Important Black History Month news (Ha): The first black “Bachelorette”

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A couple of months ago I had a breakfast interview at Howley’s with former “The Bachelorette” contestant Ryan Beckett of West Palm Beach, and I asked if he thought there was ever going to be a non-white star of ABC’s dating franchise, since most of the contestants of color got bounced early. He smiled like he knew something.

“What do you know? You can’t even tell me if you know something, can you?” I said.

“I don’t know anything,” Ryan answered, although he was still smiling suspiciously.

Well, now, we all know – “I am so excited!!! It’s about time!!!!,” Ryan emailed me after the confirmation that stunning, smary attorney Rachel Lindsay of Dallas, who also happens to be African-American, will be the star of this coming’s season of “The Bachelorette.”

The announcement came officially on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” although there were spoiler Tweets all day long from ABC, and spoilers from other sites even before that. It’s weird that as of the end of last night’s “The Bachelor,” Rachel was still in the mix with repeat offender Nick Viall. But apparently that didn’t work out and now she’s got her own thing going.

And that’s great. I’m happy that the show will finally acknowledge that the beauty of black women, who dating site statistics and even suspicious science, have given a hard time.  (I’m currently dating again, and even some of the people that Match.com matches me with don’t like black women among their preferences. That’s your choice, of course, but do better, Match.) Then again, this is an admittedly addictive but silly show where a single person “dates” several people at the same time, claiming to look for love while mugging dramatically and trying not to pretend they’re dating several people.

So it’s not, you know, voting rights or Brown V. Board of Education or anything. But there’s now more equality in the chance to look silly on a dating show, so, yay?

Oscar Nominations: Shockers, snubs and finally not “So White”

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Academy Awards host Jimmy Kimmel

To me, the biggest surprise of the 2017 Academy Awards nominations this morning was the way the nominations were announced on “Good Morning America.” There was a filmed presentation of past nominees giving advice with the usual important-sounding Oscar-y score behind it, rather than an awkward press conference with reporters “Whoo!”-ing for the nominees they approved of and giving “Who dat?” silence for the ones they didn’t.

This was prettier, but I kind of miss the live feeling of it, because the nervous weirdness gives it more drama. Having said that, the nominees themselves were interesting because some were expected, some weren’t, and there was enough diversity to put that “Oscars So White” protest from the past two years at least temporarily behind us. I’m thrilled, not because I’m a writer who happens to be a black woman, but as a film fan who wants to see more than the same stories told over and over again.

And let me say that the people nominated here are not tokens placed there so Will and Jada and them will shut up about it. There are seven actors of color nominated, including several African-Americans and Indian actor Dev Patel. This feels fresh, not just in terms of race and culture but of new names. One of those new names is Justin Timberlake, and I think he stole Pharrell’s “Best Song” nomination, but that’s how it goes, I guess.

So what didn’t make me happy? I wish Tarjai P. Henson had been honored for carrying “Hidden Figures” with a Best Actress nomination, and that Janelle Monae had gotten one for Best Supporting, although Octavia Spencer, who was nominated, made me cry, although I was even more struck by the other two actresses.

Here’s something else interesting – in a year that seems to be celebrating diversity in an organic way, we’re also seeing the comeback of Mel Gibson, who seemed to have torpedoed his career years back for saying bigoted and misogynist things. But there he is with a nomination for Best Director for “Hacksaw Ridge,” which got several other nods including Best Picture.

“Moonlight” has done so well in nominations, and it’s amazing that it’s diverse in every way, about a black man exploring his sexuality. We don’t get to see those stories much, and I’m so pleased that it’s been received so well. I still think Viola Davis should have been in the Best Actress category for “Fences,” because she’s clearly the other star besides Denzel Washington, but if she needs to do Supporting Actress to win, that’s a strategy. I’m sad that Hugh Grant didn’t get a peep for “Florence Foster Jenkins,” but at least that unknown upstart Meryl Streep did. Love her. It’s her 20th nomination!

And in shallow news, I just want to see what Best Actress nominee Natalie Portman wears, because she’s nominated for playing Jackie Kennedy, so she’s got to slay.

