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Carrie Underwood Makes The Most Of Her Pregnant Belly

Pregnant bellies make for the perfect snack holders, just ask Carrie Underwood.

Underwood is expecting her first child, a boy, with husband Mike Fisher. On Thursday night, the country superstar shared a photo with her 4 million Twitter followers, revealing she's putting her growing belly to good use.

The 31-year-old has said that pregnancy is a "different" feeling for her.

"I'll just walk by a mirror, and I'll just ... I forget [that I'm pregnant] and then I'll see myself and I just start laughing," she told Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb on the "Today" show in December. "My body's not mine right now."

Curiosity Killed the Cat, But It Made Brian Grazer the Super-producer He Is Today

"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious," said Albert Einstein.

•Simon & Schuster is bringing out, in April, a little book for young people who adore movies and want to work in making them. Or for anybody of any age who is still ambitious. It's not just for young adults. (I find that most people have a movie inside them and will talk endlessly about it if you just let them. They invariably want to cast a star in their imagined movie before they even have a screenplay.)

•THIS book is by film producer Brian Grazer, with help from Charles Fishman, titled A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life.

Brian Grazer is the man who brought us Splash... A Beautiful Mind ... Apollo 13... Arrested Development too many accomplishments to mention all of them. He is professionally partnered with the equally important Ron Howard. What's more, Grazer is the guy with the funny, gelled, standing-up-straight hair. You can instantly identify him!

His book doesn't pretend to be anything it isn't. Brian tells us in the first pages why CURIOSITY is the central ingredient in a successful life, or in any story-telling. (And movies are just story tellers.) He sets out very simply to give us great examples. He opens with the tale of himself -- a young nobody -- overhearing a conversation of no apparent import, but his curiosity compelled him to follow up. This then, made him a success, when combined with ambition, imagination, drive, luck, etc.

The book is straight-forward and full of great advice for anyone trying to rise and shine. You don't have to try to become a movie producer. In its own way, the book could be a guide for anyone with ambition, nerve and common sense. But first comes curiosity.

Brian's story is of how he rose via looking, asking and delivering packages and screenplays, etc. in the show biz world. He thus, became one of movie-dom's big success stories. It's a tale of curiosity leading the way. His chapter on running into important people and forcing them to listen to his questions is priceless. He endured some mighty "put downs," but he kept his curiosity.

This is an easy-to-read unpretentious highly professional memoir. And, there's the hair.

Yes. Well, aren't you curious about his hairdo? If that doesn't pique your curiosity -- what does?

Even in these days of changing the ways movies are made, or getting them to the public, or getting them to not be stolen, or whatever else ensues that signifies big changes in the way we see the films we do...well, curiosity is the priceless ingredient. I thoroughly enjoyed this book about how to succeed. Most of us already know too much about how to fail!

•You can't keep me from loving movies and the Academy Awards that promote them.

I think in the year 2014 we were served up a lot of films, actors, screenwriters and directors that were first-rate!

I went to the Kips Bay Theater on 2nd Avenue and 32nd Street, to see Paddington, with an audience full of "other" children. The coming attractions of stuff that would appeal and be suitable for children ran first and I was startled by the volume, noise and implied violence and destruction. These snippets were presented so un-realistically fast that they disillusioned me. (It seems most children's fare these days has gotten more downright frightening than I knew.)

But happily, the main feature was Studio Canal's Paddington. And it's not just for kids! This film about a Peruvian bear who ends up in London is just totally adorable and for anybody of any age.

Its human star, Hugh Bonneville, is the familiar aristocratic father from Downton Abbey. How they did the bear himself is a miracle, partly because of his human facial characteristics and his voice, supplied by Ben Whishaw. (He is the actor from the last few James Bond films, playing Q.)

Everything about Paddington is splendid upscale entertainment, especially Nicole Kidman as a blonde villain. (This actress will attempt anything!)

I just can't rave enough for Paddington's unusual talents.

Suffice it to say, it is great -- for young, old, nice, naughty and crotchety. The audience of babies, many under 3, that I saw it with, sat transfixed through the entire movie.

Highly recommended for all the family.

•TONIGHT! At 54 Below in Manhattan. The great Sally Kellerman, Oscar nominated for M*A*S*H and a welcome screen presence always, will perform her new cabaret offering, A Little Jazz, A Little Blues, A Little Rock and Roll. In case you don't know it, Sally was a singer before she was an actress, signing her first recording contract with Verve at age 18. But movie success somewhat side-tracked her warbling, though music has always played a major part in her life.

