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Rosie O'Donnell, Ryan Reynolds and Cyndi Lauper
Entertainment news: Special to the Online Edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis

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Oprah Winfrey has launched her first advertisement for the Oprah Winfrey Network, and it features Black Eyed Peas rapper Will.I.Am singing a bonus track from his group's newest CD, The Beginning, while Winfrey narrates, according to . In the commercial, Winfrey asks, "What if I could take every hero who inspired me; every lesson that motivated me; every opportunity that was ever given to me; and give it to you? Now here we are. This is our day. This is our moment." The network launches next month.

Speaking of Winfrey, she, Sir Paul McCartney, country-music legend Merle Haggard, Broadway composer Jerry Herman and revered choreographer Bill T. Jones were the most recent group to receive the Kennedy Center honors, USA Today reported. At a reception Dec. 5, President Obama said of Winfrey, "She has shown millions of people around the world—people she probably will never meet—what it means to believe in 'the dream of your own life.'" Herman, 79, who is gay, rose to Broadway fame as the composer and lyricist for Hello, Dolly and La Cage aux Folles, according to . Jones, who is also gay, founded the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1982 and has won a Tony for his work in the rock musical Spring Awakening.

In an interview with Barbara Walters, Winfrey insisted she is not a lesbian. Addressing rumors that there is more to her relationship with Gayle King than friendship, Winfrey said, "I have said we are not gay enough times. I am not lesbian. I'm not even kind of a lesbian. And the reason why the rumor irritates me is because it means that somebody must think I'm lying. That's number one. Number two, why would you want to hide it? That is not the way I run my life."

A group of female singers joined forces to tape the "VH1 Divas Salute the Troops" concert Dec. 3 at a Marine Corps air hangar in San Diego, Calif., according to Popeater. (The show ran on TV Dec. 5.) Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj duetted on a cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and R&B singer Keri Hilson sang with country act Sugarland on a cover of Aretha Franklin's "Respect." Kathy Griffin hosted the event.

Just Kids, rock singer Patti Smith's memoir about her relationship with the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, recently won the National Book Award for nonfiction, according to USA Today. A teary-eyed Smith said that she always wondered "what it would be like to win a National Book Award. Thanks for letting me find out." She also urged people to "never abandon the book, no matter how much we advance technologically." Mapplethorpe, known for his homoerotic works, died in 1989 at age 42 from AIDS-related complications.

Four decades after the late Doors lead singer Jim Morrison was arrested for indecent exposure at a concert, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is working to have the entertainer pardoned, according to the Washington Post. Morrison was convicted in 1970, and was appealing the sentenced when he died the following year. Crist said that he will submit Morrison's name to the state's clemency board, which would have to approve the pardon. The board meets Dec. 9, according to Rolling Stone magazine.

Lesbian tennis icon Martina Navratilova is climbing the highest peak in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjiro in Tanzania, for a good cause, according to CBS Sportsline. Navratilova is scaling the 19,340-foot mountain to raise awareness and money for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. Navratilova has not climbed higher than 12,000 feet but is used to high altitudes, considering she resides in Aspen, Colo. The fundraising goal of the climb is $134,000.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has released the 10th video of the "New Yorkers for Marriage Equality" campaign—and it features Whoopi Goldberg, according to a press release. HRC has released videos from Goldberg, Moby, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Julianne Moore and Kenneth Cole, among others. An equal-marriage bill failed last year in the New York state Senate by eight votes.

Chris Colfer, who plays the openly gay Kurt on the TV show Glee, will make his film debut in Struck by Lightning, which he also wrote, according to . The movie, set up with David Permut, is described as a coming-of-age comedy in the style of the late director John Hughes, the mind behind classics such as Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club.

And speaking of Glee, Katie Couric—known for being the anchor on the CBS Evening News—will guest-star on an upcoming episode of the Fox show, according to Access Hollywood. The episode with Couric will air Feb. 6, right after the Super Bowl. Jane Lynch, who plays coach Sue Sylvester on Glee, said that Couric would perform "Tea for Two" with Matthew Morrison, who plays McKinley High glee-club coach Will Schuester.

