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SHOWBIZ Bi comedian, 'Ugly Betty,' Aaron Hernandez, women's sports news
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times.

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NBC crowned comedians Franqi French and Rene Vaca as the winners of its 16th annual StandUp NBC competition, the network's annual nationwide search for comedians of diverse backgrounds, a press release noted. French ( who happens to be bisexual ) and Vaca have each been awarded a talent holding deal with NBCUniversal and a headlining spot at the National Association for Campus Activities ( NACA ) annual convention where they will perform for talent bookers from across the country. They were among 650 stand-up comedians who auditioned last year through open calls in Charlotte, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas and New York as well as online submissions.

On, out actor Michael Urie wrote a tribute to Silvio Horta, the creator of the TV show Ugly Betty ( in which Urie co-starred ) who recently died by suicide at age 45. In part, Urie wrote, "Thanks to Silvio, I've had that one-of-a-kind, perfect show-business experience that many actors will never get. ... Thanks to Silvio, I worked alongside Hollywood veterans like Vanessa Williams, Tony Plana, and Judith Light, who taught me about television, red carpets, and fame. ... I'm so sad we don't have Silvio anymore. I'm heartbroken we will never know why the joy and laughter and pride he felt—which saved so many strangers' lives—couldn't save him. But I'm so grateful he was here. He changed my life."

A Netflix docuseries alleges that former NFL star and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez was gay, and that repression of his sexuality was a key factor in his crimes, The Washington Blade noted. Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez, which debuted Jan. 15, is a three-part expansion by director Geno McDermott of his 2018 documentary My Perfect World: The Aaron Hernandez Story. In addition, the documentary alleges that Hernandez's spiral into violence may have been tied to CTE ( chronic traumatic encephalopathy ), a neurodegenerative disorder resulting from repeated head trauma.

The WNBA and the players' union reached tentative terms on a new collective bargaining agreement ( CBA ) that includes a significant salary bump for the league's highest-paid players, going from an annual base salary of $117,500 to $215,000, ESPN noted. The new CBA also includes other cash compensation increases, changes to free agency, travel improvements, additional motherhood and family-planning benefits, enhanced marketing and career-development opportunities, and changes to revenue-sharing potential.

San Francisco 49ers' offensive assistant coach Katie Sowers is about to make history; on Super Bowl Sunday, she'll become both the first woman and the first openly gay coach to be in the Super Bowl, Yahoo! reported. She's been in the NFL since 2016 when she became a coach for the Atlanta Falcons training camp and joined the 49ers in 2017. The 49ers will play the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl in Miami on Feb. 2.

A starry lineup of producers are behind the Broadway premiere of the lesbian-themed production Last Summer at Bluefish Cove—the Jane Chambers play that first premiered off-Broadway in 1980, Broadway Direct reported. Harriet Newman Leve, Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Wagner will bring the landmark lesbian play to Broadway in 2020, with casting, creative team, venue and dates to be announced in the near future. Directing Last Summer at Bluefish Cove will be award-winning actress Cynthia Nixon.

GLAAD will honor award-winning screenwriter/producer/director Ryan Murphy with the Vito Russo Award at the 31st Annual GLAAD Media Awards at the Hilton Midtown in New York on Thursday, March 19, a press release noted. Taylor Swift will receive the Vanguard Award and Janet Mock will receive the Stephen F. Kolzak Award at the 31st Annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles on Thursday, April 16.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced its 35th annual class of inductees, honoring six musical acts—Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G. and T-Rex—with Jon Landau and Irving Azoff receiving the Ahmet Ertegun Award, a press release related. Other nominees ( who did not make this year's class ) included Pat Benatar, Dave Matthews Band, Judas Priest, Kraftwerk, MC5, Motorhead, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Todd Rundgren, Soundgarden and Thin Lizzy, NPR noted. The 35th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place May 2 at Public Auditorium in Cleveland; the event will be broadcast live on HBO.

Cate Blanchett is beloved by queer audiences for her iconic lesbian role in Carol, but one of her biggest roles of 2020 will be very different, PinkNews noted. Blanchett is set to star as conservative Phyllis Schlafly in the upcoming FX series Mrs. America. Schlafly was one of the most vocal female opponents to the 1970s Women's Liberation Movement in the United States. She was also against same-sex marriage and hit out at the "gay lobby" for seeking "social recognition of their lifestyle" in a 2010 article.

EON Productions, Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios ( MGM ) and Universal Pictures Internationally announced that Billie Eilish will sing the theme song for the 25th James Bond film, No Time To Die, a press release noted. The song will be released on Darkroom/Interscope Records. No Time To Die is in theatres globally from April 2 in the United Kingdom through Universal Pictures International and in the United States on April 10, from MGM via their United Artists Releasing banner.