Kellerman is busy! She's up for an Emmy, for the IFC series Maron, and she has been so effective recently on daytime's "The Young and Restless," that the producers are trying to figure out how to bring her back from the dead! (Her character was dying, and then did indeed pass beyond this vale of tears. But in the soap opera world, death is nothing more than an evil twin, a hospital body switch, or somebody's fantasy. On soaps, nobody goes quietly into that good night. Generally, they come back, quite annoyed.)

Call 646-476-3551 for info about Sally's appearance at 54 Below.

•SPEAKING of music, I called my friend Liz Rosenberg, who has long repped the likes of Stevie Nicks, Cher, Michael Buble and but of course, Madonna. So, what will The Big M sing on the upcoming Grammy telecast?

Liz could not reveal, but she did say: "Madonna just shot a video for the first single from her Rebel Heart album. It's 'Living for Love' and we did it in Brooklyn. Lots of gorgeous men and incredible dancing and she looked very sexy. But I think the most important thing was how much fun she was having!" (Liz R. and I agree that Madonna needs more fun. Really. The woman never relaxes!) "Living for Love" will be released February 12. The album lands in March.

Off the beaten path of Liz R.'s music repping, she has a new client, hockey star P.K. Subban. "He's a great guy, and it's something exciting and different."

’50 Shades Of Gay,’ Written By Chicago Blues Songwriters, Aims For LGBT-Inclusive Message

Chicago-based blues musicians Terry Abrahamson and Derrick Procell hope their new ditty spreads a message of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality while also hitting "the right note between lighthearted and serious."

Although its title is a winky nod to the bestselling book, "50 Shades of Gay" recalls the struggles of the LGBT community while also celebrating its more recent victories.

"Kisses in the dark, surrounded by a wall of shame/Living for a love they said could never speak its name," Procell croons in the song. "And we're more than daddies in leather, or the girls on the golf course tee/We are the CEOs and the FBI, even the GOP."

The accompanying video was shot in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Procell told The Huffington Post that he and Abrahamson (a Grammy Award winner for his work for Muddy Waters) hope that '50 Shades of Gay" will eventually be recorded by a popular artist who will bring the tune in the mainstream.

"In my heart of hearts, my dream is to have a cast of all-star LGBT artists -- Elton [John], Melissa {Etheridge], Lady Gaga, Adam Lambert -- doing the song a la 'We Are The World,'" he said. "Hey, a fella can dream, right?"

Take a look at "50 Shades of Gay" above.

Big Hero 6 Producer Roy Conli Reflects on His First-Ever Academy Award Nomination

After Disney Tangled made its theatrical debut back in November of 2010, Roy Conli thought that there was no way to top the experience that this veteran producer had just had on that Walt Disney Animation Studios production.


"I honestly thought that Tangled was going to be my Disney legacy. I mean, we faced so many technical challenges on that movie. Scenes where we had 45,000 lanterns floating in the air to Rapunzel's 70 feet of hair. Not to mention that we reinvented WDAS' entire CG production pipeline while we were working on this movie. Which meant that we weren't getting any images on Tangled that we could really use in the finished film 'til March of 2010. Which was less than eight months before this movie was supposed to be released to theaters," Roy recalled during a recent phone interview.

But in the end, all those risks that Conli and the Tangled production team took ultimately paid off. This Academy Award-nominated animated feature -- thanks to its strong female protagonist as well as its ambitious storyline (which had some genuine emotional heft) -- represented a big step forward for Walt Disney Animation Studios.

"I remember telling the Tangled crew about grimace moments. How when you watch a movie that you worked on and you think 'Ah, I wish we could have done that scene better,' or 'I wish that we'd had the time or the money to fix that particular story problem.' But when I watched Tangled, I had no grimace moments. I could watch that film over and over and over again. I just love that I got to help Nathan Greno and Bryon Howard reinvent the way Disney does fairytales," Roy enthused.


Now please note Conli's turn of phrase in the above sentence (i.e., "Got to help"). Given that Roy views feature animation as a director-driven medium, he thinks that a producer's main responsibility is to help the director achieve their specific vision for that project.