 

“Celebrity Apprentice” replaces swaps The Donald for Ah-nuld: Our take on the new season

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Before former California governor/action legend/human catchphrase Arnold Schwarzenegger even began his tenure Monday as the boss on NBC’s “The New Celebrity Apprentice,” there was much discussion about what his kiss-off line was going to be. He obviously couldn’t use previous host/current President-elect Donald Trump‘s “You’re fired.” Conventional wisdom had been that he might go with “Hasta la vista, Baby,” from “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” because that’s literally a farewell. I was hoping he’d go with “Hit the bricks” or “Get to stepping,” because neither have anything to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger but that’s part of the charm.

Sadly, the Governator decided to go with the expected but all-together appropriate “You’re terminated,” followed up by the fabulously droll “Get to the choppa” from “Terminator,” because SYNERGY. It was ridiculous and over-the-top and I loved it, because Arnold’s famously reserved Austrian-ness doesn’t necessary make for the most personality-laden hosting job. Trump was all alpha New York energy, with an impatient “Time is money” attitude and a caffeinated jittery air that fit his rabid-fire “You’re fired” and whatever that mongoose finger-pointy thing he used to do. That hair-trigger thing made him fun to watch but utterly terrifying to the contestants because his firing decisions often seemed to make no sense to anyone but him. He’d ignore the absolute incompetency of a project manager and go after some quiet girl in the corner just because she was trying to hide. Then there was the time he fired someone because her mean girl teammates decided to tell him she was crazy. (He brought her back on to apologize, but the damage was done.)

Ahnuld, on the other hand, seemed to base his firing decisions on actual job performance – YouTube celebrity Carrie Keagan got the heave-ho because she couldn’t defend not speaking up over legitimate issues she saw with the project, and project manager Carnie Wilson (who I loved but deserved to go) refused to accept blame and therefore could not “Hold On” for one more day. (Yes, it’s a dumb reference. What of it?) That logic might make him more boring, but it’s less stressful as a viewer. Also, I like the parts of the formula that he and creator Mark Burnett kept – the boardroom, a familial adviser (in this case, nephew and attorney Patrick) and making the booted contestant be publicly and immediately dismissed – and what they’ve added – the L.A. location and Tyra Banks. When she went after the female team in the first episode for failing to use any of their famous lady faces to showcase her makeup in their challenge, she had some of that “America’s Next Top Model” ferocity. I thought they might cry.

Our verdict? The new boss is not yet as memorable as the old one. But he’s got time. And Tyra can always start yelling at people. I’d watch that.

Former rival on why “everybody loves” new “The Bachelor” star Nick Viall now

Nick Viall, the new "Bachelor" on ABC
Nick Viall, the new “Bachelor” on ABC

When Palm Beach County real estate agent Ryan Beckett first met Nick Viall, who starts handing out roses Monday night as “The Bachelor,” he wasn’t super impressed. After all, they were trying to date the same woman.

“I didn’t give him a chance,” says Beckett, who like Viall was vying for the heart of Kaitlyn Bristowe, quirky star of the 2015 season of ABC’s “The Bachelorette.” Beckett, of West Palm Beach’s Bit Realty, was one of the original cast, who was surprised when Viall, who’d tried and failed to win the heart of previous “Bachelorette” Andi Dorfman, basically crashed the middle of the season because he’d met Kaitlyn and some or other “Bachelor” event and said he liked her. Viewers like me and contestants like Beckett, who was sent home the same episode that Nick showed up, didn’t buy it – “I’d known all the other guys from Day One, and this guy shows up. I didn’t know who he was,” Beckett says. “By the time I went home, it was episode 5 and I was actually ready to go home. I was like a beaten puppy.”

Like he had with Andi, Nick made it to the “Close but no engagement” spot with Kaitlyn, and got a full-blown weasel edit. But two years later, Viall’s now being pitched as the nice guy you’re all rooting for in his fourth franchise appearance.  He either has an unflagging commitment to finding love or just really, really enjoys getting dumped on TV. Beckett, who recently relocated from Wellington to West Palm, has gotten to know his former rival through various “Bachelor” appearances and on last summer’s “Bachelor” alum bikini-fest “Bachelor in Paradise.” And now he’s rooting for him, too.

