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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Alice" waitress Jolene chokes at a restaurant ... you'd think working at Mel's Diner would've turned her off on eating out

 Celia Weston gets a lump in her throat. Could it be Mel's greasy spoon?

The wonderful, terrific, amazing Celia Weston is pure comedic perfection playing Jason Lee's momma Paula in TNT's summer dramedy Memphis Beat. Paula sells cosmetics door-to-door while dispensing motherly advice in her trademark Southern drawl. In this scene from the Aug. 17 episode "Don't Be So Cruel," the former Alice star--she played Southern-fried Jolene Hunnicutt from 1981-85 (replacing the great Diane Ladd, who replaced Polly "Kiss Ma Grits" Hollliday)--chokes on an engagement ring hidden in her soup by Daniel Hugh Kelley from Hardcastle and McCormick! Fortunately, her son comes in for the save. See video below.

Weston has worked steadily, mostly in film, since Mel's Diner closed in 1985. Most recently, she won raves for her brief role in Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz flick Knight and Day. She's had memorable character parts in Flirting with Disaster, The Talented Mr. Ripley, June Bug and Igby Goes Down. Most recently she's appeared in The Extra Man, The Box, Observe and Report (see her video interview below) and she played Mike Delfino's mother in Desperate Housewives.

Here's hoping TNT renews Memphis Beat for a second season. Celia Weston chokes us up in a good way, and we want her down-home humor in our home every week.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bitten by a vampire ... addiction

Guest blog by Heather Willis
Twitter: @twidictedteach

My two favorite Twilight books, Vampire Diaries bag and my Team Damon pillow made from a T-shirt

It all began with a choice. Maybe it wasn’t a choice, exactly, but was actually fated to be.

For years, I had heard my high school students talk about the Twilight series. I never had the urge to read the books, even after my newspaper students wrote reviews about the movies and the books. Team Edward. Team Jacob. What was all the fuss about? Why were people going bonkers over movies and books about a girl, a vampire and a werewolf?

Then the talk was about HBO’s True Blood. Next, it was the CW’s The Vampire Diaries. Why all the vampires? What was the big deal?

Almost a year ago, I got the answer to those questions. Now I can’t get enough, enough of vampires.

Something about the love story of Bella and Edward drew me in. I started with Twilight and within five days had read all four of the books. I even stayed up until 3 a.m. to finish Breaking Dawn, because I had to know how Bella and Edward’s story was going to end. Stephenie Meyer’s portrayal of the characters struck a chord with me and it was an instant affection that I felt for those characters and their stories. I was so drawn into their lives that not only have I read the books, but I have re-read and re-read countless times. I have no doubt that I will continue to re-read them for years to come.

No matter how many times I have read Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, the stories NEVER get old. By reading these books, it was almost like I have become part of the characters’ lives. Not just for me, but for women of all ages, it is so easy to experience their joy … pain … hope … fear … love …and … passion. (Now I am a member of a team. I am Team Edward all the way!)

From that moment that I fell in love with these stories, I craved even more vampires.

The Vampire Diaries, my next love, is the story of vampire brothers, Stefan and Damon (my absolute favorite of all vampires at the moment), their rivalry and their love for the same woman. The evil Damon, as portrayed by the talented and sinfully blue-eyed Ian Somerhalder, made me hate him and fall in love with him instantaneously. Maybe it is Damon’s bad boy persona, maybe it is Somerhalder himself, that appeals to me and so many other Diaries fans. Being able to love and hate Damon at the same time makes me want to cheer him on to become even more wicked, yet I yearn for him to restore his humanity that becoming a vampire had cost him. The show captivates me to the point that when the hour is up it feels as though only a few minutes have passed and it seems like forever before the next episode.

Even though I have read the books based on the series, it is the series that has continued to fuel my vampire passion. My blu ray of The Vampire Diaries season one is thankfully due to ship very soon. Who wouldn’t want to see Somerhalder and Paul Wesley in high definition whenever the mood strikes?

Other books, The House of Night (set in my hometown of Tulsa, Okla.), The Vampire Academy, and Sookie Stackhouse, have also found their way into my collection. Each of these stories has characters that are easy to relate to and to root for, characters who are searching for love and who are so easy to love.

Maybe it is the vampire as a metaphor for the person on the outskirts of society who is longing to find their place in the world. Maybe it is the vampire and its “forbidden” appeal. Maybe it is simply the characters and how their lives are presented in a way to make us want them to live happily ever after, especially since they are going to live “forever.”

As someone on told me, being a fan of vampires isn’t an obsession, even though many on the outside looking in may see it that way. For some of us, loving vampires is a way of life.

Because the Twilight Saga has become to mean so much to me and started my love of all things vampire, my stepmom made me a bracelet with charms to represent the highlights of the series. It is a bracelet that took a lot of time in planning because the charms had to represent as much of the books and as many of the characters as possible.

