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What Does Brad Pitt Smell Like? And More Celeb Secrets from ‘Confessions of a Hollywood Insider’

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Celebrity interviewer Sandro Monetti is dishing on his wildest assignments and star run-ins in his new book from Hi-Fex, “Confessions of a Hollywood Insider.”

The stories are endless, from sniffing Brad Pitt to predicting Millie Bobby Brown as the next big star to covering Princess Diana and the royals.

Check out our interview with Monetti below as he reveals even more about his storied career.

You’ve certainly had an exciting career covering entertainment and the royals. Why did you decide to write a book?
I’d been meaning to share all these fun celebrity stories in some form for years, but living a 24/7 life of premieres, parties, and interviews prevented me from having the time. When the pandemic hit and all that stopped, I took the opportunity to reflect on things, realized I had been lucky enough to meet and often get to know the 100 biggest stars in the world over the last 20 years or more, and so decided to chronicle in book form what they are really like, at least from my perspective. From Donald Trump to Princess Diana, Paul McCartney to Madonna and Tom Cruise to George Clooney, I’ve met them all, often embarrassed myself along the way, but loved every minute.

Your story about Brad Pitt was so funny. Can you give our readers a little tease of what happened? Did you ever interview him again? Did he recognize you?
When I started out in showbiz reporting, I didn’t have the kind of one-on-one access I get now as a representative of major outlets but instead had to investigate often wild celebrity rumors and find other ways to get close to the stars. One such occasion came when sent to check out a rumor that the then newly famous Brad Pitt smelled due to a body odor problem. Tracing Brad down to a swanky restaurant where he was having lunch, I hid out in the men’s room there in the hope he would stop by during the meal and I could take my chance to sniff him. He did so and the bizarre ambush that followed is detailed in “Confessions of a Hollywood Insider.” But I’m pleased to report he didn’t stink. I vowed to clean up my professional act from that day forward and on the handful of occasions I’ve seen the great actor since, I’ve always felt Brad was trying to place me from where we first met. If he’s reading this, now he knows. Sorry, Brad.

That wasn’t your only bathroom mishap with a star. Tell us about peeing on Samuel L. Jackson!
It’s not every night you find yourself at a urinal peeing next to one of your favorite actors, but you’d be surprised how often it happens in my line of work. During this encounter in a London restroom after a film premiere, I turned to look at Sam and gave a huge grin, which I hoped conveyed the fact I was a big admirer of his work but which I fear instead came across as vaguely creepy. The big mistake I made when turning my head to the right was turning my body too, and the result was I peed all over his shoes. Horrifying. Let me just say that Samuel’s understandable one-word reaction was the word that has made him most famous in movies.

You’ve crossed paths with so many Hollywood greats. What is your favorite memory?
Meeting the stars you idolized in childhood and have worshipped ever since is a special moment — especially when they turn out to be everything you hoped. Growing up as a huge “Rocky” and “Rambo” fan, Sylvester Stallone was always my hero, and my favorite memory is also my favorite interview. I hosted “An Evening with Sylvester Stallone” at a huge arena, and stepping out onstage with Sly in front of 5,000 of his fellow fans, then having him share stories of his roller-coaster career while showing himself to be both humble and humorous was the thrill of a lifetime.

sandro-sly

You also predicted Millie Bobby Brown would be a star. What was it about her?
One thing you learn from meeting so many icons is how to spot star quality, and, a couple of years before “Stranger Things,” I instantly knew there was something strange and special about Millie, who had a talent, wisdom, and vocabulary beyond her years when I interviewed her for an earlier sci-fi show called “Intruders.” Keira Knightley was the previous child actress I’d marked out for a great future too. There’s a magical aura around great talents, regardless of age.

Switching gears: As a royal reporter, what can you tell us about Princess Diana that the average person may not know?
Diana was always eager and fast to learn things, eventually being comfortable enough to ask reporters and photographers about the workings of the media industry, and that helped her transform from being initially shy and awkward in the spotlight to eventually learning how both use her platform for good and to communicate her feelings to the world with just a well-chosen look or gesture for the cameras. Towards the end, when she was free of some of the restraints of royal life, Diana let her sparkling sense of humor show a lot more and she was adorable and surprisingly down-to-earth. I miss her so much, but her legacy lives on in her sons.

Not to mention witnessing Prince Charles’ first Hollywood premiere! What was that like?
Etiquette around royals is inbuilt with us Brits, but Americans don’t grow up knowing the same rules, so it was both hilarious and refreshing for me — and Charles too, I think — to see the reception he received at the Hollywood premiere for the Robert De Niro movie “Frankenstein.” Autograph hunters clamoring for his signature on the red carpet, actors like Danny DeVito throwing their arms around him, Kramer [Michael Richards] from “Seinfeld” trying to explain to the prince who he was — it was all very different from the stiff and formal reactions he gets back home, and he seemed to enjoy every second.

