- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Fox-TV show “American Idol” makes news almost daily but nothing like the kind that followed the screening here last week of the documentary film about its Afghan counterpart, a television talent show called “Afghan Star.” The film of that name traces the fortunes of contestants, some of whom literally risk their lives to enter.

It turns out this was the case as well for the Afghan presenter of the program, reports our very own Ann Geracimos, recently returned from a semester teaching English in Kabul. Daoud Siddiqi speaks out defiantly against the Taliban in the movie in his prominent role as an employee of one of Afghanistan’s most popular commercial stations, Tolo TV. As a result, he has apparently become a target for extremists aligned with conservative forces in that beleaguered country.

In January, appearing at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, where “Afghan Star” won two awards, Mr. Siddiqi requested political asylum in the U.S. On June 17 at the Silverdocs Documentary Festival, the film’s director-producer Havana Marking, a British journalist and filmmaker, announced that his request had been approved.

Mr. Siddiqi told the audience in halting English, with the help of an interpreter, that his family had asked him to leave home for his own safety. “I’m a very poor, simple, regular person in this country, but I’m happy. I need freedom,” he said. “I’m very proud of what we did, but sadly it led me to be here.”

Currently residing in Virginia, he is keeping a low profile and is not expected to participate in promotional publicity for the film, which opens in Washington on July 17.

Go figure

How does MSNBC anchor Norah O’Donnell stay so slim after giving birth to three children in less than two years?

“I don’t have time to eat that much,” says the mother of 2-year-old twins Grace and Henry and 1-year-old Riley, sporting a form-fitting black dress at a recent soiree.

Maybe that is about to change. She tells us her husband, restaurateur Geoffrey Tracy, will preview his third Chef Geoff’s restaurant in Tysons Corner with a private party Wednesday evening. The rest of the world can check out the menu when the eatery opens to the general public on Thursday.

Her fellow news babe, Lara Logan, a correspondent for CBS who had her first child in January, also still rocks a svelte body. Her secret is simple, but hard for us mere mortals to understand. “It’s luck,” she told us with batted eyelashes.

Don’t think the ladies are the only journos who feel the need to keep up appearances. Daily Beast contributor Richard Wolffe tells us that he tries to “look darker so my teeth look whiter” for his many appearances as a political analyst on MSNBC.

What’s his preferred tanning method? “It’s called the sun,” Mr. Wolffe teased.

“Yeah, we like to play golf with John Boehner on the weekends,” his friend and NBC correspondent Luke Russert added.

Wingin’ it

Don’t expect a spinoff of the hit NBC show “The West Wing.” Lawrence O’Donnell, who was an Emmy-winning producer and writer on the drama about life inside the White House, says, “I think the real White House is more interesting than any fictional one.”

c To contact Stephanie Green or Elizabeth Glover, e-mail [email protected] washingtontimes.com.

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