US mom, doctors eye chemicals for rise in child cancers

Thursday, January 27, 2011 87 Comments

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A mom whose four-year-old died after losing a battle to a brain tumor called Wednesday for tougher US regulation of chemicals suspected of being behind a rise in childhood cancers.
"There's growing evidence linking toxic chemicals and carcinogens in the environment with childhood cancer," Christine Brouwer told a telephone news conference as she described losing a child to cancer.
"I'll most likely never know what caused my daughter's cancer, but researchers are finding more and more links between the hazardous substances in our homes and workplaces and cancer and other diseases."
Brouwer's daughter Mira underwent several operations and endured painful and nauseating treatments to try to beat the cancer she was diagnosed with just before her second birthday, on January 27, 2004.
After several rounds of surgery and months of treatment, Mira's cancer went into remission and she seemed to have won her fight against the ailment.
But it came back on her fourth birthday, killing her weeks later.
Her family questioned why the child was struck by such a serious illness so young, and Brouwer's suspicions turned toward the chemicals found in cleaning fluids for the floors that babies crawl on, in the plastic of the bottles they drink from and in some of the foods they and their parents eat.
Boston University professor of environmental health Richard Clapp said the incidence of childhood cancer in the United States has grown about one percent a year for the past two decades.
"It's clear that at least one component of the cause is environmental chemical exposure," he said.
Epidemiologists have linked chlorinated solvents to childhood leukemia and other solvents to brain cancer in children, said Clapp, who served as director of the Massachusetts Cancer Registry for 10 years in the 1980s.
Pediatrician Sean Palfrey said doctors suspect chemicals and other environmental pollutants are behind a rise in everything from cancer to allergies to asthma in children.
"The problem with our current situation is that we are putting so many chemicals out into our environment, and our bodies have no idea how to detoxify them, don't know how to prevent them being absorbed," he said, calling for tougher US laws on chemicals.
Brouwer, Clapp and Palfrey were participating in a news conference organized by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families advocacy group, which says the 35-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act does not cover the vast majority of chemicals in US consumer products and urgently needs an overhaul.
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Breast implants may be linked to rare cancer: FDA


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Women with silicone or saline breast implants may face a small increase in risk for a rare immune-system cancer near their implants, U.S. regulators said on Wednesday.
Officials need more data to tell if the implants caused the cancer and are asking doctors to report confirmed cases, the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement. Overall the agency still considers implants safe and said women without symptoms should not change their routine monitoring.
The cancer warning could hit sales of implants sold by Allergan Inc and Johnson & Johnson's Mentor unit. Allergan shares closed down nearly 1.9 percent.
"Sales growth could be negatively impacted by the media coverage," Wachovia analyst Larry Biegelsen said in a research note about Allergan, which relies on implants more than diversified healthcare company Johnson & Johnson. Other Allergan analysts said they saw little risk to sales.
Safety concerns have dogged breast implants for years. Silicone implants were banned for most U.S. women in 1992 after some complained the devices leaked and made them chronically ill. Widespread sales resumed in 2006 with FDA approval over vocal protests from consumer advocates.
"This is exactly the kind of problem we were concerned about when we said we don't know enough about these products and whether they are safe," said Amy Allina, policy director at the National Women's Health Network.
An estimated 5 million to 10 million women around the world have breast implants.
The FDA said its review found about 60 cases since 1997 of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a type of immune-system cancer. The number is tough to verify and some reports could be duplicates, the agency said. The FDA said "women with breast implants may have a very small but increased risk of developing this disease in the scar capsule adjacent to the implant."
"We need more data" to better understand the issue, said Dr. William Maisel, chief scientist in the FDA's device unit.
The risk to Allergan's implant sales is "nearly zero," Gleacher & Co analyst Amit Hazan said in a research note.
"There are very few FDA approved products that would get a report (and media event) like this about such a small issue, but breast implants are at the top of that list," he said.
ALCL is rare in women without implants. In the United States, the disease is found in breast tissue in about three out of every 100 million nationwide without implants.
Mentor and Allergan said they supported the FDA action and agreed the number of cases was small.
ALCL is "extremely rare and not to be mistaken for breast cancer," Allergan spokeswoman Caroline Van Hove said.
"A woman is more likely to be struck by lightning than get this condition," she said.
Symptoms, including persistent swelling or pain near the implant, appeared between one year and 23 years after the devices were inserted, the FDA's Maisel said. He advised women to contact a doctor if they have symptoms. Data on treatments is limited but they may include removal of the implants, chemotherapy or radiation.
Officials do not know if women face a higher risk if they get implants for reconstruction after cancer surgery or for cosmetic reasons, Maisel said.
The agency is setting up a registry to track implants and working to add information to implant labels.
"We fully support FDA's efforts to gather additional data and study ALCL in patients with breast implants," Mentor spokesman Christopher Allman said.
The agency plans to release interim findings from ongoing studies of silicone implants in the spring. As a condition of approval, each maker was required to study risks in 40,000 women for 10 years.
Allergan shares fell 1.9 percent to $70.72 on the New York Stock Exchange. Johnson & Johnson shares slid 0.8 percent to $60.60, also on the NYSE.
(Additional reporting by Debra Sherman in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Gerald E. McCormick, Steve Orlofsky and Carol Bishopric)
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Bad eating can give you depression: study