"That's why -- when Don Hall first came to me to talk about Big Hero 6 -- I have to admit that I found his pitch for this project extremely compelling. The very idea that a boy could first lose his brother and then be repaired by his brother's invention, this robot, that sounded like a story that was really worth telling," Conli admitted.

More to the point, given the maturity of storytelling that WDAS had demonstrated with its recent work on Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen, Roy felt that the studio was now up to the challenges of Big Hero 6. Which -- while it was set in a Marvel-inspired universe -- was still basically a story about grief and loss.


Speaking of Marvel: Given that a tale involved superheroes needs a super-sized setting, Big Hero 6 production designer Paul Felix really pulled out the stops as he was designing San Fransokyo.

"For this film, it was absolutely essential that we have a setting that felt contemporary and lived in. San Fransokyo had to be a city that you recognized but -- at the same time -- still be a suitable background for a comic book fantasy. Paul delivered in spades," Conli enthused. "We've never built a world this big for a Walt Disney Animation Studios production before. How big is San Fransokyo? You could take the worlds that we built for Tangled and Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph and put them all together, and combined they still wouldn't be as big as San Fransokyo is."

And -- of course -- a city of that size needs citizens. Which reminded Roy of a challenge that he faced while producing Disney's June 1996 release, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.


"Given that crowds in the streets of that hand-drawn film were all computer-generated, Hunchback was my first real foray into CG. But we're not rubber stamping crowds anymore. To properly populate San Fransokyo, Disney developed Denizen, which is this system that allows every citizen of the city to be an individual," Conli continued. "That's why -- on Big Hero 6 -- we were able to have a cast of extras which was 750 people deep."

There are lots of other impressive tech-related factoids that Roy could toss out there about Big Hero 6. Take -- for example -- how Disney used one of the biggest rendering farms in animation history while it was producing this motion picture. But by doing something like that, Conli feels that it then somehow diminishes the contribution of the genuinely talented WDAS employees who actually create that tech.

"The technicians who work here at Walt Disney Animation Studios? They're all amazing artists," Conli stated. "That -- to my way of thinking, anyway -- is the real magic of this medium. Chris Williams, Don Hall and I could hand a scene off to guys like Kyle Odermatt and Hank Driskill, who were our visual supervisor and our technical supervisor on Big Hero 6. We could give them a template of where we want them to go with that scene. And then Kyle and Hank would come back and surprise us. Because when we get that scene back, it's always better than you expected it to be."


Of course, a producer has to have a lot of faith and trust in his production team before he'll then let them go off and plus a scene like that. But given that Roy has worked with some of these WDAS staffers for over two decades now, he really trusts in their artistic instincts and abilities.

"That's the really cool thing about working at Walt Disney Animation Studios these days. There's a team here that's kind of grown up together. Don, Chris, myself, Paul Felix our production designer? We've all been here about 20 years. And Paul Briggs, the Head of Story on Big Hero 6 ? I've known Paul since he was an intern. And to see him mature into this phenomenal leader of men, that's just been great," Conli laughed. "Given our collective experience and the excellent work that this Studio did on Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen ... Well, that's why I felt we were up to the challenges of Big Hero 6. I knew that this team could strike just the right balance between this movie's mystery elements, our boy-and-his-robot story and its superhero-sized setting."

Which isn't to say that -- when push came to shove -- that Roy wasn't willing to play the I'm-the-Producer card and then tell his friends-of-twenty-plus-years about specific concerns he had about this motion picture. Take -- for example -- Big Hero 6's central character, Hiro Hamada.


"You have to remember that I had previously produced a movie for Disney -- Treasure Planet -- where that film's central character was a teenage boy. And while I'm extremely proud of the work that Walt Disney Animation Studios did on that particular motion picture, I also have to admit that audiences had trouble warming to Jim Hawkins. Especially during the early parts of Treasure Planet. And I think that one of the issues that audiences had with Jim Hawkins that he spent much of the First Act of that movie being a sullen teen," Conli explained. "Which is why -- during our earliest discussions about Big Hero 6 -- I kept saying over and over again to Don and Chris and Paul that the audience had to love Hiro. Which -- given that we wanted Hiro to be an authentic 14 year-old boy -- wasn't going to be easy. Because as every parent can tell you, most 14 year-olds can be a little surly."

