Thomas Conner: March 2010 Archives

Stayin' alive: Oprah narrates 'Life'

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For some of us, Oprah inspires our lives. Well now she's narrating it.

Oprah's voice provides the narration for an upcoming 11-part nature series, "Life."

"More than four years in the making, filmed over 3,000 days across every continent and habitat, with narration by Oprah Winfrey, 'Life' is an epic BBC/Discovery Channel production that illustrates the extraordinary tactics animals and plants use to stay alive," the network said in a joint statement. "'Life' tells 130 incredible stories from the frontiers of the natural world, 54 of which have never been filmed before."

The series will air across the six Discovery cable channels beginning March 21, wrapping up by April 18. The DVD will hit shelves by June 1.

This new series is an extension of the "Life" programs narrated by David Attenborough from the 1970s to the '90s.

Who wants to be a billionaire? Oprah does

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Forbes magazine's annual list of billionaires is out today, and Oprah is No. 400, clocking in at $2.4 billion.

The annual list ranks individuals by their estimated net worth as of Feb. 12.

Other Illinois residents on the list include philanthropist Lester Crown, hedge fund manger Kenneth Griffin and toy maker Ty Warner.

See the full list here.

Oprah and Gabourey at the Oscars

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Oscars - Governors Ball.jpg

Oprah, of course, was at the Oscars on Sunday night. She took to the stage as part of what turned out to be the coolest part of the show -- fellow actors delivering brief testimonials about each of the nominated best actors and best actresses. Oprah described "Precious" star Gabourey Sidibe as a classic Cinderella story and welcomed her to the big time.

Oprah's appearance on stage was a surprise to Sidibe, as the two discuss here outside the Governor's Ball after-party:

Later in the night,Oprah was clearly impressed when "The Hurt Locker" upset "Avatar" to win the Oscar for best picture. She was overheard backstage shouting: "Wowee kazowee!"

Then again, that may just be her superwoman cry.

Jessica Simpson: OK, I'm 'a little angry'

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Jessica Simpson says she's not angry with ex-boyfriend John Mayer for an interview he gave to Playboy magazine in which he called the singer "sexual napalm."

Well, she adds, maybe "a little bit angry."

In quotes provided by Harpo Productions, Simpson says on the Wednesday episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" that she doesn't want people "to know how I am in bed." In the interview, Mayer talked about Simpson's sexual ability and said Simpson "is like crack cocaine to me."

Simpson said her phone rang "off the hook" after Mayer's interview came out, according to Us mag. "I guess it could have been a lot worse," she says.

Simpson also told Winfrey that she is "absolutely" comfortable with her weight and that she loves her curves. The singer says she's "not going to ever be size 0 and I don't want to weigh 90 pounds."

Winfrey then comments that Simpson looked as if she weighed 90 pounds when she made "The Dukes of Hazzard" in 2005. Simpson says: "I didn't weigh 90 pounds. But I was -- I was definitely smaller. But that was Daisy Duke, that's a role. I was playing a role. I don't want to look like Daisy Duke every day. I don't want to wear a bathing suit every day."

Contributing: AP

Ebert finds his voice again with Oprah

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Roger Ebert is asked how he's doing today. "Terrific," he says.

The famed Sun-Times film critic is talking with Oprah using a special type-to-speech computer system. He's discussing his eight-year battle with cancer that took his lower jaw and eventually robbed him of, as Oprah said, "that voice we know and love."

Ebert and his wife, Chaz, came onto the set and sat with Oprah after a segment showing his life at home, his "eating" regimen (dinner from a gravity-fed IV bottle), and his still-rigorous schedule of hitting the screening room for two to four movies a day. (We also saw him running errands that included "meeting with television executives to talk about the possibility of a new show." To which we say: ???!!!)

He's got his laptop in his lap, and he types "terrific." Here's the first exchange:

Ebert then tells a story about how he still talks in his dreams -- and he still enjoys root beer. After losing his ability to eat and drink, he says he was taunted by a boyhood memory of going to the A&W with his father and savoring a root beer. His brother-in-law, he says, suggested that God gave him that memory back as comfort after taking that pleasure form him.

Oprah then announced that Ebert is, as only she could it, "CAN-CER FUH-REE-EEEEEEE!"

We then see Ebert and Chaz tinkering with a new technology from CereProc, a Scottish company, that has sampled dozens of syllables from Ebert's old TV shows to create a synthesized voice for him -- his own voice. (Hear an interview about it here.) Ebert types in a few sentences, and we hear his own voice, slightly synthesized and rough around the edges, reading them back. The lower portion of his face naturally sags now, showing almost constant astonishment, but we can see the real amazement shining in his wide eyes.

"It's uncanny," he says. "It's a good feeling."

Chaz says the last time she heard his actual voice was July 1, 2006.

Then Oprah gives a shout-out to Chaz: "I would like to say, from one woman to another, you are incredible! You make me proud to spell my name w-o-m-a-n. This woman refused to let him die. She refused to let him die. Years ago ... she called me and said, 'I refuse to let him die.' She stood by him and has been with him and has taken care of him, and has shown what true love is."

Ebert says he's done with surgeries, that he has no desire to go through complicated rpcoesses to reconstruct his face. "Nobody looks perfect," he says. "This is the way I look, and my life is happy and productive."

He then, of course, gave us his annual Oscar predictions!

It was a loving gesture and an inspiring story with two friends who go way back.

Bonus: Esquire has added some nice photos of Ebert taken in conjunction wth the magazine's recent acclaimed profile of him.


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