“Confessions of a Hollywood Insider,” published by Hi-Fex, is available now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at this link.

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Chelsea Houska Flaunts Baby Bump at Sister’s Wedding: How Far Along Is She?

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Back in August, we learned that Chelsea Houska is pregnant with her fourth child.


We’re still in the days of social distancing, and Chelsea lived in the middle of nowhere even before the pandemic hit — but despite all of that, this might be one of the most high-profile Teen Mom pregnancies of all time.


The main reason for this is that Chelsea is more popular than ever.


In fact, fans have been begging MTV to give Houska her own spin-off series, so that they can see even more of life inside her massive house on the prairie.


While the other moms of TM2 might deliver more soap-worthy drama, fans love checking in on Chelsea and Cole’s lives of quiet domesticity, and the whole picture is sure to become even more blissful once Houska delivers her fourth bundle of joy.

Chelsea DeBoer Celebrates


For now, fans will have to be content with the frequent bump updates that Chelsea has been offering on social media.


Over the weekend, Houska’s sister Emily got married, and the pregnant South Dakota native marked the occasion by posting a rare family photo.


“How gorgeous are my sisters?!” Chelsea captioned the pic.

Chelsea Houska at Her Sister's Wedding


Her sister Angie also posted the pic, along with a caption reading:


“All of the Houska girls are officially off the market. Congrats Emily and Shad.”


Naturally, fans fixated on Chelsea’s bump, and the most-commonly asked question in the comments section was “how far along along are you?!”

Chelsea's Baby Bump #4


Mrs. DeBoer didn’t answer, but she has made the timeline of her pregnancy quite clear elsewhere.


At first, Chelsea was secretive about the situation, but she later clarified exactly why that was:


“I’ve been seeing articles over the past few weeks speculating that I was pregnant because I haven’t been posting much on Instagram and that is totally true because I was so afraid that I was going to say something because I’m such a bad liar and I’m not good at hiding things,” she wrote on Instragram.

Chelsea Houska's Baby Bump Selfie


But now that the cat is out of the bag, Chelsea has been surprisingly candid about the situation, offering frequent updates for fans who wish to follow along with her progress.


On September 18, Chelsea posted the photo above, along with a caption reading:


“Almost half way there baby girl!”

Chelsea Houska Gender Reveal


So it’s safe to assume that Chelsea is a little over four months into her pregnancy, and that she’s expecting to deliver sometime in early 2021.


Of course, it’s anyone’s guess when we’ll be able to return to normal life, so it might be quite some time before the DeBoers feel comfortable welcoming an MTV camera crew into their home.


But the production delay is not necessarily a bad thing.

Chelsea and Cole Together


For one, Chelsea will have plenty of time recover at home and bond with her new baby girl.


And it’s not as though fans will be completely left in the dark.


We’re sure Chelsea will be posting plenty of pics and offering detailed updates about her new arrival.


She knows a few million fans are almost as excited for the big day as she is!

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The Number Ones: Wham! Featuring George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”

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In The Number Ones, I’m reviewing every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and working my way up into the present.

***

Wham! Featuring George Michael – “Careless Whisper”

HIT #1: February 16, 1985

STAYED AT #1: 3 weeks

“I’m not planning on going solo.” George Michael sang those words on “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” the song that made Wham! pop stars in the US. And then Michael immediately went solo. Kind of. Mostly.

The billing of “Careless Whisper” is a curious thing. You could argue that Wham! was already pretty much a George Michael solo project by 1985. Michael was Wham!’s lead singer, songwriter, and producer. He was the face of the group, the one who was the clear focus of all the videos. Andrew Ridgely, Michael’s childhood friend and Wham! partner, had been instrumental in helping to come up with the group’s image, and he’d co-written the early UK hits “Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)” and “Club Tropicana.” But by the time Wham! released their second album Make It Big, Ridgely was mostly just the guy who danced behind George Michael in the videos.

But “Careless Whisper,” the last song on Make It Big, is actually the only song on the album that Ridgely co-wrote. That makes it the least solo song on the album. In most of the world, “Careless Whisper” was sold as a George Michael solo single, even though it was on the Wham! album. In the US, though, Epic billed “Careless Whisper” as a song from “Wham! Featuring George Michael.” With the exclamation point, that becomes an even more confusing syntactic jumble. Wham! already featured George Michael. It’s like saying “Eurythmics Featuring Annie Lennox” or “Simon And Garfunkel Featuring Paul Simon.” It just doesn’t make any sense. But Billboard eventually named “Careless Whisper” the #1 single of 1985, so apparently it worked.

