A little star power goes a long way to help the U.N. promote its work
Diplomatically speaking, the appointment of former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador has raised several concerns in the consular community. Can tough negotiations about world health issues take place while one’s belly button is exposed? Is Girl Power good for the environment? Does Secretary General Kofi Annan know the words to “Wannabe”? The gibes are a small price to pay for the attention Halliwell has already brought the U.N.’s Population Fund, which deals with reproductive health issues and population control. “Because she has such global reach, it will help us everywhere,” says the fund’s Corrie Shanahan. Besides, Halliwell’s appointment continues a U.N. tradition of using stars to illuminate the organization’s work.
Entertainer Danny Kaye became the first goodwill ambassador for UNICEF in 1954. Other U.N. ambassadors have included Audrey Hepburn, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Peter Ustinov and the model Vendela. In 1997, Annan borrowed the honorary ambassador idea to create U.N. “Messengers of Peace,” asking them to focus on human rights. Muhammad Ali, Luciano Pavarotti, Magic Johnson and Michael Douglas are among those who have accepted appointments.
Friends in good places can help a celebrity snare a U.N. title. Marie Stopes International, a British charity involved with global health issues, nominated Halliwell because “we were looking for a powerful figure who has the attention of the public, young people in particular,” says the organization’s Patricia Hindmarsh. “There are no special criteria” for the post, says the U.N.’s Yasuhiro Ueki, and celebrities can write their own job requirements. Halliwell intends to kick off her ambassadorship by promoting a British essay competition about population control.
Though Halliwell will earn only $1 per year in her U.N. post, she stands to benefit in other ways. “The U.N. is very high profile, so Geri knows that it’s going to be a benefit to her being taken seriously as an artist,” says British pop music journalist Rick Sky. “Stars aren’t completely altruistic people.”
Beloved, Alas, by Too Few
There are many truths in Hollywood; one of the most basic is: Your movie can have Oprah Winfrey, good reviews and a story from a Nobel Prize winner and still finish behind Bride of Cbucky. That’s what’s happening with the mightily promoted Beloved, whose ticket take dropped 50 percent in its second week (it has earned $14.7 million total). Why? “It’s not a racial thing,” says CNN movie analyst Martin Grove. “Beloved is too long, too somber, too depressing.” Harold Mintz, research analyst for CinemaScore, a movie market-research company, says audience reaction was “really bad…word-of-mouth [on the film] is going to be terrible.” Winfrey was mum, and Disney, though pleased with the film’s opening weekend, had no further comment.
Although Jim Carrey and ex-wife Lauren Holly were seen together around L.A. in recent months, whether they were a couple remained a mystery. Not any more: At two events last month, Holly showed up with her new guy, producer Todd “Gus” Gustawes.
Closing the ‘Open’ Gap
Who says Hollywood crazy money is reserved for the guys? Julia Roberts will reportedly earn $17 million for her next film. The Runaway Bride, and Jodie Foster is set to take in $15 million for the upcoming Anna and the King. Those numbers approach the $20 million paydays reserved for male stars like Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise and Bruce Willis, who command those whopper salaries for their ability to “open’ movies—particularly action flicks. Can Foster and Roberts deliver? “There are no guarantees,” says producer Gale Anne Hurd (Armageddon, Dante’s Peak), but both women are perceived as being as important to a film’s financial success as male actors. And in Hollywood, Hurd says, “everything is about perception.” Almost everything: Money still counts. Roberts’s 1997 picture My Best Friend’s Wedding earned $127 million. Pretty Woman, Hook and The Pelican Brief all earned more than $100 million. So did Foster’s Contact and Silence of the Lambs. Numbers like that, says box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian, do not go unnoticed. “You’re worth,” he says, “whatever someone will pay for you.”
Everybody’s a Comedian
The Fred Sanford-like ensemble sported by The Artist (the ex-Prince) at GQ’s Men of the Year awards bewildered many. “Everyone thought he was having a meltdown, which was definitely not the case,” says his publicist. “He has a great sense of humor. He does comedy routines, you know.” We didn’t.
ON THE BLOCK
SAYING GOODBYE TO BIG SKY
Kids want a horse? They can buy three—along with a 450-acre ranch—for $3.5 million, now that actress Andie MacDowel! is selling her Montana spread. MacDowell’s High Meadow Mountain Ranch, one hour west of Missoula, includes a three-bedroom house (with Jacuzzi in master bedroom), a guest cottage, and a utility building containing an office, steam room and racquetball court, all set amid the stunning meadows and peaks of cowboy country. MacDowell, husband Paul Qualley (who built the ranch), and their three children are moving to North Carolina to be closer to her family.
In a move that could leave James Bond shaken, if not stirred, director Michael Apted is thinking about eliminating scantily clad babes from Agent 007’s next big screen adventure. “I don’t want women only to be in the film for a sex reason,” Apted told Britain’s Daily Telegraph, disappointing adolescent men of all ages. There was a time when sex was just about the only reason Ursula Andress, Britt Ekland, Barbara Bach and other actresses joined Bond in action—once saving the planet was out of the way. Apted hopes the next Bond flick, tentatively titled Pressure Point and starring Pierce Brosnan, will show “a different attitude toward women.” The very idea has already enraged Bond traditionalists. Says Graham Rye, president of the James Bond International Fan Club: “Taking [the] sexist out of James Bond is like taking the engine out of his Aston Martin. Both can’t run without it.”
Live Long and Prosper, Eh?
On Oct. 24 the town of Vulcan (pop. 1,531) in Alberta, Canada, boldly went where you’d expect it to go with a name like that: It launched a Star Terk-inspired tourist center. The town also has a welcome sign in English, Vulcan and Klingon, a replica of the Starship Enterprise and a place to buy pointy ears. “People from Vulcan have a good sense of humor,” says Pat Wisener, the local undertaker and one of the center’s boosters. “I’m sure Mr. Spock would feel right at home.” Give that man a Saurian brandy. Now!
One Angry Man
Oh, the injustice! Actor Harvey Keitel faithfully performed jury duty in Manhattan Supreme Court last month, only to have a New York bothered by the bad newspaper accuse press, asked the him of first degree tardiness. “That’s totally not true,” says straight. Cohen Judge Beverly S. Cohen. “He was an exquisite juror, and he was on time.” Keitel, bothered by the bad press, asked the judge to write a note setting the facts straight. Cohen obliged. Keitel told he plans to send her brief to the newspaper.