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Brazil Nightclub Terror; Sloppy Winter Storm Heads East; SAG Award,s Obama & Clinton Take A Look Back, Chris Brown vs. Frank Ocean

Aired January 28, 2013 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Cell phones are ringing in the burnt-out nightclub in Brazil. Families hoping to get in touch with their loved ones. We're going to go live to the region, coming up.


Plus, new reports this morning that Chris Brown was in another fight. This time with Frank Ocean, the R&B artist who announced last year that he was in a same-sex relationship.

BERMAN: And all the highlights from last night's Screen Actors Guild Awards. Very, very exciting.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans, in for Zoraida.

Very bush Monday morning. It is 29 minutes past the hour.

And our top story this morning, more on this tragic nightclub fire that killed 231 people, mostly college students, in Brazil. Workers are still digging through the rubble of the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, a town in the southern part of the country. They're reporting they are hearing cell phones ringing, cell phones of people who aren't there to answer them.

The Brazilian nightclub fire shares some eerie similarities with the 2003 nightclub fire in Rhode Island that killed 100 people. It happened after fireworks went off during an overcrowded concert, setting fire to flammable foam on the wall. People were turned away from backdoors and a bottleneck kept people from exiting from the front.

But have we learned lessons from the tragedy?

John Barylick is the author of "Killer Show." He represented victims in wrongful death cases, as well as personal injury cases arising from 2003 Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island.

You know, when you hear about this tragedy in Brazil, there seem to be a lot of similarities to the Rhode Island tragedy a decade ago. JOHN BARYLICK, AUTHOR, "A KILLER SHOW": There really are. As humans, we are slow learners. There were apparently pyrotechnics in Brazil, there were issues with overcrowding, there were issues of flammable wall coverings and there were issues with inadequate training of staff.

ROMANS: Since Rhode Island, we know that there have been other examples where pyrotechnics have played a part in starting fires, indoor nightclubs, at least five other times. I mean, you look at this. In Argentina, 174 killed in nightclub fire there in 2004. Ecuador nightclub fire, 14 there. In Thailand, 64 killed in 2009. In Russia, 156 dead. And then, now, in Brazil, we know the number now, they are revising it to 231 -- 231 dead.

I mean, why are we not learning these lessons?

BARYLICK: I can't say why. I think we value spectacle and this is an abject lesson for promoters and band owners, that fire codes are not just inconveniencies, they can have real and tragic consequences.

ROMANS: In the United States, have we learned about making sure that we have exits, making sure that we have capacity rules and we're following them? I mean, has the nightclub industry changed in the U.S. at least since the 2003 fire?

BARYLICK: I think fortunately here in the U.S., we've had some valuable changes. At least in Rhode Island, the fire code has been strengthened to require sprinkling of buildings that hitherto had been grandfathered in, and in most venues around the country, if you go to a concert, there's a preconcert announcement about exits and about available emergency procedures.

Conversely, we haven't learned completely because Rhode Island, since the fire, has loosened its requirements for the public purchase of fireworks. So, there will be tragedies to come, unfortunately.

ROMANS: Let me ask you about what people can do. I mean, you can wait for new rules or legislation, or you can assume that a nightclub or big venue is going to have the proper evacuation procedures. In this case, it seems early moments of chaos on the ground, reporting that there were people who weren't letting people out of the building.

What can a club-goer do? What can do you to be your own best fire marshal?

BARYLICK: I think that's the key phrase. The takeaway is we can't rely upon others, club owners and promoters to ensure our safety.

When you get to a venue, look at the venue. Does it look well- maintained? Look at the staff. Do they appear to be trained in any degree?

And as you make your way to your seat, have you passed through pitch points that might impede your exit. And most important, when you get to your seat, look for the nearest exit. Likely, it won't be the up with you came in through and share the information with your party so that the first sign of any trouble, you are headed to the exit.

ROMANS: But, John, here is the thing. These are 19 and 20-year-old kids, they are college kids. They are just celebrating, you know, the last bit of summer before they are going to go back to school. I mean, I think when you are young, you are just assuming where you are is safe.

You know, it's so hard to have an evacuation strategy for all of these things you go through in life.

BARYLICK: That's a mindset we have to change. I know all young people think they are immortal, but these incidents show the impossible can happen. And we really have to look out for ourselves.

You have to go with your gut. If you get into a venue and it feels too crowded, or it feels wrong, leave, because there is no concert worth your life.

ROMANS: John Barylick, author of the book, "A Killer Show" -- thanks for joining us. Certainly our hearts go out to these families and their prayers are with all of them in Brazil right now.

BERMAN: You know, I've spoken with John before. And one of the things he told me is he's been to concerts where he did just walk out.

ROMANS: Really?