George Michael started writing “Careless Whisper” before Wham! even had a name. He came up with the basic idea when he was 17, working as an usher in a movie theater. Michael riding a bus to his job when he thought up the sax riff. Ridgely wrote the song’s chord progression, and the two of them recorded a demo for the single at Ridgely’s parents’ house. Along with “Wham Rap!” and “Club Tropicana,” “Careless Whisper” was one of the songs on their original demo tape, the one that got them signed to Innervision Records.

Later on, when Wham! were blowing up, Michael decided that he wanted to be a soul singer. There had already been plenty of R&B in Wham!’s sound, but Michael wanted to make smooth, heartfelt soul records on his own. He also wanted to keep Wham! going. The idea was that he’d make pop with Wham! and soul on his own. “Careless Whisper” was going to be the branching-off point, the introduction of what George Michael could do on his own.

Michael went to Alabama to record “Careless Whisper” at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, a place where tons of classic soul records had been made in the ’60s and ’70s. Michael also enlisted a hall-of-fame producer: Jerry Wexler, the legend who had invented the term “rhythm and blues” and helped establish the Atlantic Records sound. (Wexler had only ever produced one #1 single: “Respect,” from future George Michael duet partner Aretha Franklin, which had topped the Hot 100 18 years before “Careless Whisper.”) With Jerry Wexler, Michael recorded a rich, buttery old-school version of “Careless Whisper.” But Michael didn’t like the way that version turned out. The Wexler version came out later, as a B-side.

Michael ended up producing “Careless Whisper” himself in London. He worked on the song for ages, never able to get it quite right. None of the session saxophonists could play the “Careless Whisper” riff exactly the way Michael envisioned it. He went through 11 different sax players before Steve Gregory, a session guy who’d previously played on the Rolling Stones’ chart-topper “Honky Tonk Women,” came in to try it. Gregory played the riff over a slowed-down version of the track, and then the engineer sped it back up. That turned out to be exactly the version of the riff that Michael wanted to capture, and that’s the one that came out.

All of those decisions worked out. Maybe Gregory’s version of the “Careless Whisper” riff was only microscopically different from all the previous ones, but there’s a primal power to that cheesed-out sax line, one that practically screams of smooth ’80s excess. In the annals of molten sax riffs on smoothed-out pop songs, “Careless Whisper” belongs right up there with Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 #2 hit “Baker Street.” (“Baker Street” is a 9.) That Steve Gregory saxophone sounds like soap-opera sex scenes and hair-weave commercials and overhead speakers and waterbed outlets. It sounds like the ultimate in chintzy luxury.

George Michael was right to ditch the Jerry Wexler take on the song. His own version is sleeker and more minimal, and it finds some uncanny sort of groove. The “Careless Whisper” arrangement is pretty simple — a slow-strut bassline, a few soft synth tones, some quasi-Spanish guitar flutters, that big sax riff. But the whole thing hits a pocket. Michael clearly does his best to capture the sound of American quiet-storm soul, but his own stripped-back production has some of the spacious whump of UK synthpop. Every element of the track has room to breathe.

Michael sings it beautifully, too. As an R&B singer, he’s direct and unshowy. Where way too many other white soul singers attempt growl-scream testifying, Michael eases his way into the song, letting the melody do most of the work for him. Even when he hits his big notes, Michael stays soft and intimate. That means those big notes — “To-night the music seeeeeems so loud” — carry a certain wounded vulnerability. As the song builds, Michael ramps up the drama, but he never loses that central fragility.

Lyrically, “Careless Whisper” is a pretty silly song. (Michael himself came to think very little of the track.) Michael’s narrator has cheated on a partner. He’s dancing with that partner, but guilt still tears him up inside, and he knows he won’t be able to keep the charade up for long. That’s a basic pop-song scenario, and Michael’s words are a little clumsy. The phrase “guilty feet have got no rhythm” looks at least a little bit ridiculous on paper. But Michael sells it. He sounds like he’s mourning something that hasn’t quite ended yet. “I feel so unsure,” he sings, and he sounds like he means it.

For the music video, Michael worked again with “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” director Duncan Gibbins, who would later make the sci-fi movie Eve Of Destruction. Gibbins and Michael shot the clip in Miami, and future Baywatch star Lisa Stahl played the cheated-on girlfriend. Apparently, they had to re-shoot a ton of it. Michael didn’t like the way his hair looked, so he flew back to London to get his hair re-done. But the clip works as effective kitsch, with those helicopter shots of the sailboat and Michael’s purple-lit Venetian-blind silhouette when he’s making out with the other girl. His hair looks spectacular.