WASHINGTON (AFP) – Eating foods high in trans-fats and saturated fats increases the risk of depression, according to a Spanish study published in the US Wednesday, confirming previous studies that linked "junk food" with the disease.
Researchers also showed that some products, such as olive oil, which is high in healthy omega-9 fatty acids, can fight against the risk of mental illness.
Authors of the wide-reaching study, from the universities of Navarra and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, followed and analyzed the diet and lifestyle of over 12,000 volunteers over six years.
When the study began, none of the participants had been diagnosed with depression; by the end, 657 of them were new sufferers.
"Participants with an elevated consumption of trans-fats (fats present in artificial form in industrially-produced pastries and fast food...) presented up to a 48 percent increase in the risk of depression when they were compared to participants who did not consume these fats," the head study author said.
Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, associate professor of preventive medicine at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, also noted that in the event "more trans-fats were consumed, the greater the harmful effect they produced in the volunteers."
The research team found, at the same time, that after assessing the impact of polyunsaturated fats -- composed of larger amounts of fish and vegetable oils -- and olive oil, these products "are associated with a lower risk of suffering depression."
The report, published in the online journal PLoS ONE, noted the research was performed on a European population that enjoys a relatively low intake of trans-fats -- making up only 0.4 percent "of the total energy ingested by the volunteers."
"Despite this, we observed an increase in the risk of suffering depression of nearly 50 percent," said researcher Miguel Martinez.
"On this basis we derive the importance of taking this effect into account in countries like the US, where the percentage of energy derived from these fats is around 2.5 percent."
The report pointed out that the current number of depression sufferers in the world is around 150 million people, and has increased in recent years.
This rise is attributable, according to the authors, "to radical changes in the sources of fats consumed in Western diets, where we have substituted certain types of beneficial fats -- polyunsaturated and monounsaturated in nuts, vegetable oils and fish -- for the saturated and trans-fats found in meats, butter and other products such as mass-produced pastries and fast food."
Though not a focus of the study, researchers pointed out that deadly cardiovascular disease is "influenced in a similar manner by diet, and might share similar mechanisms in their origin."
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Oscar race a multimillion-dollar gamble for studios


LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – What's an Oscar worth?
For Sony, which recently released "The Social Network" on DVD and will no doubt benefit from a huge boost in sales following Tuesday's nominations, the answer is millions.
For Fox Searchlight, which cleverly waited until January 20 before releasing "Black Swan" internationally, it's $100 million or more at the foreign box office -- maybe even $150 million if the movie wins Natalie Portman a statuette during the February 27 Oscar ceremony.
For Portman, a best actress victory could propel her into the Reese Witherspoon stratosphere of $10 million-plus a picture, a lot more than the high-six figures she made on the $13 million-budgeted "Swan" -- just as Halle Berry's asking price shot up to more than $10 million after her win for "Monster's Ball."
Nominees and winners are the obvious beneficiaries. But there's also a whole food chain gobbling Oscar money -- up this year from the recent past, thanks to having 10 slots for best picture instead of five as well as a genuinely competitive race. One report suggests trade ad pages alone have increased 20 percent.
The Oscar race has created a financial ecosystem whose tentacles reach far beyond the contenders and even beyond the Academy -- which will reap $65 million-plus from ABC for this year's telecast. The network is reportedly asking $1.7 million for a 30-second ad spot, up from the $1.3 million-$1.5 million it charged last year.
This ecosystem, on the smallest level, includes owners of screening rooms like Los Angeles' Harmony Gold, which regularly charge $1,000 to $3,500 a showing (renting big spaces like the Academy or the Writers Guild's theater can cost a whopping $6,000 a shot); newspapers like The New York Times, which gets almost $100,000 for a full-page color ad (though only $9,000 for black-and-white pages in its Southern California "walnut" edition); and, oh yes, awards consultants, those guys deemed indispensable for any genuine contenders.
Awards specialists such as PR powerhouse 42West can make $10,000 to $15,000 a month for each movie campaign; this year, they're handling everything from "Social Network" to "The Ghost Writer" to the Italian-language "I Am Love." Even smaller PR companies handling art house and foreign-language films can do OK, especially if they're successful and earn bonuses for a nomination or win, ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 -- "though the fees are lower than they used to be," laments publicist Fredell Pogodin of Fredell Pogodin & Associates.Awards campaigners who handle a studio's entire slate might earn a $100,000 bonus if their films get multiple nominations. "At the top end of the PR spectrum, they can make anywhere from $5,000 to $350,000 in bonuses, depending on how many wins and nominations there are," says awards veteran Tony Angellotti, who handles Universal live action and Disney animation. "But this is a drop in the bucket compared to other arenas."
Those other arenas include work by advertising agencies that design for print and TV. Their fees reach into the hundreds of thousands. For a movie like "Social Network," relaunched to give it an Oscar boost, cutting a new TV spot can cost $10,000 to $40,000, according to one insider.
At least making the ads doesn't entail spending on the stars -- except for photo shoots that involve hair, makeup and stylists, notes Tom Ortenberg, president of One Way Out Media, a broad-based entertainment consulting company. "They can go from $1,000 to $10,000 a day."
Paying actors to travel is a whole other matter. Last year, sources say, one studio spent $240,000 and another $260,000 to fly two big names and their entourages to England's BAFTA awards, where they didn't even win. Both stars complained.
At least when they stay in L.A. the price is more manageable when it means just getting them to a party. However, if you're actually throwing the party, "They're anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000," says Ortenberg, and big Oscar bashes can run $500,000 or more. Parties this year range from Searchlight's modest affair at the Thompson Hotel in Beverly Hills to the lavish post-Golden Globes event co-hosted by Relativity Media, the Weinstein Co. and Marie-Claire magazine -- which made back much of its cost through sponsorships.
Maybe that's why when Ortenberg was at Lionsgate, he chose to invest instead in sending DVDs of "Crash" to the Screen Actors Guild's 120,000 members -- a move widely seen as tipping the race. The cost? $250,000.
And that's chicken feed compared with what the big studios are spending overall when this is added up.
"You're talking about anywhere from $2 million to $5 million in a campaign, which is not unusual," Angellotti says. "For a real contender in the past couple of years, it sometimes exceeds $10 million to $15 million."
Paramount's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is generally believed to hold the record in terms of awards spending, an estimated $15 million, though not even studio insiders can quantify a precise number because it's often hard to separate awards costs from regular advertising. This year, "Social Network" will likely outspend "Button," which won just three low-profile Oscars from 13 nominations, temporarily souring Paramount on the Oscar process.
Does the outlay pay off in the long run? For individual winners such as F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus), Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire), Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) and Adrien Brody (The Pianist), the Oscar has failed to turn them into superstars. In fact, in the eight years since he snagged his Oscar, Brody has gone from "King Kong" to "Predators" to suing an Italian company for $640,000 owed on an unreleased thriller, "Giallo."
A lot of money is spent; whether it's a sound investment is debatable. "'Milk' is still in the red," says one source familiar with the gay-rights biopic film that won for Sean Penn and writer Dustin Lance Black. "You'd be surprised how many Oscar wins just don't help."
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Jimmy Buffett falls off stage at Australia concert