“He’s like Mitt Romney. Everybody loves him now,” Beckett says of Viall. “People like him because he’s good at articulating his feelings.”

And for what it’s worth, Beckett says he’s forgiven Viall for showing up mid-season and being the man who, as he jokingly Tweeted to me, “#stolemyrose.” All’s fair in love, war and televised rose ceremonies – “In retrospect, I realize he didn’t owe anything” to the other suitors, “and now I think ‘Why was I so upset?'”

Beckett says he’s made a lot of friends from the Bachelor universe, but doesn’t plan to return, “although I didn’t think I would have gone on ‘Bachelor In Paradise, either. I was at a wedding in the Bahamas when a producer (reached out) to me, and I was waffling about doing it. My friend said ‘Let me get this straight. They’re going to pay you to go to a beautiful resort, date beautiful women and drink tequila. Why aren’t you going?”says Beckett, whose salt-and-pepper beard on “Paradise” earned him the nickname “Silver Fox.”

He’s still out here dating, but in reality, rather than on reality TV. But Beckett’s agreed to watch “The Bachelor” and tell us what he thinks of Nick’s picks every week. He refuses to give spoilers but is pulling for his former rival.

“He’s good at expressing himself and being vulnerable,” Beckett says. As the promos say, “Fourth time’s the charm.” Lord, we hope so.

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Former Sec. of State Madeleine Albright stops for lunch at West Palm diner Howley’s

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (right) with server Shannon O'Neil at Howley's Restaurant in October.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (right) with server Shannon O’Neil at Howley’s Restaurant in October.

The well-known slogan of classic West Palm Beach eatery Howley’s is “Cooked in Sight, Must Be Right.” Last month, there certainly was something special in sight, among the high layer cakes and sweet potato fries: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stopped by for lunch with friends on October 22, to the delight of staff and restaurant patrons.

“People recognized her. She was walking through the restaurant and people thanked her for her work,” recalls server Katie Swift, who was working the lunch shift that Albright visited and observed that “she was a very sweet lady. She said hello to everyone and was very nice.”

Swift said that Albright, in town to campaign for then-Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, wasn’t doing any politicking at the restaurant but was “just eating with friends. She was awesome. She stopped and talked to people who wanted to talk to her. We enjoyed having her.”

 

 

Singer Darius Rucker Retweets photo of 3-year-old Halloween version

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There was no real science behind why I choose to dress my three-year-old son Brooks as country and pop icon of laidbackness Darius Rucker. Brooks just started learning to play guitar, has taken a shine to Rucker’s style, and Rucker is part of a series of cute brown-skinned guitar-playing men that my son could play with a few accessories and a swirl of creative eyeliner. Also, I just thought it was funny.

You know who else thought it was funny? The actual Darius Rucker, or whoever runs his Twitter. The former Hootie and the Blowfish lead singer and now mega country star Retweeted my post about Brooks and his costume, and so far it’s been Retweeted about 17 times and liked more than 150 times. It’s sweet as a parent, particularly an adoptive mom who was not allowed to even post photos or his name online for more than two years after Brooks came to live here. Next year, he’ll want to pick his own costume. I hope that maybe he’s going to pick Mr. Rucker again. A lot of material to cover, you know.

More on Halloween costumes here.

Jimmy Fallon’s visit to Delray Beach, when we became Fran Drescher’s wingman

Jimmy Fallon, seen with wife Nancy Juvonen
Jimmy Fallon, seen with wife Nancy Juvonen

“Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon, whose all over the Web today because of the currently trending video where “The Voice” judge/country superstar/country boy Blake Shelton tries to teach him the basics of cow milking, is no stranger to South Florida. In 2002, he was a pop-in commentator at the Chris Evert Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic in Delray Beach. And later, he popped in to an interview I was doing with “The Nanny” star and cancer advocate Fran Drescher, up in the VIP area (I saw Alan Thicke! Jon Lovitz walked by and looked at me weird!) For a few moments, we wound up sort of being Fran’s wingman (wingmen?)

