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TELEVISION & RADIO | TOUR TALK

Amanpour special looks at Bin Laden

July 15, 2006|Lynn Smith; Maria Elena Fernandez

A look at some of the highlights as the TV industry unveils its upcoming shows to the entertainment press at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa in Pasadena:

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If Christiane Amanpour could have interviewed Osama bin Laden for her upcoming CNN special, "In the Footsteps of Bin Laden," she knows exactly what she'd ask.

She'd press him, in her trademark fashion, about "the whole Islam bit," she told reporters Friday. "In my opinion, it's really twisted," she said. "He says he has one enemy, the United States. Yet the majority of those killed have been fellow Muslims." The documentary, which will air Aug. 23, was filmed in 10 countries and features 21 first-person accounts of Bin Laden from relatives, childhood friends, a former schoolteacher, associates, a bodyguard and the wife of an Al Qaeda suicide bomber, many of whom have never before been interviewed.

Jonathan Klein, president of CNN/U.S., said the special benefits from Amanpour's "secret sauce" -- her intense personality focused on a subject. Looking like a star, Amanpour sported a canary yellow jacket, ethnic print pants, and was flanked by a slide show of her at work in far-flung locales. After the panel, she was to fly back to the Middle East for more reporting.

Unlike fellow journalists Dan Rather and Ted Koppel who earlier bemoaned the state of hard-hitting international journalism, Amanpour is optimistic. "If we tell relevant stories compellingly well, they'll watch, listen and appreciate it."

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Lynn Smith

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Another metal family bares all

It took Gene Simmons and his family to explain what celebrities mean when they say that something happens to them when they come on stage -- and they just light up.

Simmons and his family -- Shannon Tweed, the woman he's been "happily unmarried" to for 23 years, and their children Nick, 17, and Sophie, 14 -- were backstage at the press tour Thursday, waiting their turn to promote their new A&E reality show, "Gene Simmons Family Jewels," when the proud papa introduced his children. Sophie smiled politely, and Nick asked what a press conference was.

Nice kids, created by the union of the KISS rock god and ex-Playboy Bunny.

An hour or so later, a different personality seemed to inhabit Nick, who exclaimed on stage about his father's outlandish ways: "He doesn't cheat on her. He just goes out and squeezes breasts. He doesn't cheat on her. He's just too chicken."

Thank you, Ozzie Osbourne and familia, for starting the trend of supreme family exposure for supreme financial gain.

The entertainment press was treated to additional insight about the Tweed-Simmons: Simmons showed us his KISS Visa card, peddled his wife's new book, "Kiss and Tell," etc. But as wacky and wild as Dad may present himself, they actually came across as a stable and cohesive family.

That said, at one point, Simmons was going on and on and on about how marriages end in divorce. While he and Tweed have never been married, they've also never been divorced, he said. His daughter added: "She's obviously not after your money. She loves you very much."

Asked why, after spending so many years not letting anyone see him without his KISS makeup, he would let reality television cameras into his home, Simmons replied: "You get past a certain point, there's nothing left to prove to anyone. It's OK to say, 'This is who I am off stage and who I am on stage.' "

"Also," his son noted, "the fans got older."

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Maria Elena Fernandez

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Fat Momma and Spider-Man?

Stan Lee, of superheroes and Marvel Comics fame, is in the house promoting his new reality series "Who Wants to Be a Superhero?"

Eleven regular folks with ideas for original superheroes are competing for a chance to have a comic book made based on their character. To get the prize, they must inhabit the character and compete before a panel of judges.

And, apparently, appear at press tour.

So we met Monkey Woman, Fat Momma and Nitro G, among others, and Fat Momma even treated us to her audition song. The chorus went something like this: "Fat Momma! Fat Momma! I'll take your food away!"

When asked how she came up with her character and her superhero moniker, the sweet-natured 43-year-old Nell Wilson said she brainstormed with her daughter and concluded: "I'm fat and I'm a momma."

Later, she added that her character is about accepting one's self. And to show off her abilities, such as "The Fat Clap" and "The Super Burp."

-- M.E.F.

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