Shortly after “Careless Whisper” hit #1 in the US, Wham! pulled off a magnificent publicity stunt, becoming the first Western pop group ever to tour the People’s Republic Of China. The footage of Michael singing “Careless Whisper” in China is truly fascinating. The people of China loved that shit.

But people everywhere loved “Careless Whisper.” It was true global smash, hitting #1 in Australia and Italy and South Africa and Poland and a half-dozen other countries. Notably, the song also did well enough on Black American radio that it reached #8 on the R&B charts. A couple of months after that China trip, George Michael sang “Careless Whisper” with Smokey Robinson, the American R&B singer who might’ve been his biggest influence, on the Motown Salutes The Apollo TV special. To his great credit, George Michael did not get blown offstage, and he did not lose this crowd.

Wham! will appear in this column again. So will George Michael.

GRADE: 8/10

BONUS BEATS: Here’s AZ, Nas, and Nature rapping over producer Dr. Dre’s “Careless Whisper” sample on AZ’s 2004 track “Time”:

(AZ’s highest-charting single is the 1995 Miss Jones collab “Sugar Hill,” which peaked at #25. Nas’ highest-charting single is 2003’s “I Can,” which peaked at #12. Nature, as far as I can tell, has never made the Hot 100. Dr. Dre will eventually appear in this column.)

BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s the South African quasi-grunge band Seether’s growly 2007 cover of “Careless Whisper”:

(Seether’s version of “Careless Whisper” peaked at #66. Seether’s highest-charting single is the 2004 Amy Lee collab “Broken,” which peaked at #20.)

BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s Ryan Reynolds mentioning “Careless Whisper” in the 2016 movie Deadpool:

And here’s end of the movie, where that bit pays off and “Careless Whisper” plays:

BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s El DeBarge and Kamasi Washington saluting George Michael after his death by covering “Careless Whisper” at the 2017 BET Awards:

(As a solo artist, El DeBarge’s highest-charting single is 1986’s “Who’s Johnny,” which peaked at #3. It’s an 8. As a member of DeBarge, his highest-charting single is 1985’s “Rhythm Of The Night,” which also peaked at #3. That one is a 9. El DeBarge was absolutely killing it on the soundtracks of ’80s movies that I watched over and over as a kid.)

BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: While scoring the 2019 TV series Watchmen, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross covered “Careless Whisper” with Pomplamoose singer Nataly Dawn. Here’s their version of it:

(As the leader of Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor’s highest-charting single is 1999’s “The Day The World Went Away,” which peaked at #17. As Nine Inch Nails members, both Reznor and Ross will both appear, in sampled form, in this column.)

THE NUMBER TWOS: Billy Ocean’s slick, joyous quasi-rock stomper “Loverboy” peaked at #2 behind “Careless Whisper.” (It’s an 8.)

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‘The Eternals’ synopsis reveals the upcoming Marvel movie will be set in the aftermath of ‘Avengers: Endgame’

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Ever since Marvel announced that ‘The Eternals’ was in the works, fans of the cosmically powered super-race have been speculating how the film might introduce the characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

With a history that stretches all the way back to the dawn of civilization, the Eternals have been in a lot of situations that would make for excellent stories, which made it all the more difficult to figure out how exactly they would fit in with the timeline already established for the universe.

Well, fret not true believers, a synopsis for the movie has now been released ahead of a Disney investor’s meeting and it finally reveals that ‘The Eternals’ will be set in the present day and not in the distant past.

In fact, the movie will be directly following the events of ‘Avengers: Endgame’. “Marvel Studios’ The Eternals features an exciting new team of superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ancient aliens who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years,” it stated.

“Following the events of ‘Avengers: Endgame’, an unexpected tragedy forces them out of the shadows to reunite against mankind’s most ancient enemy, The Deviants,” the synopsis explained.

“The outstanding ensemble cast include Richard Madden as the all-powerful Ikaris, Gemma Chan as humankind-loving Sersi, Kumail Nanjiani as the cosmic-powered Kingo, Lauren Ridloff as the super-fast Makkari, Brian Tyree Henry as the intelligent inventor Phastos, Salma Hayak as the wise and spiritual leader Ajak, Lia McHugh as the eternally young, old-soul Sprite, Don Lee as the powerful Gilgamesh, Barry Keoghan as the aloof longer Druig, and Angelina Jolie as the fierce warrior Thena. Kit Harrington was cast as Dane Whitman.”

‘The Eternals’ will be arriving in theaters on November 6. ‘Black Widow’, the first MCU movie of the year, will be arriving on May 1.

If you have an entertainment scoop or a story for us, please reach out to us on (323) 421-7515

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