The band Imagine Dragons is on hiatus, but lead singer Dan Reynolds isn't taking time off from talking about issues such as mental health, at-risk LBGTQ youth in the Mormon community and the autoimmune disease ankylosing spondylitis ( which Reynolds suffers from ), Yahoo! Entertainment noted. "I grew up in a very conservative family, Mormon, and had a lot of friends who were Mormon and LGBTQ and that put them in a really difficult spot from an early age," Reynolds said, in part. "Our LGBTQ are not broken. Society is broken. Our culture is broken. That takes everybody to get involved to fix it. It takes people of privilege, people with platforms, to speak up and talk about it."

Oprah Winfrey shared the advice the late Maya Angelou gave her with Tina Fey and all of those in attendance at her 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus Tour in St. Paul, Minnesota, ET Canada noted. Winfrey said, "I'll tell you, the only number that actually gave me pause was 60. But when I turned 50, my dear friend Maya Angelou was still alive, and Maya said to me, 'Babe, the 50s are everything you've been meaning to be. It's everything you thought you might do. This is it. It's coming in. You're not even there yet.'"

Director John Krasinski's hit movie A Quiet Place arrives in a brand-new, collectible Mondo X Steelbook 4K Ultra HD Combo on March 10, from Paramount Home Entertainment, a press release noted. This Mondo X SteelBook collaboration #038 features exclusive artwork inspired by Matt Ryan Tobin's atmospheric poster highlighting the film's iconic red string lights. The 4K Ultra HD Combo includes behind-the-scenes footage exploring the sound design and visual effects.

Showtime announced several renewals, Deadline noted. Among them is the LGBTQ comedy Work in Progress, which has an order for a 10-episode second season. Created and written by Chicago improv mainstays Abby McEnany and Tim Mason and co-written by Lilly Wachowski ( The Matrix ), the series stars McEnany as a fictionalized version of herself whose misfortune and despair unexpectedly lead her to a vibrantly transformative relationship. In addition, The L Word: Generation Q is to return to Showtime for a second season; Based on The L Word, which aired on Showtime 2004-09, the reboot moved from West Hollywood to Silver Lake. Also, Shameless was picked up for its 11th and final season.

The power trio of the classic nighttime soap Knots Landing—Michele Lee, Joan Van Ark and Donna Mills—appeared at the Hollywood Museum to celebrate the show's 40th anniversary, Page Six noted. Mills, 79, could hardly believe it's been four decades since she graced the small screen as vixenish villainess Abby Cunningham, telling Page Six that it feels it "was maybe 10 years ago!" Regarding sexual harassment back in the '80s, she added, "In those days you didn't tell anybody—you just didn't. You just got out of whatever situation you got out of, because I was never going to sleep with anybody for any role."

Demi Lovato is making her comeback at the 2020 Grammy Awards on Jan. 26, noted. "I told you the next time you'd hear from me I'd be singing," she captioned a promo image of her on a couch. This performance will mark Lovato's comeback since her 2018 near-fatal overdose. Among the other performers at the upcoming ceremony include Ariana Grande, Lizzo, Aerosmith, Billie Eilish, Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani and others. Lovato is also slated to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 2.

Younger actress Molly Bernard announced her engagement to girlfriend Hannah Lieberman on Instagram, captioning a shot of the happy couple, "We said YES!," Page Six noted. Bernard, who officiated co-star Hilary Duff and Matthew Koma's nuptials last month, received well-wishes on social media, including a message from her newlywed pal. Duff plays editor Kelsey on the TV Land series, while viewers know Bernard as her BFF Lauren—a publicist who identifies as pansexual.

House of the Dragon, HBO's straight-to-series prequel to Game of Thrones, is on track for a 2022 debut, Deadline revealed. Written by Condal based on Martin's based on Martin's Fire & Blood book, House of the Dragon is set 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones and tells the story of House Targaryen, rich in the dragonlord ancestors of Daenerys. House of the Dragon was one of the four remaining "Thrones" spinoffs in the works at HBO.

Brad Pitt stars in a new campaign for Italian menswear brand Brioni, Page Six noted. While Pitt has previously posed for ads for Chanel No. 5 perfume, this appears to be his first fashion campaign. In addition to modeling the tuxedo, Pitt will try his hand at design; Brioni will release "a Brad Pitt signature line of exclusive items, including a limited-edition suit and tuxedo featuring a customized label," according to WWD.