"Of course, what helped us keep Hiro authentically 14 was his relationship with Tadashi. Anyone who has a brother or a sister knows about that special bond that siblings have. How there's no one else on the planet that can tick you off quite as much as your brother or your sister can. But at the same time, there's no one who moves faster to help you once you get in trouble," Roy continued. "That's why I'm especially proud of the work that was done on Hiro and Tadashi's scenes together. I think that those scenes in Big Hero 6 have some of the most authentic depictions of brotherly love that have ever been seen on film."

Which perhaps explains -- as Conli sat watching the work-in-progress version of Big Hero 6 earlier this year -- he once again found himself viewing another grimace-free movie. Or better yet, why Roy was thrilled earlier this month when he learned that this Walt Disney Animation Studios production had been nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar.


"I've worked with the greatest artists in the animation field for the last 22 years. This nomination means the world to me, but more importantly, Big Hero 6's nomination means the world to them. I will always cherish this moment, and share it with the hundreds of artists that have made this dream come true."

Miss Universe Latina Contestants Show Their National Pride In Traditional Costumes

Tributes to national trees, birds, diversity, and ancient civilizations all made their way onto the traditional costumes the Latina Miss Universe contestants donned on stage this week.

Miss Universe 2014 will take place this Sunday and be broadcast live from Doral, FL on NBC at 8 p.m. Venezuela's Gabriela Isler, the reigning title holder, will crown the winner at the end of the three hour telecast.

Ahead of the big night, the 88 beauty queens have already showed their national pride in their traditional garb. Take a look at the 21 Latina contestants' traditional costumes below.

If you're curious to see how these ladies did against their competition, check out more traditional costumes from the 63rd Miss Universe pageant:

Sam Smith Reportedly Splits From Boyfriend Jonathan Zeizel

Just weeks after their romantic Australian vacation, singer Sam Smith and boyfriend Jonathan Zeizel have reportedly called it quits.

The 22-year-old Grammy nominee, who is currently in the midst of a U.S. tour, seemed to hint at an apparent split with an emotional Instagram post:

Many have interpreted Smith's words at a Jan. 20 performance in Toronto as an implying that he and Zeizel had gone their separate ways, too. In the middle of the concert, he introduced his song "Good Thing" by telling the crowd, "This is about a very similar thing I had to do today with someone I've been seeing."

"Good Thing," a cut off Smith's smash debut album, "In The Lonely Hour," features lyrics which reference a breakup: "Too much of a good thing won't be good for long/Although you made my heart sing, to stay with you would be wrong."

The Mirror cites a new interview with The Sun, which quotes Smith as saying, “Hopefully I will find someone soon and when I do I think it will be a bit more difficult to sing songs because I will want to sing happy songs."

In the interview, said to have been conducted following his Toronto performance, Smith added, "Right now when I’m on stage I feel like it is good for me, it is like therapy every night. The music comforts me.”

Smith, who nabbed six Grammy nominations in December, confirmed last month that he was in the "very, very, very early days" of a relationship with an extra he'd met on the set of his "Like I Can" video.

He went public with Zeizel, a dancer and model, in a series of cozy Instagram snaps over the holidays. The couple even re-enacted the iconic scene from "Titanic" in one image.

H/T Towleroad

Don Lemon Dances With A Robot On CNN

CNN's Don Lemon has delivered yet another incisive interview -- this time with a robot named Meccanoid.

During a segment promoting the third season of Morgan Spurlock's CNN original series, "Inside Man," Lemon strolled over to the edge of the set to sit down with the subject of one of Spurlock's new episodes.

Lemon and Meccanoid high-fived and shared some light banter, but things really started to heat up when Spurlock asked his "robot friend" if he wanted to dance.

"I enjoy hip-hop," responded Meccanoid, proceeding to pump out some pretty sweet beats from his speakers.

Lemon was clearly into the tunes, raising his hands in the air and bobbing his head up and down in a motion that looked remarkably like dancing.

"Who needs another human in the house?" he asked before taking Meccanoid by the hand to go for a walk. "Let's go, bro."

H/T Mediaite

On Whitney: When ‘The Bubble’ Bursts


Watched a snippet of Whitney -- the TV movie -- this weekend. The one directed by Angela Bassett.

The fact that I only watched a snippet is the only "review" you need. It was just too Lifetime for me.

Parts did ring true, though. The coke handoff at her birthday party, for one. I have friends who knew Whitney back when she was modeling. And they told me that sweet young petticoated thing singin' about wanting to dance with somebody had some pretty nasty "habits" long before "Bobby B."

