Plus, Russell Crowe does birthday parties, Julia Roberts defends the Bush girls, and more
TASTES LIKE CHICKEN The movie version should be called ”Changing Stories, Biting Dragon.” New accounts of what really happened two weeks ago in the Komodo dragon cage at the Los Angeles Zoo have come forth from both zoo officials and Sharon Stone‘s camp. Jay Kilgore, the reptile keeper who was in the cage with Stone’s husband, San Francisco Chronicle executive editor Phil Bronstein, says it was he who got the lizard to unclamp itself from Bronstein’s toe after one or two seconds by grabbing its neck and yelling at it, contrary to Bronstein’s claim in his own newspaper that he freed himself by prying the dragon’s jaws open with his hands. And while Kilgore credits Stone with having the presence of mind to use a sock as a tourniquet, he says he had to calm her down as she screamed hysterically into her cell phone.
For her part, Stone, who initially did not blame the zoo for the incident, now denounces zoo officials as ”irresponsible” for acceding to the couple’s request to give Bronstein a VIP tour of the cage. She said Kilgore was so stunned by the attack that he was ”paralyzed and unable to do anything to help.” Supporting Stone and Bronstein’s account, Stone publicist Pat Kingsley said, ”He was a war correspondent. He’s used to difficult situations.” Bronstein himself stuck to his story in a Chronicle article on Saturday, noting, ”This was a bizarre accident that became something far larger than it should be. But that’s what happens when a movie star and a dragon are involved.” Yeah, happens all the time.
AUSTIN POWERS Russell Crowe‘s band Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts doesn’t play bat mitzvahs, but one girl has booked them to play at her 15th birthday party. Texas Governor Rick Perry is throwing the birthday barbecue benefit in honor of daughter Sydney on August 18 at Stubb’s BBQ in Austin. The $60 tickets to the event will benefit Austin’s Settlement Home for troubled kids. The Oscar-winning actor and the governor became friends last summer when TOFOG was in town recording its album ”Bastard Life or Clarity” and performing some outdoor dates. Austin’s mayor declared last August 11 ”30 Odd Foot of Grunts Day” and made the Kiwi-born Australian actor an honorary Texan. If you can’t make it to Sydney Perry’s sweet 15 party, you may still be able to catch TOFOG afterwards during the band’s brief U.S. tour.
MARGARITAVILLE As they face charges for underage drinking, Jenna and Barbara Bush have a new ally: Julia Roberts. ”We all need to take a deep breath and think about being a Bush daughter and having that cross to bear. I’d go out and have a couple of drinks too,” she told Time magazine. It’s called booze, Ed.
‘SURVIVOR’ WATCH ”Survivor” host Jeff Probst outlasted the competition at the Seattle International Film Festival, winning the Best Picture award for his directorial debut, ”Finder’s Fee.” It’s a thriller starring Erik Palladino (”ER”) and James Earl Jones, about a struggling street artist who finds a wallet with a $6 million winning lottery ticket inside. Wonder how Richard Hatch or Tina Wesson would have handled that situation….
If CBS is suing Fox for allegedly stealing the ”Survivor” concept for its show ”Boot Camp,” how is the network going to treat Chinese TV producers for their copycat show? Weihan Culture Media, the creator of ”Journey to Shangri-La,” denies that its program was inspired by ”Survivor,” but it does feature 16 men and women of all ages competing in nature challenges in the mountains of southwestern China. Winners are promised not a million bucks but fulfillment of a dream, such as foreign study or starting a business. Losers, presumably, are marched off to a reeducation camps.
TENOR TRACK In its bid to host another telegenic competition, the 2008 Summer Olympics, China spent last week trying to impress the International Olympic Committee by staging some large-scale events, culminating in a concert on Saturday by the Three Tenors inside Beijing’s Forbidden City. Chinese officials enlisted the nation’s top film director, Zhang Yimou (”Raise the Red Lantern,” ”The Road Home”), to stage the concert at the 600-year-old palace, where he had staged the opera ”Turandot” in 1998.
Organizers claimed to have sold out the 30,000 tickets to the show, although there had been public criticism of the prices, which, even at the low end of $60 (some went for as much as $2,000), were still too expensive for ordinary Chinese. In any case, the point was to wow international and Chinese VIPs, who were promised red-carpet treatment as soon as they touched down at the airport. Invitees included Nelson Mandela, Chinese president Jiang Zemin, Chow Yun-Fat and Jackie Chan. Millions of Chinese reportedly watched Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras sing on TV.
Human rights groups, U.S. legislators, and Tibetan exiles have opposed China’s Olympic bid, but organizers managed to pull off the concert without running anyone over with tanks and with Chinese army guards beating and detaining only two people, including a French news service photographer, in Tianenmen Square opposite the palace. Pavarotti has endorsed the bid. ”I think Beijing deserves the Olympics in order to be with all the rest of the world recognized,” the English-challenged singer said on Thursday. The IOC makes its decision on July 13 in Moscow; Beijing is competing against Toronto, Paris, Istanbul, and Osaka.
CASTING CALL John Goodman, Toni Collette, and Bryan Brown will costar in ”Dirty Deeds,” a mob comedy set in 1960s Sydney. Shooting begins Down Under in August….
Oded Fehr, who played the mysterious warrior who helped Brendan Fraser fight the undead in the two ”Mummy” movies, will face more conventional foes when he joins the cast of NBC’s FBI drama ”UC: Undercover” this fall. He’s replacing star Grant Show, whose character will be written out after the first episode. ”This doesn’t happen [often], landing a guy off a $200 million movie,” said series creator Shane Salerno. ”He’s got the rarest of qualities: Women want to be with him and men want to be his best friend.” Plus, he was in ”Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo!”
DINO-SORE It’s been a dangerous week to be a ’70s rocker. Doobie Brothers drummer Mike Hossack, 54, crashed his motorcycle Saturday on the way to the band’s gig at Caesar’s Tahoe in Reno. After surgery, his condition was upgraded from critical to serious. On Wednesday, ex-”Partridge Family” star Danny Bonaduce, 41, suffered a minor head injury when he ran his boat aground in Venice, Calif. Though Bonaduce, a DJ at Los Angeles station Star 98.7, wasn’t seriously hurt, he did $10,000 worth of damage to the boat.
BOX OFFICE REPORT Fast cars and fast women conspired to relieve moviegoers of $41.6 million this weekend, as ”The Fast and the Furious” bested the underperforming Eddie Murphy sequel ”Dolittle 2.” Read all about it in today’s weekend box office report.