SYDNEY – U.S. singer Jimmy Buffett left hospital on Thursday, a day after he fell off a stage at the end of a Sydney concert and was knocked unconscious, Australian television reported.
Buffett departed St. Vincent's Hospital in inner Sydney via a back entrance to avoid the media after doctors gave him the all-clear on Thursday morning, Ten Network television reported.
Medical staff said the singer had suffered a head injury, but added he was in good spirits and lucky to have recovered so quickly from the fall at Hordern Pavilion on Wednesday night.
Witnesses attending his show described hearing a "crack" as Buffett's head hit the floor following an encore performance of his song "Lovely Cruise."
"He really took a very nasty tumble," the hospital's emergency department director Gordian Fulde, who attended the concert, told Seven Network television.
"He just didn't see the drop in front of the stage," Fulde said.
"I heard the 'crack' and I thought: 'This guy has broken his neck,'" he added.
Fulde, who is also a surgeon, rushed to the aid of the 64-year-old entertainer.
"He had a head injury and he lost consciousness ... (but) scans show that he's OK," Fulde told Seven Network.
Buffett lay on the floor in front of the first row of seating waiting for paramedics and an ambulance to arrive, and he was rushed to hospital half an hour later.
The Margaritaville singer had performed on Sunday and Monday to sold-out crowds at Sydney's Opera House, and the Wednesday concert was tacked on in response to demand.
"We've had an unfortunate incident, but the show's over so if you could move along that would be very, very cool, thank you," the audience was told after the accident.
A message posted on Buffett's website said he was doing well.
"As you probably already know, Jimmy had an accident while performing in Sydney last night and was taken to the hospital," the statement said.
"The doctors say he is doing well ... More info as we get it, and thank you for all of your well-wishes!"
Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band had not performed in Australia for 20 years, The Daily Telegraph said, and had promised to return in 2012.
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Borgnine laughs all the way to the SAG Awards


LOS ANGELES – For Ernest Borgnine, life is a laughing matter.
The veteran actor of screen favorites such as "Marty," "McHale's Navy" and "The Poseidon Adventure" seems to punctuate every story with at least a little chuckle, and more often than not, a long and loud laugh.
Borgnine was in his Hollywood Hills home recently, recalling a call from Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard, who told him that he would receive the group's lifetime achievement award, to be presented Sunday at the SAG Awards.
"He (Howard) said, 'We've nominated you. Would you accept the fact that you are to be the winner of the Screen Actors Guild Award?'" Borgnine said. "And I said, 'But am I worth it? Really. It comes down to that. What have I done, really? But, hey! I'm not going to turn it down.'"
Then he laughed.
Borgnine was career military, well on his way to a Navy pension when he came home after World War II.
"I knew one thing," Borgnine said, "I didn't want to go to work in a factory."
His mother suggested that he go into acting.
"She said, 'You always like getting in front of people and making a fool of yourself, why don't you give it a try?'" he recalled. "I was sitting at the kitchen table and I saw this light. No kidding. It sounds crazy. And 10 years later, I had Grace Kelly handing me an Academy Award."
Borgnine laughs, as if still in disbelief, after all these years.
After Broadway success, he moved to Los Angeles and found a breakout role in "From Here to Eternity" (1953). Borgnine then landed the lead as a lonely butcher in 1955's "Marty," for which he earned the best-actor Oscar. That made him a star, and he's been working steadily ever since, with memorable roles in the film and TV series "McHale's Navy," "The Wild Bunch" and "The Poseidon Adventure."
At 94, he's still working, providing the voice of Mermaid Man in "SpongeBob SquarePants" and making a cameo in last year's action hit "Red."
Borgnine said his philosophy about acting came from his early days struggling in New York City, when he spotted a sign on a chestnut vendor's cart: "It said, 'I don't want to set the world on fire. I just want to keep my nuts warm.'"
More Borgnine laughter.
"I always found out one thing," Borgnine said. "If you laugh, people laugh with you. But if you just sit there, nothing, people go, 'What's the matter with him?' So, laugh, man. That's what life is all about."
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Veteran rocker Bob Seger planning new tour, album