Mostly, it reminded me of why I got out of the celebrity fast lane so many years ago, to keep from skidding out of control like Whitney and other famous friends.

Bill Maher always talks about the "bubble" some rabid conservatives live in, where they can make up a fantasy about Obama or anyone else and never be challenged or questioned no matter how bat shit crazy that fantasy may be.

Celebrities are the original "bubble people." Whitney was trapped in one. As if to prove that, one of her best friends looked Piers Morgan in the eye a few weeks after her death and said that because he'd never seen Whitney do drugs:"Whitney didn't do drugs."

I know he needed to cling to that. I bet he still does.

I always tell up and coming feature writers who will be dealing with celebrities, especially musicians, how the bubble is created. I knew lots of bands before they became icons. And every single time, I saw the same pattern.

At first, I was one o' the boys. I could walk into their rooms, backstage wherever I wanted with ease. In fact, they were insulted if I didn't "do the hang."

It's a heady time, when they're full of hope and frustration that it's taking so long. And they need someone with a keen eye and ear to help them tweak things a bit -- and to help carry equipment and wardrobe.

As the first sign of serious "buzz," they hire a real publicist and/or manager to take over from the old friend, wife or other family member. Reporters for major dailies and big name mags still get tickets and passes. Free lancers and writers for "lesser" publications may not.

When the "buzz" becomes serious bidness, the new manager hires a road manager along with newer and bigger bodyguards. And when they have their first real bona fide hit, the road manager and bodyguards will become very, very picky about who gets "access."

This is not necessarily for security's sake. It is done because the new staff fears that old friends who know the band well may be a threat to their status. So the band is usually unaware that this is happening, and may be truly perplexed by the "disappearance" of those early friends.

But the absence of those old friends will be neatly explained by the "bubble builders." And the stars that fall for those stories soon find themselves surrounded by sycophants who see, hear and speak no evil, ever.

Until the star dies or begins to fade. At which time those same sycophants will speak all manner of evil about the celeb to anyone with a mic, camera or notepad.

There is a better way.

I learned it from the best "bubble buster" I've ever met: James "JY" Young of Styx.

We met early in both of our careers, both of us children of Chicago's Southside. And I wasn't a fan at first.

But even at the height of his fame, when the band was making the critics fume by selling out huge stadiums and collecting platinum albums one after the other, JY was -- and still is -- a working class hero to me.

His Midwestern values have never wavered -- he had help with that. Like most of the original band members, he married before Styx "clicked." And the wives very often traveled with them. You don't trash a lot of rooms when the wives are along for the ride. Or Styx didn't, anyway.

They're more like a family business. In fact, back in the day, and I'm sure it's the same now, crew members got benefits and salaries even when Styx wasn't on the road. So they don't have to look around for work to make ends meet between tours.

To make all that happen, Styx will probably tour 'til they just can't crawl onstage anymore. And it really is mostly to keep The Business going, they still get stoked playing the songs those fans have been coming to hear for more than 40 years.

And I like them now -- they're not the "Lady, when I'm with you I'm smiling" Styx anymore. This Styx kicks ass.

But after the "meet and greet" some fans pay big bucks for, there's still just friends and family. And "Uncle" JY loves to find a quiet place to offer my daughter valuable advice about life, love and the pursuit of a career that doesn't feel like a job.


My daughter with "Uncle" JY

Once it was me he tutored, back when I was a 'way too young thing just getting started as a rock critic. Whenever I was in danger of getting into a "compromising" position, I'd think not "What would JY do?" but "What would JY think?"

We lost track of each other when I quit the Chicago Sun Times to move West. And when I drove to New Mexico to see him for the first time in decades, he held up the show, texting to see if I'd gotten my tickets and passes and found my seat -- and where, exactly, my seat was.

More recently, when I became seriously ill, he offered sound advice culled from the medical research he'd done for wife Suzie, who had a catastrophic brain hemorrhage a few years before.

So, I kept wishing, as I watched that little snippet this weekend, that Whitney'd had a JY to talk to. Or to text her every hour on the hour trying to guide her safely "home."

I just hope she's resting peacefully now. Bubble free, at last.

Photo credit: "Whitney" publicity photo by Florian Schneider. James Young photo by author and used with Young's permission.

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