At the recent Hollywood Reporter's Power 100 Women in Entertainment breakfast, Sherry Lansing Leadership Award recipient Dame Helen Mirren credited her parents for her success, according to NPR. Mirren, who received the award from fellow Oscar winner Halle Berry, said that her parents raised her to aim for economic independence in whatever career she chose to work. She also said that Hollywood "continues to worship at the altar of the 18- to 25-year-old male, and his penis" as she said she was seen "the survival of some very mediocre male actors and the professional demise of some very brilliant female ones."

After reports that she was resting comfortably after a medical procedure, it turns out that the "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin, is battling pancreatic cancer, according to the Guardian. Last month, Franklin, 68, cancelled all public appearances, and underwent surgery Dec. 2 in Detroit, Mich. A relative said that the "Respect" singer is doing OK. Those diagnosed with this form of cancer have about a 6-percent chance of living five years; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Apple CEO Steve Jobs are among those who have survived the disease.

Actor James Franco has bought the rights to a new biography about bisexual 1950s actor Sal Mineo, according to . Mineo was most famous for playing the sensitive Plato in the 1955 movie Rebel Without a Cause opposite James Dean (who Franco portrayed in a 2001 film), and had been twice nominated for an Oscar by the time he turned 21. In 1976, Mineo was killed during an attempted robbery; he was 37.

Former Ugly Betty co-star Becki Newton, 32, and husband Chris Diamantopoulos have welcomed a son, according to US Weekly. Newton gave birth in Los Angeles in early November. Newton and Diamantopoulos married in 2005 after meeting in New York City's Times Square.

Canadian singer Nelly Furtado has said that she is proud to live in a country that supports marriage equality, according to On Top Magazine. Of same-sex marriage, the "I'm Like A Bird" singer told She magazine, "Children shouldn't be raised in a bubble. There's nothing wrong with it, so why wouldn't I treat it as normal?" Regarding the string of LGBT teen suicides that have taken place, Furtado, 32, added, "My advice [to troubled gay teens] is to reach out and find somebody you can relate to, because human interaction can heal those wounds."

Figure skater Johnny Weir's reality show, Be Good Johnny Weir, will air its second season on the gay cable channel Logo, according to On Top Magazine. The first season ran on the Sundance Channel. In a statement, Logo said, "The new season will dive deeper into Johnny's work and personal life as he balances his skating with his growing ambitions in the entertainment industry." Weir is currently a judge on ABC's Skating with the Stars.

Cyndi Lauper, Adam Lambert and Lady Gaga are among those who have earned Grammy nominations. Lauper's Memphis Blues, her celebration of early blues greats, earns the celebrated singer her 14th Grammy nomination, this time for Best Traditional Blues Album, according to a press release. The openly gay Lambert is nominated for best male pop vocal performance for "Whataya Want From Me," the second single off his 2009 debut, For Your Entertainment. Gaga received six nods, including Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the single "Bad Romance." The Grammys will air Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011.

Ryan Reynolds, recently named People's Sexiest Man, has split from his actress wife, Scarlett Johansson, after two years of marriage, according to . The couple reportedly split six months ago, with Johansson initiating the move. In a statement, the couple said, "We entered our relationship with love and it's with love and kindness we leave it. While privacy isn't expected, it's certainly appreciated."

Actor Daniel Radcliffe and the Trevor Project have teamed with the social-media utility SocialVibe to support the project's services, according to a press release. Radcliffe has recorded a video message showing people how they can visit to directly support The Trevor Project's crisis and suicide prevention lifeline. The video is now available for viewing and sharing via YouTube.

The nominations for the 68th Annual Golden Globes brought some surprises, as Burlesque received a nod for best film—comedy or musical (out of a total of three) but Jim Carrey's I Love You Phillip Morris was shut out, according to . The TV show Glee had five nods, including nominations for co-stars Jane Lynch and Chris Colfer, while Modern Family scored three nominations. Also, the acclaimed movie The Kids Are All Right received four nominations, including two for co-stars Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. The awards ceremony (hosted by Ricky Gervais) will take place on NBC Jan. 16, 2011.

Rosie O'Donnell has spoken about the rumors that her new boss, Oprah Winfrey, is lesbian. Winfrey, in a recent interview with Barbara Walters, said, "I'm not even 'kind of' lesbian." O'Donnell, who is soon launching a talk show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, said, "People don't really understand or don't have the privilege of seeing a friendship between two women that is that deep. I have the same best friend that I've had since I was 3. I know the intensity of that relationship and what it feels like -- to have someone you can depend on no matter what."

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