The archly hilarious Mo Rocca, best known for his work on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," is going semi-serious but not really with the debut of "Smoking Gun TV" tonight on Court TV. He promises that the show will continue the Web site's tradition of debunking celebrity mythology and breaking important news by posting original documents (like the backstage demands of stars and the mug shots of famous people). One of the segments previewed on the "Today Show" this morning had Mo himself being made over into a likeness of Nick Nolte after his drunk-driving arrest. When asked if there was any dirt to be dug up on Mr. Rocca, he said that he had already confessed to killing a man so he had nothing to hide. This is scary, important stuff, folks. (N.Y. Times)
Johnny Depp is nothing if not versatile. He's played a guy with scissors for hands, a flaming director and a pirate. Now it seems he'll be offered the classic role of Willy Wonka in a film based on "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," directed by Tim Burton. Too bad author Roald Dahl isn't around to see this one, since he didn't like the 1971 version and this one's bound to be good. (BBC)
Ann Coulter had lunch with George Gurley of the New York Observer and told him that she had a great time on her book tour in the real America -- the places that aren't New York or L.A. But she had strong words for her experience being searched at the airports, telling Gurley that she wished more attention was paid to "swarthy Middle Eastern-looking men with smoke pouring out of their trousers" than to her underwear. But Ann, your underwear is fascinating. Boxers or briefs? (N.Y. Observer)
I must acknowledge a former teacher of mine (and former curator at the Museum of Modern Art) who died last week, and I do so here because I hope readers of this column will read some of the things he wrote about art. Kirk Varnedoe, who died of cancer at age 57, was famous for giving impassioned, precise lectures on art history that could turn even the most distracted undergraduate into a lover of Rodin, or quiet forever the man standing in front of a Jackson Pollock who was tempted to say, "My kid could do that." He made art important because he treated it as a necessity of life. And he made the artist's creative vision a thing to cherish. He once wrote: "Modern art writ large presents one cultural expression of a larger political gamble on the human possibility of living in change and without absolutes, and also on the individual human consciousness, for all its flaws and deforming optics, as our prime resource and treasure." (NY Times)
-- Karen Croft
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Dear John Ashcroft: Al Franken is sorry he wrote to you asking for your story about abstinence for a book he claimed he was writing about abstinence-only sex education called "Savin' It!" And he's particularly sorry he wrote you said letter on letterhead from Harvard University's Shorenstein Center for Press and Politics at the Kennedy School of Government, where he was recently a fellow.
Franken foe Fox News is reporting that the satirical humorist has now felt compelled to write another letter to Ashcroft and others he petitioned back in June, this time apologizing and explaining that the Shorenstein Center had nothing to do with his original note asking them to share their personal tales of forgoing fornication.
"Don't be afraid to share a moment when you were tempted to have sex, but were able to overcome your urges through willpower and strength of character. Be funny!" Franken wrote in his original letter. "Did a young woman every think you were homosexual just because you wouldn't have sex with her? Be serious! Were you ever taunted and made to feel bad or 'uncool' because of your choice? But most of all, be real. Kids can sense a phony a mile away."
But, alas, the people who wrote Franken back with their stories, which he now says he won't share with the world, apparently couldn't.
Best of the Rest
Page Six: Mayor Bloomberg and his girlfriend, Diana Taylor, are rumored to be living together. Says keen-eyed Taylor neighbor, "I used to see her all the time in the Food Emporium. But I haven't see her there lately"; Nicolas Cage back with "ex, ex-girlfriend," model Kristen Zang, back on speaking terms with Lisa Marie Presley; O.J. houseguest Kato Kaelin gives Kobe Bryant advice: "Don't be seen anywhere that could be negative, i.e.: bars, nightclubs, golfing with O.J. Don't say you're looking for 'the real rapist' ... And for heaven's sake, be nice to your houseguests -- you want them to stay loyal. P.S. Did you get my résumé for that cabana-boy position? I could start immediately."
Rush and Molloy: Bodybuilding guru Joe Weider says tabloid honcho David Pecker told him, "We've done enough on Arnold. We're going to lay off of him. We're not going to pull up any dirt on him." Pecker denies it; Bonnie Fuller jumped to American Media after company offered her a half-million-dollar raise, stock equity; Al Franken, Bill Maher, Harry Shearer and Larry David hold comedy fundraiser for Arianna Huffington's gubernatorial campaign; Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston move into $13.5 million Beverly Hills home; Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore seen "serenading their boyfriends," Justin Timberlake and Fabrizio Moretti, on a double date in NYC, dancing on banquettes; Marc Anthony and wife Dayanara Torres Delgado welcome second son, Ryan Anthony; Demi Moore and daughters temporarily shacking up with Ashton Kutcher.
Jeannette Walls' Scoop: Madonna said to have bought $300,000 L.A. home for her Kabbalah teacher and to have plunked down $5 million for the building of a Kabbalah center near her London home; WeLoveArnold.com posts following Schwarzenegger quote about deciding to run: "It's the most difficult [decision] I've made in my entire life except the one I made in 1978 when I decided to get a bikini wax"; Michael Jackson fans are petitioning for removal of scene from "Scary Movie 3" that pokes fun at Jackson's old child molestation charges. <p align="right" -- Amy Reiter