Some people suspect the Grammys fired its first-ever female boss, Deborah Dugan, in an attempt to silence her—after she wrote a bombshell memo alleging misconduct inside the organization, including sketchy voting practices, financial mismanagement and conflicts of interest, Page Six noted. Dugan had been put on leave because "a formal allegation of misconduct [was made against her] by a senior female [staff] member." The New York Times reported that an assistant—whom she had inherited from previous boss Neil Portnow—had accused her of bullying. However, some think the claim is iffy, saying Dugan's memo could potentially shake up things. Dugan hired attorney Bryan Freedman, who is also representing Gabrielle Union in her row with NBC following her exit from America's Got Talent.

Y Tu Mama Tambien co-stars Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal—who are executive producers on Amazon's upcoming limited series Untitled Cortes and Moctezuma Project—have closed a first-look deal with Amazon Studios, Deadline noted. Luna and Bernal recently announced their new production house in Mexico: La Corriente del Golfo, an independent company for cinematic, theatrical and TV productions as well as a variety of community-oriented projects.

Acorn TV acquired the new UK drama Deadwater Fell, starring David Tennant and Cush Jumbo, which will make its exclusive North American premiere in April, a press release noted. The plot is as follows: When a seemingly perfect and happy family is murdered by someone they know and trust, the small Scottish community they call home becomes torn apart with mistrust and suspicion as those closest to the family begin to question everything they thought they knew about their friends.

It looks like there won't be a second season of the HBO drama The Watchman—which wrapped up its nine-episode run—because creator Damon Lindelof isn't interested in doing it, USA Today noted. Regina King starred as a masked cop in Tulsa, in a 2019 when Robert Redford is president. Lindelof told USA Today that he's told the story he wants to tell and has no interest in a second season, although he's "given my blessing" to HBO should it want to pursue a new installment with another writer-producer.

Following consecutive sold-out performances at Las Vegas' Mirage Hotel & Casino, 11-time Grammy winner Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds has announced three additional shows scheduled for March 6-8, a press release noted. Edmonds has been called one of the most dynamic and influential forces in contemporary music, amassing more than 200 Top 10 R&B hit songs and more than 50 top-10 pop hits, including 16 number-one songs.

Rocky Johnson—a former professional wrestler and father of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson—died at age 75, the BBC noted. Johnson, whose real name was Wayde Douglas Bowles, rose to fame with WWE in the 1980s. Known as "Soul Man," he was part of the first black tag team to win a WWE championship. "Dad, I wish I had one more shot to tell you, I love you, before you crossed over to the other side," Dwayne stated on Instagram, Page Six noted. "But you were ripped away from me so fast without warning. Gone in an instant and no coming back."

Wendy Williams mocked 2020 Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix's apparent cleft palate on her Jan. 7 show—and social media was not loving it, Page Six noted. ( She has apologized, noted. ) During the "Hot Topics" segment of the episode, Williams started lusting after the Joker star's "piercing eyes" after his win at the Golden Globes the previous weekend. Williams then proceeded to hook her finger in her lip and imitate the common birth defect, which occurs when a baby's lips or mouth do not form properly. Adam Bighill—a Canadian professional football player who was born with a cleft lip and palate and whose infant son Beau was also born with the condition—demanded an apology from Williams.

A new merch drop is available on singer Frank Ocean's website,, according to Fader. And the new items are not cheap, as they include a key ring ( $14.95 ), silk boxer shorts ( $59.95 ), a hoodie ( $149.95 ) and sweatpants ( $119.95 ). In other Ocean-related clothing news, he was recently announced as the face of Prada's SS20 campaign.

Andy King—who shot to fame when he revealed in the Fyre Festival doc Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened that CEO Billy McFarland ordered him to perform oral sex on the Bahamian minister of customs in exchange for shipments of Evian water—is now representing Evian, Queerty noted. "I literally drove home, took a shower, drank some mouthwash, and got in my car to drive across the island to take one to the team," King revealed during the film. "I got to his office fully prepared to suck his d**k." He added, "On the first anniversary, Evian is dropping a special bottle with an all-new slogan in honor of my infamous team spirit"—with the slogan "So good, you'd do anything for it."

Sia revealed she approached her LSD collaborator Diplo for some casual sex, Page Six noted. Sia told GQ, "This year I wrote him a text, and I said, 'Hey, listen, you're like one of five people that I'm sexually attracted to, and now that I've decided to be single for the rest of my life and I just adopted a son, I don't have time for a relationship. .… If you're interested in some no-strings sex, then hit me up.'" She didn't reveal if Diplo accepted her offer, but added that Diplo is "the sweetest thing in the world" but "one of the most insecure boys [about personal relationships] I've ever met."

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