Originally created 11/30/03

People in the news



MADISON, Wis. -- When supermodel Cindy Crawford's younger brother died of leukemia more than 25 years ago, a reunion of more than 200 childhood cancer survivors didn't seem possible.

"Cancer is not a death sentence anymore," Crawford said before Saturday's "Kids with Courage" reunion at the University of Wisconsin Children's Hospital, where her 4-year-old brother, Jeffrey, was treated. "The kind of leukemia my brother had is now 80 percent curable."

Saturday's reunion was the third and Crawford has attended each one.

Dr. Paul Sondel, head of the hospital's pediatric oncology program, said Crawford's financial and personal support has been invaluable as the hospital makes strides in cancer treatments for children.

"It's her willingness to come and meet face-to-face with these children, both in the hospital where they appreciate her so much, and at the event," he said. "And then the financial support she's providing, which is going primarily to support our ongoing research."

Crawford, 37, said what's most important to her is spending time with the children.

"The great thing about this is you see the miracles, you meet the miracles," she said. "It's so not my day ... I just feel lucky to be in the room."

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LOS ANGELES -- The popularity of movies like "X2: X-Men United," "Spider-Man," "Daredevil" and "Hulk" has gotten 80-year-old Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee back to work.

Lee, who helped create those comic book superheroes during his tenure at Marvel in the 1960s, now has his own production company, POW! Entertainment.

"I'm working on so many new things," Lee told The Associated Press. "The one thing I love to do is come up with ideas for characters and for stories. At Marvel, we had done so many of them and after a while I moved away from the creative end and I just became a promoter for Marvel. But now I have the chance to be creating more things, and it's tremendous amount of fun."

Among Lee's recent POW! projects is the Spike TV show "Stripperella," a comedy cartoon with Pamela Anderson voicing a character who's an exotic dancer by night and a superhero by day. He is also developing a cartoon with Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner called "Hef's Super Bunnies," in which the lothario leads a squad of crime-fighting centerfolds.

He also does cameos in many of the Marvel movies, including last summer's "Hulk" and 2002's "Spider-Man."

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LOS ANGELES -- Retired comic actor Dick Van [filtered word] has found a high-tech outlet for his talent.

"I'm a computer animator. I'm a real nerd," the 78-year-old Van [filtered word] told The Associated Press in an interview to promote the DVD release of the 1968 musical fantasy "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."

"I do special effects, animation and everything on computer graphics - and I'm pretty good. I haven't ever put anything out professionally, but it's an absolutely addictive hobby."

The star of the groundbreaking sitcom "The Dick Van [filtered word] Show" said he started tinkering with the technology about 13 years ago and now works on four computers connected with one 40-inch screen in his home computer lab.

"It just became a constant companion," he said. "I have myself in there and do cartoons with myself. Then I'll try to do realistic stuff, too. If I go see a 'Jurassic Park,' I've got to go home and see if I can duplicate it."

And he's always on the lookout for amateur special-effects experts.

"I'm always looking for somebody, a kind of a fellow nerd, but I can't find anybody," he said.

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NEW YORK -- There's no way former "Baywatch" star Carmen Electra and Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro could have had a regular wedding ceremony.

The platinum-and-red invitations called for "hot and sexy" attire. And the 200 guests who arrived at the St. Regis Hotel in Los Angeles were greeted by men dressed in black with red masks, attire similar to "Eyes Wide Shut," one of the couple's favorite films.

But the feelings they expressed for each other couldn't have been more traditional.

"I'm nervous!" Navarro said before the Nov. 22 nuptials, according to People magazine's Dec. 8 issue. "I'm marrying the girl of my dreams."

"What's really going to touch my heart," Electra said before the ceremony, "is when my dad takes a step back when walking down the aisle and my husband takes his place."

The 31-year-old actress, who was married briefly to Dennis Rodman in 1998, wore a strapless, beaded, cream-colored Badgley Mischka gown. Navarro, 36, wore a Gucci suit.

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NEW YORK -- Renee Zellweger doesn't see what the big deal is about the fact that she put on weight to play Bridget Jones.

The petite actress packed on the pounds for "Bridget Jones's Diary" in 2001, then slimmed back down for last year's "Chicago," and now she's plumped up again for the sequel "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason," due out next year.

"The first time I did it, I learned a lot. I realized the influence of living in a society that focuses so much on physicality has affected me," Zellweger tells Vogue magazine for its December issue.

"When the film was coming out, the question I was asked the most was regarding my weight. And again it's happening. I was followed around Heathrow (airport) by a guy who wanted to take a picture of my backside. I don't understand the obsession."

Conversely, when Zellweger hears comments from people who think she looks too skinny in real life, the 34-year-old actress responds: "Looks like a busy girl who takes care of herself!"

Zellweger's next film, "Cold Mountain" with Nicole Kidman and Jude Law, opens Christmas Day.

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NEW ORLEANS -- The murder of rapper Soulja Slim echoed the violence of his profanity-laced songs, which told of gangs, drugs and drive-by shootings.

The artist, whose real name was James Tapp, was shot Wednesday night on the front lawn of the two-story duplex he'd bought for his mother in New Orleans' Gentilly neighborhood.

To some, the 25-year-old was poised to capture the rap scene, to get a music video on MTV and maybe make it bigger than his childhood friends, rappers Master P and C-Murder.

His stepfather, who asked that his name not be used, said envy of Tapp's swift rise may have motivated the killing.

The rapper was shot at least three times in the face and once in the chest. Witnesses said they saw a man in dark clothing fleeing afterward. Police had no suspects in custody on Friday.

Tapp's stepfather said the performer's dark themes weren't meant to incite violence, but rather to expose the chaos of "ghetto life" so it might be cured. He said Tapp broke no laws after ending a four-year prison stint in 2001 for a parole violation. Tapp had been convicted of armed robbery in 1995.

Master P, New Orleans' most famous rapper, appeared on several tracks of Tapp's first album, "Give It 2 'Em Raw." Tapp's second album, "The Streets Made Me," was released by Master P's No Limit Records. Tapp left No Limit in 2002 and released "Years Later" on his own Cut Throat Committy label.

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BANGKOK, Thailand -- He'd put on mascara, a layer of blush, bright red lipstick and finally the gloves before stepping into the testosterone-charged ring to knock the stuffing out of his opponents.

Now Parinya Charoenphol, one of Thailand's most famous kickboxers, is the subject of a movie.

"Beautiful Boxer," which premiered Wednesday night, is about the effeminate prizefighter who earned 22 wins and 18 knockouts in a career that lasted six years.

Parinya, 22, hung up his gloves at the peak of his career three years ago to undergo a sex change operation and become an entertainer in Bangkok's famous bar district of Patpong.

"In the end it is not just a story about a transvestite boxer but a story about a human being who goes through an emotional journey to match his heart with his body," director Ekachai Uekrongtham told The Associated Press.

Ekachai said he almost gave up making the movie because he couldn't find a suitable actor to play Parinya. He finally chose Assani Suwan, a 22-year-old kickboxer who took ballet lessons to bring out his feminine side.

"I am a man, 100 percent," Assani said. "So the biggest challenge was how could I make the audience believe that I have the heart of a woman."