waterfalls, so we can call it the fertility waters now.”

“Australia,” directed by Baz Luhrmann, was filmed in Kununurra, a small town in far northern Western Australia state. The film, which follows the story of a noblewoman on a cattle drive in Australia during World War II, is set for release in November.

Hef’s crumbling harem

Hugh Hefner’s fantasy world appears to be falling apart, the New York Post reports.

His youngest “girlfriend,” Kendra Wilkinson, 23, has been hooking up with Philadelphia Eagle Hank Baskett, the newspaper says. Now, it seems his No. 1 gal pal is looking for an out, too. Tongues wagged when Holly Madison, 28, was pictured with notorious ladies’ man Criss Angel - and now she tells Us magazine her relationship with Mr. Hefner will end.

“I want to be with somebody who I can be married to, and have kids,” she says, noting that Mr. Hefner, 82 - who is still legally married to Kimberley Conrad, 45, mother of two of his four children - nixed nuptials. In fact, he told Us, “That’s not much in the cards for me.” As for Miss Madison’s fling with Mr. Angel, Mr. Hefner said with a smirk, “One hopes… that when she starts dating, she’ll have better taste.”

Only Bridget Marquardt, who turns 35 today and is married to a man in Ohio, has stayed loyal while developing a show for the Travel Channel, the New York Post says.

• Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports.

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