*A rose, to symbolize Rose, of course
*A dream catcher, for the one Jake gave Bella in the movie New Moon
*A crystal heart, like the one Edward gave Bella
*A star, to represent the state of Texas where Jasper is from
*An apple, to represent the cover of the book Twilight
*A heart, for Esme's "gift" of love
*A Texas flag, (was found after the star was put on :)) to represent Jasper
*A motorcycle, for Bella's adrenaline fix with Jake
*A heart shaped key, since Bella and Edward hold the keys to each other's heart
*An angel, to represent Edward because Bella often says he is more angel than man
*Another heart, well love is a prevailing them in all the books :)
*A pink baby shoe, Renesmee!
*Lion locket, to represent Edward and it has a pic of Bella inside of it
*An engagement ring
*A baseball, this is where James and his hunt for Bella began
*Be Safe, for the note Edward leaves for Bella in her truck
*A wooden wolf, to represent the charm Jake gave Bella for graduation
*Another apple, hey this one sparkles like Edward lol!
*Two forks, for the town of Forks, Washington
*A truck, to represent Bella's Chevy
*A high-heeled shoe, Alice does so love to shop
*A bear, Emmett and the bear, need I say more
*Baseball hat, bat and ball, for Charlie and his love of sports
*Lamb locket, to represent Bella and it has a pic of Edward inside
*A music note, for Bella's lullaby
*Another apple, hey Twilight is where it all began
Coming soon:
*A chess piece, for Breaking Dawn, my favorite of the books
*A medical symbol, for Carlisle

Monday, August 23, 2010

Saturday night dead: Why the Bionic Woman, Shirley Partridge and a onetime-"Alice" waitress are still the boob tube's most dramatic storytellers

Click here for YouTube video of Diane's Celebrity Ghost Story
If home shopping is where celebrities go to die, then the Bio channel is where they breathe new life into their personas by selling tales of the dead.

And my living room is one of millions where Celebrity Ghost Stories gives older stars some newer currency—hello again, appropriately-scarfed Lindsey Wagner and Shirley Jones—spinning accounts of the non-living every Saturday night. (Finally, another show to take the "Saturday Night Dead" heat off the comatose SNL.)

Take it from me—these vintage, award-winning actors, actresses and storytellers know how to weave a yarn. (Carrie Fisher and John Waters, anybody?) Perhaps this is due to the oft-superior quality of the storytelling material performers were given back in the day. But that's another topic. 

Or is it?

Last night, I sat riveted as Golden Globe-winning actress Diane Ladd—mother of Laura Dern and a onetime sassy, singing waitress on TV's Alice, for you pop culture junkies—told her ghost story with more drama and grit than Mel could shake a spatula at. (Or kiss, for those of you waiting for a Flo reference. Speaking of bizarro otherworlds, how freaky is it that Ladd's greasy spoon server Belle in 1980 replaced Polly Holiday's Southern-fried, spun-off Flo—the very character Ladd originated in Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning and sitcom-inspiring 1974 film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore? [Ladd received an Oscar nod for her movie portrayal and a Golden Globe for her TV performance.])

Anyhow, Ladd was giving the performance of a lifetime—Martha Mitchell's, that is—during her Ghost Stories segment. Mitchell, wife of former Nixon attorney general John Mitchell, died in 1976 after Washington D.C. and the press dismissed her as a crazy drunk when she came forward to expose some serious Watergate secrets. (Her account and reputation would be validated and vindicated after her death.) Fifteen minutes after Mitchell died—at exactly 4:45 a.m. on Memorial Day, Ladd says—she appeared as a "gold vision" in Ladd's apartment at the Watergate Hotel, the actress recounts.

(Here's a scary scene from Diane's Oscar-nominated role in the 1990 film Wild at Heart.)

Later that day, Ladd claims Mitchell, this time identifying herself as "Martha," again visited her during a live performance at the Kennedy Center. Ladd was playing the lead role in Lu Ann Hampton Laverty Oberlander. "There's 1500 people there, waiting for me to speak my lines," Ladd says, "so I take a breath and before I can speak, someone else speaks. She says, 'Chose you... Must... Martha...' Then silence, and everybody out there's waiting for me to speak so I had to go on with the play."

The following morning, Ladd appeared on Maury Povich's acclaimed D.C-based talk show Panorama. Afterwards, Povich informed Ladd that "Martha" must be his friend Martha Mitchell—who died at exactly 4:30 a.m. the previous morning. Fifteen minutes before her "golden vision" visited Ladd. At first, Ladd says she was incredulous, wondering why this was happening to her. "I'm not a reporter," she says. "I'm just a blond-haired tits-and-ass actress."

Soon Ladd says she'd discovered her destiny and began a 34-year crusade to tell Mitchell's story, a harrowing tale that Ladd says includes U.S. government officials holding Mitchell captive, tying her down, giving her a shot "against her will" and putting her "through living hell" after she threatened to be a Watergate whistle blower. "Martha Mitchell was Watergate and she had something to tell us that hasn't been told," Ladd says. "All the congressmen and representatives mocked her, called her a dirty, crazy alcoholic, called her insane, but she was a truth teller."

Ironically, not too long ago most of America would have mocked Ladd for sharing her ghostly encounters. But something tells me this lady—who has fought Oliver Stone and Paramount in her decades-long struggle to tell Mitchell's tale—could make a believer out of anyone. Apparently, Martin Scorsese is now behind her efforts to turn Mitchell's story into a feature titled Woman Inside.  According to her production company's website, the film is in pre-production—and Scorsese is quoted as saying, "Woman Inside is one of the best scripts I've read in ten years!"

With a ringing endorsement like that, one thing is certain: This two-time Mel's Diner hash-slinger knows a spine-chiller of a good story when she experiences it. Let's hope her golden vision finally becomes a silver-screen reality.