BERMAN: Where he looked around and didn't feel safe. He said, I'm not staying for this and he got up and left. But that takes an incredible amount of discipline.

ROMANS: But in an airplane, I always look for the exits on an airplane, and when I go into a big, tall building, you know, after September 11th, I figure out how where is the stairwell, how I'm going to get out. I don't think about that at a concert. Maybe that's got to change.

BERMAN: Important.

All right. Thirty-four minutes after the hour right now.

And you better be careful on the roads today. Check your flights. There's a sloppy winter storm now heading East. Heavy snow grounded more than 200 flights at O'Hare in Chicago yesterday. Parts of the Northeast including New York and Washington, D.C. could see sleet and freezing rain to kick off the week. Happy Monday.

Jennifer Delgado with a look ahead at the storm this morning.

Good morning, Jennifer.


Like it when you break everybody in to the bad news.

You're right. It's sloppy out there, John. We are still looking at temperatures very close to the freezing mark, even through parts of the Midwest, for areas like Detroit, precipitation tapering off. But keep in mind, near the freezing point. So that means slippery roadways out there.

As we move over towards the east, you can kind of see what's happening. Snow affecting parts of New York, as well as eastern parts of Pennsylvania. You see where the freezing rain is. Temperatures, hovering near the freezing mark.

So, that's why we are saying you need to be careful on the roadways, especially through about 10:00 a.m., noon in some parts. Up and down Interstate 95, including Washington, D.C., down towards Norfolk, you are going to be dealing with a bit of wintry mix that includes sleet, freezing rain, as well as some snow. And again, better chance of that to come to an end late this morning.

But how about those travel delays that John was mentioning? For Boston, p.m. snow setting up for New England. Washington, D.C., freezing rain. And then for Chicago, clouds around. We're taking delays roughly about an hour.

But I have to tell you about this very quickly -- for tomorrow, because we are seeing this warm-up, we are going to be dealing with the threat for tornadoes tomorrow, as this line of very strong storms moves over toward the East, you can see affecting the Northeast, down towards parts of the Gulf of Mexico.

We'll send it back over to you two. Certainly, pay attention to this. A lot of those are going to be moving through the overnight hours, when some people are sleeping, and, of course, we know that's dangerous.

BERMAN: We know you will be watching that for us over the next 24 hours.

DELGADO: I will.

BERMAN: Jennifer Delgado, thanks very much.

Thirty-six minutes after the hour right now. And Oscar night is still four weeks away. But last night was a really big deal in Hollywood. The 19th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards celebrating the best in television and film.

And don't you know, the ceremony had a surprise ending?

CNN's Nischelle Turner was there for all the fabulous activity. And she fabulously enough woke up for us to tell us all about it live in Los Angeles. Good morning, Nischelle.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: John, I don't know if I've even been to sleep, so I'm not sure if I woke up, I think I'm just here this morning.

But you're right. There was a surprise ending, and by that, we mean "Argo" winning best cast ensemble of the night for its movie, because going in, a lot of people thought "Lincoln" was the big front-runner going into awards season, but "Argo" has snuck up on a lot of people and taken a lot of awards and could be the front-runner going into the Oscars.

There were a lot of surprises last night especially for Ben Affleck, the director of "Argo". Go ahead and take it.


TURNER (voice-over): Actors, actors everywhere. The 19th Screen Actors Guild Awards was about union in every way. Host, lead actress winner, Jennifer Lawrence, of "Silver Linings Playbook" and Anne Hathaway who won supporting actress honors relating "Miserables," talked about getting their SAG cards at age 14.

ANNE HATHAWAY, OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY FEMALE ACTOR/SUPPORTING ROLE: It felt like the beginning of the world. I have loved every single minute of my life as an actor.


TURNER: There was lots of love for "30 Rock" whose season finale is this week. Tina Fey won her fifth actor trophy and Alec Baldwin, his eighth for the sitcom. And even when "Modern Family" topped it for the Comedy Ensemble Award, they praised the "Rock."

JESSE TYLER FERGUSON, "MODERN FAMILY": "30 Rock" and "The Office" -- you all have set the comedy bar so high.

TURNER: Camaraderie also topped competition as the cast of British import, "Downton Abbey", paid tribute to the shows it beat for Drama Series Ensemble, including "Homeland" and "Boardwalk Empire."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just absolutely overwhelmed by all.

TURNER: Everyone cheered for Dick Van Dyke honored with the Life Achievement Award for more than a half century of acting, singing, dancing, and (INAUDIBLE) his way into our hearts.

DICK VAN DYKE, RECEIVED SAG LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: This very heavy object here means that I can refer to you as my peers.

TURNER: Best Actor winner, Daniel Day-Lewis, was quick to share credit with the entire cast of "Lincoln".

DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, ACTOR: I have no doubt that this in an ensemble award.

TURNER: The actual ensemble award went to "Argo," adding that price to its Golden Globe and Producer's Guild Awards. Director and star Ben Affleck praised not only his cast but everyone.

BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR/DIRECTOR, "ARGO": It wanted to kill it to make the movie better because that's what actors do all over the world every day. God bless you. Thank you so much for making the movies that you make and the television you make. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TURNER: That was a great moment. I'm actually practicing my surprise face like all the celebrities in the audience when the win.

BERMAN: That is really good. You have a great surprise face. I'll let you do it one more time.

Because, Nischelle, there was something of a surprise in the TV drama category. Show me the surprise face.

TURNER: "Downton Abbey." ah!

Yes, you know, it was a surprise, but a pleasant surprise for a lot of the "Downton Abbey" fans, because a lot of experts, John, had "Homeland" winning in that category, because they cleaned up in the Golden Globes. It also won the Emmy last fall. But "Downton Abbey" has really found its audience and remains a hit with critics as well.

I'm new to the "Downton Abbey" party. I actually just started watching it, so I could catch up during awards season and I became hooked immediately. So, I understand when people say when they say one time you watch it, and you can't stop.

And I know it sounds cliche, but you see them up there, they really do look genuinely shocked by the win last night when they took the stage to accept the award. They thanked the Screen Actors Guild for even bothering to consider them with the other people in the category. So it was cute.

And I talked to them in the red carpet before the award show and they were all kind of excited just to be there because it was their first time ever at the Screen Actors Guild, most of the cast.

BERMAN: You know, it is nice in Hollywood, to see people genuinely happy when they win something.

Nischelle Turner, always great to see you. Thanks very much.

TURNER: He says with sarcasm.

BERMAN: No, I mean it. I mean it. It's great to see them. They did seem really excited. Just no cynicism here on EARLY START, you should know that. Thank you.


BERMAN: Show me the surprise face again.

TURNER: All right, John.

ROMANS: So much good TV and movies. Is it always like this? I feel so much good stuff that my productivity work has gone down considerably.

BERMAN: Yes. ROMANS: Anyway, breaking news overnight in Los Angeles, report that Chris Brown got into an all-out brawl with another singer and his people. You know who. Details, next.


BERMAN: Forty-four minutes after the hour right now. Let's bring up to speed on all the morning's top stories.

A pretrial hearing for five men accused of masterminding the 9/11 attacks. Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators face the death penalty if convicted. These proceedings will take place before a military commission at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

ROMANS: A sloppy and slippery winter storm, now heading East. The storm creating an icy mess from Minnesota to Indy, down to Kentucky, canceling more than 200 flights at O'Hare in Chicago. Parts of the Northeast, including New York and Washington, D.C., could see sleet and freezing rain to kick off the week.

BERMAN: Egypt's president, Mohamed Morsi, has declared a limited state of emergency in the wake of recent violence and he's suggesting more action as possible. He imposed a 30-day curfew in three cities along the Suez Canal where violence has broken out since Friday.

Protesters now angry at the new leadership two years after Hosni Mubarak's departure. Morsi invited representatives from 11 political parties to meet today to address problems in Egypt as opposed to expressing anger like you're seeing right now.

So, the so-called gang of eight will unveil the Senate's bipartisan immigration proposal today. Among the plan's big features, it offers a pathway to residency and even citizenship to many of the estimated 11 million immigrants who were in the United States unlawfully.

It calls for an effective employment verification system that prevents identity theft and would end hiring unauthorized workers in the future. And in Illinois, undocumented immigrants can now get temporary visitor driver's licenses. Governor pat Quinn signed this into law yesterday.

ROMANS: 2005, that was a rough time for immigration reform in this country. We'll see if we can do it better this time.

All right. The waiting almost over for many cold and homeless Sandy victims. A $50 billion emergency aid bill for victims of Superstorm Sandy is about to clear its final Congressional hurdle. The Senate is scheduled to vote later today. The measure is expected to pass, and of course, President Obama has promised to sign it.

BERMAN: And new overnight. Reports that Chris Brown was involved in another brawl with singer and current Grammy nominee, Frank Ocean. TMZ is saying police were called to the scene at Westlake Studio in Los Angeles where Brown had a run-in with Ocean's people, shall we say. But TMZ says there were no arrests. ROMANS: People. Some day you'll have people, Berman.

BERMAN: People I do not have. There are some tweets to share you right now about this incident right now from Frank Ocean. I have to put on my reading glasses to read this.

ROMANS: "Cut my finger now. "I can't play with two hands at the Grammys," he says. "Got jumped by Chris and a couple of guys. LOL. I only wish Everest was there." Everest sounds like a big person.


