Originally created 09/22/04

People in the News

AMHERST, N.Y. - Sarah Ferguson is happy to travel the country waving the Weight Watchers flag, but says the government needs to do its part to combat obesity.

Ferguson led more than 700 Weight Watchers faithful in a rousing "super meeting" Monday as part of an eight-city tour for the weight-loss group. Afterward, she said membership to such support-based systems should be covered by Medicare or Medicaid.

Great Britain's health care system, she said, is considering such a proposal.

"Yes, I can speak for Weight Watchers. Yes, I can travel around inspiring people, but let's get the country to be a bit more supportive and realizing it's a killer," said the former member of Britain's royal family, who has lobbied on Capitol Hill on weight-related health issues.

Onstage - Ferguson entered behind three pompom-waving women with "Pretty Woman" blaring on speakers - Ferguson recounted a struggle with weight that began with her parents' divorce when she was 12 and continued through her marriage to Prince Andrew, when the tabloids dubbed her "Duchess of Pork."

"I started so believing it I started sabotaging my life," Ferguson, wearing a charcoal pinstriped suit, told the audience, ticking off financial problems, the end of her marriage and other embarrassments that fed a tabloid frenzy in the 1980s and '90s.

"If you're going to humiliate yourself, do it in front of an entire country," she said.

Ferguson said she has no problems sharing her story, embarrassments and all, with fellow Weight Watchers members. Had she opened up earlier, she said, she may not have turned to food for comfort in hard times.

Ferguson said people are often surprised at her approachability, something she credits to the shared struggles.

"I try to explain to them that we're all the same, just some people were born in different countries and different places and some have a title and some don't," she said. "So when I go up onstage, sometimes maybe they've come to see the Duchess of York but they leave knowing I'm a regular member with them."


PODGORICA, Serbia-Montenegro - Sarajevo-born film director Emir Kusturica has accused a Montenegrin writer of slander in a private lawsuit filed with a court in the Balkan republic's capital, Podgorica.

Kusturica's lawyer, Marika Novakovic, said the filmmaker contends Andrej Nikolaidis slandered him in a May commentary for the Montenegrin weekly Monitor. In the article, Nikolaidis claimed that Kusturica supported former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's policies in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s.

The article called Kusturica a "media star of Milosevic's war machinery." Nikolaidis also allegedly accused Kusturica of "siding with the war's executioners, instead of the victims," the lawyer said.

Kusturica left Bosnia before the outbreak of the 1992-95 ethnic war and took up self-imposed exile in neighboring Serbia, the dominant republic in then-Yugoslavia.

"These untruths damage the reputation and honor of my client," Novakovic told the court Monday.

Novakovic wouldn't say what damages Kusturica was seeking.

He later told The Associated Press that Nikolaidis "insinuates Kusturica supported the villains who perpetrated crimes against the Muslims in Bosnia."

Nikolaidis dismissed the accusation, saying it was "no libel matter but a difference of intellectual opinion," and that he had reacted to an article published in France citing Kusturica's pro-Milosevic stand.

"Kusturica has openly publicly engaged on the side of the villains in Bosnia's war," Nikolaidis told the AP, citing as proof photographs of Kusturica with Milosevic's associates and Belgrade's funding for his Cannes award-winning film, "Underground."

"He is now washing his hands of his past work," he said.

The court will hear the case next month, when a verdict is expected. Kusturica has filed a separate lawsuit against Monitor magazine for "psychological pain."

"Underground," Kusturica's movie on the war in the former Yugoslavia, won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Palm, in 1995.


MILWAUKEE - Alfre Woodard and several members of the Congressional Black Caucus rallied voters over the weekend in an effort to motivate blacks to vote in large numbers.

Woodard compared life for blacks under the Bush administration to 1965, when race riots wracked the nation in many of its major cities.

The 50-year-old actress urged the crowd of several hundred at Sherman Park on Sunday to vote - and to help get others to polling places.

"In your grandmama's name, bring someone with you" to the polls Nov. 2, said Woodard, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in 1983's "Cross Creek."

The rally was called "Our Vote, Our Future, Make it Count."


NEW YORK - Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn will read the audiobook version of Bob Dylan's "Chronicles: Volume One," to be published Oct. 12 by Simon & Schuster Audio.

The book and audiobook comprise the first in a series of the singer-songwriter's personal histories, with the first volume consisting of first-person narratives focusing on significant periods in Dylan's life and career, the publisher said last week.

The audiobook version runs for six hours on four cassettes or five CDs.

"When we were thinking of actors to read the Bob Dylan audiobook, the first name on our list was Sean Penn," said Chris Lynch, executive vice president and publisher of Simon & Schuster Audio, in a statement. "We knew he would be perfect for the material, and we are absolutely thrilled that an actor of his caliber will be reading 'Chronicles.'"

This is the first audiobook that Penn has narrated.

He won an Oscar in 2004 for his role in "Mystic River." His other movies include "I Am Sam," "Sweet and Lowdown" and "Dead Man Walking."


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