Hollywood still lures them

Maybe this is re-assuring: We may shrug off Hollywood, but others -- even sophisticated English folks -- still consider it magical.

I've found that during my first few days of Television Critics Association interviews in Los Angeles. Consider:

-- Claire Foy, 24, with all the proper credentials. She's an Oxford grad and a "Masterpiece Classic" star, with the title role in the upcoming "Little Dorrit." She was delighted that the intervews are at a hotel across from Universal City. "I want to go on the rides," she said. "I want to go to a theme park."

-- Aaron Paul, 28, who's terrific as a small-time drug dealer in "Breaking Bad." Poolside, he nodded toward the Universal theaters; that's where he worked after his leap from Idaho to Los Angeles. "I was the guy who would take your ticket at the movies."

-- Luke Pasqualino, 18, who's a charming sort in the upcoming season of "Skins," on BBC America. "I was a huge 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air' fan," he said. "Now I'm actually in L.A. and I saw Bel Air on the map ... I might get in a car and go down there and check it all out."

-- Sharon Small, 41, already a PBS favorite (via the Inspector Lyndley mysteries) and now in BBC America's upcoming "Mistresses." For her, it was a thrill to drive past the Hollywood sign -- or to be driving at all. She's usually in London; "we can drive, but it's quite a mess."

-- And Foy again, with her one complaint. On her first night in Los Angeles, she grumbled that she couldn't find "the big row with the palm trees on it."

Helpful gentlemen soon gave her tips to find palm trees. When you're young and wide-eyed and look like Keira Knightley, gentlemen are helpful and Hollywood is magical.  



A joke, courtesy of RuPaul


I really don't pass along enough jokes from RuPaul, so here's one.

You may recall that RuPaul is the towering drag-queen star. He was in Los Angeles today to talk about "RuPaul's Drag Race," the reality competition show that opens Feb. 2 on cable's Logo Channel. Anyway, here's his joke:

"A black guy walks into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder.

"The bartender says, 'Hey, where'd you get that?'"

"The parrot says, 'In Africa. They're everywhere there.'"

The latest Brett Favre news


So this is the big news I get in a newspaper headline today: "Favre will wait before deciding."

Thanks for that information. In another scoop, it turns out that the sun rose in the East this morning. Also, they're following up on reports that the Pope is Catholic.

Favre has been doing this at the end of each season. Why is it that he takes months to decide whether to play football again, but (during key games) takes zero seconds to decide to fling a football into a crowd of defenders? 


Scoop: Idina Menzel sings well

You probably suspected this anyway, but I wanted to confirm it: Idina Menzel is a really good singer.

That's already obvious to people who have heard her in "Wicked" or "Rent," or who got her recent solo album. The latest confirmation, however, comes with:

-- A "Soundstage" special, next Thursday (Jan. 15) on many PBS stations. "Perfume and Promises," with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, is especially gorgeous. Menzel closes the night by joining Josh Groban for a high-quality, high-decibel "Awake."

-- "Chess in Concert," which PBS is saving for summer. Menzel links with Groban (again) and her old "Rent" mate Adam Pascal, to revive the musical; clips indicate this could be a powerhouse night.

-- And a mini-concert she gave Wednesday night at a Television Critics Association session in Los Angeles.

Menzel showed her ability to have a light, sweet voice one minute, yet reach big, passionate moments the next. She also told stories.

There were the her days as a 15-year-old in Long Island, driving illegally so she could sing at weddings and such. These were cover songs, mostly, bearing bad memories. One man had a heart attack on the dance floor while she was mid-ballad.

And there was her recent performance at the "Kennedy Center Honors," singing in the Barbra Streisand tribute. Afterward, she braced herself for the obligatory praise from Streisand (who was sitting at her table) and Aretha Fanklin (who obsesses on Menzel's husband, Taye Diggs).

The result: Streisand said nothing about her for 20 minutes, then said "Oh, was that you? I didn't have my glasses on."

Franklin simply didn't accept the fact that that Menzel (who had changed dresses afterward) was the one who sang in the tribute. When she was finally convinced, she said to Diggs: "You didn't tell me your wife sings."

It was, she recalled, a memorable stretch -- being dismissed by two of her idols the same day. 





Comparing what???

Now, I've got nothing against comparing apples to oranges. One is bigger, one is oranger, one is seedier. Where's the problem?

Then there's the new "Superstars of Dance," Mondays on NBC. Great dancers, clumsy production values -- and a bizarre judging system.

Suddenly, we're comparing Cossack stompers, South African chest-slappers, ballerinas, tap dancers and a guy whose limbs seem to pop out of their joints. Now rate them.

This isn't apples to oranges. It's comparing apples to hand grenades, basset hounds to toyotas, lilac bushes to apostrophes.