BERMAN: Someone just got jumped by Chris. Anyway, those tweets from Frank Ocean, apparently, after the incident there.

So, 47 minutes after the hour right now. And total BFFs. President Obama and Hillary Clinton sit down together for an interview and make 2008 look like ancient history. But does this have anything to do with 2016? We'll talk to former assistant secretary of state, Jamie Rubin, next. Intrigue.


BERMAN: You're look being live right now at Washington, D.C., our nation's capital where I think it's safe to say there is a new level of political intrigue because of something that aired on television last night. It was a very rare sight to see. President Barack Obama and outgoing secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, sitting down together, side by side, for a joint interview.

This, as Mrs. Clinton prepares to leave office on Friday. The two indulged in a lot of mutual praise while talking to "60 Minutes.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hillary will go down as one of the finest secretary of states we've had.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: This has been just the most extraordinary honor.

OBAMA: I consider Hillary a strong friend.

CLINTON: Very warm, close --

OBAMA: One of the most important advisers that I've had on a whole range of issues.


BERMAN: I want to bring in Jamie Rubin. He's a former assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration. And Jamie, I just have to ask, when you sat down and watched that interview, what do you see?

JAMIE RUBIN, COUNSELOR FOR GOV. ANDREW CUOMO: I guess, just seeing the interview itself was pretty stunning. I've worked in the area for the secretary of state, working with the White House and trying to set up various media opportunities and I've never heard of or seen anything like that where you have the president actually side by side with a member of his cabinet, any member of his cabinet. Anyone at all.

The president always goes alone. So, I thought that was pretty unusual and clearly an attempt to try to shape the first draft of history of Hillary Clinton secretary of stateship.

BERMAN: It's about her legacy as secretary of state, because as I was watching, as everyone was watching, people were wondering why? Why do this?

RUBIN: I don't know the reasons why, but I would speculate on one thing. I suspect that prior to the Benghazi attacks on September 11th of last year, the secretary of state had a planned a series of interviews to sort of end her term, a kind of legacy set of interviews, and I suspect that the combination of the Benghazi attacks, the hearings, her illness, her travel and all of that controversy made it impossible to have a set of interviews with, say, "60 minutes" or others that would have normally been done at the end of terms.

So, this way, using this combination of the president and the secretary of state was a way to sort of highlight the successes of that era.

BERMAN: And it really was a lovefest. I mean, they were fawning over each other in some cases. It has not always been thus for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Let's look at some of the not so greatest hits of their relationship from four years ago.


CLINTON: Tactics that are right out of Karl Rove's playbook. So, shame on you, Barack Obama.

OBAMA: Shame on her. She knows better. She's talking like she's Annie Oakley.

CLINTON: Maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow.

OBAMA: While I was working on those streets, you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board at Wal-Mart.


BERMAN: But now, they could not be better friends. Believable?

RUBIN: I think what people don't understand, no matter how intense the campaign was and it really was quite unusually intense for Democrats, four years of being in the trenches together in Washington on the same side, in the same cabinet, being shot at from all of directions, not just, you know, normal media criticism, fellow Democrats criticizing Republicans, criticizing foreign governments on a different side, there's nothing like four years of being in the same trench to bring even people who have disagreed strongly close together.

BERMAN: And we don't have time to play the clip right now, but again, they were obviously asked about 2016, and the president had a joke, obviously, prepared for it, and Mrs. Clinton demurred and said, you know, I'm not going to talk about the future right now. Is there any sign from the fact that they merely did the interview that it's at least a still possibility for her?

RUBIN: I think the interview for me was more about her legacy as secretary of state than the politics.

BERMAN: All right. Jamie Rubin, always great to see you. I really appreciate it.

When we come back, we give you our "Best Advice."


BERMAN: We have just few minutes left.

ROMANS: Let's wrap it up with some "Best Advice." Today, it comes from L.Z. Granderson.

BERMAN: Let's see.



L.Z. GRANDERSON, CONTRIBUTOR, ESPN: The best advice I've ever received actually came through a song when I was really, really young by this 80s pop star by the name of Richard Marx. Just first song was "Don't Mean Nothing," and he had this line in the song, "Don't mean nothing until you sign it on the dotted line."

And it has stuck with me my entire career as a professional journalist, you know, you get told a lot of things by a lot of different people, and you've come to realize that it really doesn't mean anything until there's actually documentation, a contract. It doesn't mean anything until it actually is actually happening.

So, to take those words with a grain of salt and wait for actually whatever it is they're pitching you to interiorize.


ROMANS: Life lessons via Richard Marx.

BERMAN: I know. Influencing generations of people --


BERMAN: -- and will for some time to come. That is all for EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans in for Zoraida Sambolin today. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.