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  CELEBRITY WATCH
Listen to "Celebrity Watch" from CNN Radio's Ken Pauli
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March 29, 2000
Web posted at: 4:52 p.m. EST (2152 GMT)

Today's buzz stories:

Inquiring minds ask: Where was Houston?

Houston
Houston  

LOS ANGELES -- The official Oscar word is that Whitney Houston declined to perform at the Academy Awards on Sunday because she had a sore throat. The New York Post suggests otherwise.

Unidentified sources tell the newspaper she was "yanked after she flubbed her songs in rehearsal." Oscar musical director Burt Bacharach decided to replace her Friday, they say.

Not so, according to Oscar publicist Jane LaBonte.

"I was in the rehearsal myself the whole time," she says, "and it was really obvious the poor lady was having a problem with her throat."

Houston's publicist says the pop diva stepped down for the good of the show ... and her throat.

"Whitney Houston arrived in Los Angeles with a sore throat," Nancy Seltzer says. "After participating in rehearsals for the 72nd Academy Awards show both Thursday and Friday nights, she was unsure that she would be better by Sunday. She therefore regretfully withdrew from the performance."

Country singer Faith Hill stood in for Houston to perform the medley of movie themes.



Swank angers 'Boys Don't Cry' mother

LINCOLN, Nebraska -- Hilary Swank may have won an Oscar for her portrayal of the cross-dressing Teena Brandon in "Boys Don't Cry," but Brandon's mother is panning her acceptance speech.

JoAnn Brandon says she became infuriated when the actress thanked "Brandon Teena," a name that her daughter used instead of her given name, and then referred to her daughter as a man.

"That set me off," Brandon says. "She should not stand up there and thank my child. I get tired of people taking credit for what they don't know."

Brandon also says a man sexually molested Teena Brandon as a child -- a fact filmmakers failed to make, she says. Her daughter posed to be a man "so no other man could touch her," Brandon says.

Two men in rural Nebraska killed Teena Brandon in 1993 after discovering she was really a woman. A&E plans to air a documentary, "American Justice: The Life & Death of Teena Brandon," on Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET.



Columbus gives direction to 'Potter'

LOS ANGELES -- The director who brought "Home Alone," "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Bicentennial Man" to the screen has been tapped to direct the first "Harry Potter" film.

Chris Columbus is to begin production on "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" this summer, reports Warner Bros. The movie, based on a title from the bestselling series by British author J.K. Rowling, is slated for release next year.

Columbus beat out directors Brad Silberling, Ivan Reitman, Terry Gilliam and Jonathan Demme for the job.

The "Potter" series follows the exploits of Harry Potter, who discovers on his 11th birthday that he inherited magical powers from his parents.

"From the first time I read Harry Potter with my children, I fell in love with these wonderful characters and this world," Columbus says.



Kathleen Turner disrobes in 'The Graduate'

Turner
Turner  

LONDON -- Coo-coo-kachoo Ms. Turner!

Kathleen Turner is doing a nude scene in the West End production of "The Graduate," and that has theater patrons lining up like eager Benjamin Braddocks. Ticket sales have doubled for the play, which opens next week.

Preview audiences spread the word that Turner comes out of a shower and then drops her towel on the stage, doing the rest of the scene in the buff.

In the 1967 film version, Dustin Hoffman, who plays Braddock, is seen watching Anne Bancroft saucily remove her stockings. But that's all she takes off; her nakedness is left to the viewer's imagination.



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