Here’s what happened – Fallon had been in town to play some shows with his band, and was walking around in the VIP section with his bass player, whose name I never got. In the middle of the conversation, Drescher pointed the guy out as cute. As they walked by the table, she flashed a wide smile and said hello, and the guy, because Fran Drescher is awesome, smiled back and stopped to chat. This left Jimmy Fallon and I in an awkward but familiar position – being suddenly left standing without anyone to talk to when you friends starts chatting up someone at a bar, leaving you no choice but to talk to his friend.

Fortunately, Jimmy Fallon is super gracious, and I am a reporter, so I got an impromptu interview with him about his music, about how he wound up at the tournament (I think someone just called him and said famous people were doing stuff nearby and he should go) and something something Florida. It was very brief and very pleasant, and I got to confirm that someone who always seemed cool actually was. It sucks when they’re not.

 

Vanilla Ice booted off “Dancing With The Stars,” returns to busy touring and house-flipping stardom

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Well, phooey.

Wellington’s own Rob “Vanilla Ice” Van Winkle and partner Witney Carson were sent home from “Dancing With The Stars” Tuesday night, along with fellow ’90s luminary Babyface. His voting-off follows his highest scores ever, for a Cirque du Soleil-themed Viennese waltz, in which he dressed as a solemn-faced clown (I find myself writing a lot about clowns lately.) Ice was super gracious about his dismissal, his time on the show and his partner, probably because the show has given his already high profile a major network bump, and because he’s probably got five shows scheduled, like, tomorrow (his touring schedule seems to have been eating into his dance rehearsal time.) I’ll miss him, because he was an earnest 40-something tackling something new, and us olds need to do that every once in a while, right?

So enjoy this. It’s the last we’ll see of Vanilla Ice until his next DIY Network show, which probably begins next week.

 

Vanilla Ice channels non-creepy clown to scare up highest “Dancing With The Stars” scores

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Everybody loves a clown, so why don’t you? No, not those weird creepy clowns that have been seen around local schools and the country (Stop being creepy, guys). We mean our own Vanilla Ice, who performed a Cirque du Soleil-themed Viennese waltz on “Dancing With The Stars” and got two 8s and a 7 for his efforts. Not only is his posture greatly improved, but the self-described pop-and-locker who had never done ballroom dance ever did all this with almost no practice. He freaked partner Witney out by explaining he had 5 back-to-back concerts that wouldn’t have him back in the dance studio until the day of the dance.

Yikes! But he worked it out and he’s still a contender, and, apparently, a defender of his fellow celeb dancers, even if that dancer, Ryan Lochte, has had a heck of a summer. I’m still pulling for Vanilla Ice, because I like nothing better than a 40-something who defies the odds and hangs with the kids as long as they can.

Vanilla Ice tackles the foxtrot on “Dancing With The Stars”

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One week after Lochtegate made its way onto the “Dancing With The Stars” stage, our local celebrity dancer (and Ryan Lochte defender) Rob “Vanilla Ice” Van Winkle did his first real ballroom dance with a “Married With Children”-themed foxtrot. (We can all agree that last week’s delightful “cha-cha” to “Ice Ice Baby” was a cha-cha only in the loosest sense, which is not to say that it was not delightful.)

Knowing all the moves to the 26-year-old “Ice Ice Baby” video can date you, as, apparently, knowing who Peg and Al Bundy are (Rob did, while partner Witney, who’s like 12, looked up the show on YouTube and studied it like doing homework on ancient artifacts cuz we old, son.) The scores came out to a decent 26, with Carrie Anne scolding Ice for lip-syncing along with “Love and Marriage.” I know they’re trying to make real dancers out of them, but it’s the second week, and it just came off really nit-picky and snappish. Dude’s previous ballroom experience was having a ball doing the Running Man in a room. Cut him some slack, you know.

Besides Ice, my favorite dancers so far are Maureen McCormick, Calvin Johnson, Babyface and Laurie Hernandez, because they lose themselves in their dance with such abandon. (Calvin is also super hot.) Mr. Van Winkle appears safe from the first elimination – I kind of think teen sensation Jake T. Austin is going home, because he was way off-beat. Sorry, Jake T. Austin!

More headlines:

 

Our back-in-the-day chat with Maureen McCormick

Our take on Vanilla Ice’s defense of Ryan Lochte

Our interview with Ice about his “Dancing” tenure