Gypsies go up against 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', and other news

CURSES! Sarah Michelle Gellar, beware. One group has a sharpened stake to pick with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. America’s Gypsies believe that tales of their people casting curses on Buffy are perpetuating negative stereotypes. Roma, as Gypsies prefer to be called, ”are real people facing real problems,” says Romani-American scholar Ian Hancock, who represents the Roma before the U.N. ”The media cultivate…and exploit the fictional image of the Gypsy.” So far, the group has taken no action, but there’s talk of a letter-writing campaign. Buffy‘s producers, meanwhile, defend the show. ”A Gypsy curse is a classic device used throughout time,” says series creator Joss Whedon. And some Roma actually have kind words for Buffy — or at least for the show’s recently deceased resident Gypsy, Jenny Calendar: ”It was nice that she was smart,” says filmmaker Tom Merino, ”and a babe and a half.” — Zack Stentz

THE GOOD BOOK It was enough to make Oliver Stone stand and cheer. It’s the moment in Good Will Hunting when boy genius Matt Damon breaks a moody diatribe to praise the populist left-wing political text A People’s History of the United States: 1492-1992, by Howard Zinn. ”That book will knock you on your ass,” he tells therapist Robin Williams. Coscreenwriter Damon’s nod to the radical historian isn’t surprising, given that the two once lived on the same Newton, Mass., street. Damon’s family, in fact, is still friendly with the Zinns. Meanwhile, thanks to the film, sales of the book ”have increased considerably,” says Hillary Parssinen of HarperCollins, History‘s publisher, who says no exact figure is available. So, too, has demand for Zinn, 75. A spokesperson for the lecturer bureau Speak Out says ”the phone has been ringing off the hook.” But family friendships aside, Zinn thinks he knows the real reason History made it into the script: ”He’s paying me back for all the cookies we gave him when he was a kid.” — ZS

ETC. Yet another story about cashing in on Titanic mania: The Englewood Theatre, a revival house in Independence, Mo., recently packed ’em in for showings of 1958’s A Night to Remember. As the only screen in the U.S. to officially show Night, the Englewood hit paydirt. Says Wade Williams, one of the owners of the 700-seat venue: ”We did four to five times our usual business.”