DETROIT – Veteran rocker Bob Seger and his Silver Bullet Band are heading out on the road for the first time in 4 1/2 years.
In a news release Thursday, Seger's management and record company say the 65-year-old Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member will start his tour in March.
It marks the first time Seger has toured since the fall of 2006.
Dates haven't been announced.
The statement says fans can expect to hear classics such as "Night Moves" and "Old Time Rock & Roll" as well as songs off a forthcoming new album.
Seger hasn't released a record of original material for several years.
He does appear on fellow Michigan resident Kid Rock's new album, "Born Free," playing piano on "Collide."
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'Boomtown' and 'Brick City': 2 riveting docuseries


NEW YORK – There's a gaping void between the genres TV designates as "reality" and "documentary."

A reality show can be anything but, with action staged and footage tailored to fit a preconceived narrative. By contrast, a documentary maker points the camera and hopes, then tells whatever story reveals itself.

Two brilliant examples of the "docuseries" premiere this weekend. Displaying the range of the form, they are quite different from each other.

Or maybe not so different: Both are about towns.

Planet Green's "Boomtown" is about the people of Parshall, N.D., (population: 1,073) and the oil discovered deep beneath their feet.

Sundance Channel's "Brick City," picking up with its second season, returns us to Newark, N.J., and back into the world of its charismatic mayor, Cory Booker, still consumed with turning the city around.

Both series deliver big tales as dramatically as any scripted show.

For example, "Boomtown" (the first five half-hours air Saturday at 10 p.m. EST), is plausibly billed as "Fargo" meets "There Will Be Blood." It tracks the transformative effect of oil on a town in economic distress when, almost overnight, some of the citizens strike it rich — but others don't.According to the show's production notes, before the oil boom, the median household income in Parshall was $24,500 and half of its families fell below the poverty line. Then, when oil derricks began rising across the landscape, Parshall residents began crossing their fingers that they might become millionaires.

One of them is Richard, the town's mayor and the owner of its only grocery store. He struggles to keep his business afloat and provide for his family.

He has signed a lease with an oil company, and as he watches fellow citizens get lucky with their land, he says, "Maybe something will eventually happen on mine, too."

But Donny, a third-generation rancher whose grazing land is scarred with oil wells and drilling rigs, must put up with the inconvenience with no chance for reward. A party to a so-called split estate, he owns the property's surface rights, but not the mineral rights. He can never profit from the drilling.

"As a surface owner," he says, "you really have no rights."

Larry, an oil rig welder, can clear $11,000 for his labors in nine days. But the drilling company is late paying. In turn, he may not be able to hold onto the crew he hired to help.

For the moment, Parshall's only motel is booked solid thanks to the oil crews. But the owner, Jeanette, fears that Larry, her boyfriend, will be forced to leave and head overseas to find work. Meanwhile, the motel's housekeeper, Shari, didn't even know she owned the mineral rights to her land when oil is found. Soon Shari could be rich.

When Christmas arrives, the holidays are distinctly merrier for some — collecting their checks in their post office boxes — than for others. As certain citizens flourish and others remain stuck, can the community survive?

From the producers of the TV version of "This American Life," "Boomtown" has no heroes or villains. Instead, there are winners and losers decided with breathtaking arbitrariness. It's impossible not to get swept up in this saga of haves and have-nots, and not to root for them all.

The Peabody Award-winning "Brick City" airs the first of its six one-hour episodes Sunday at 8 p.m. EST.

Last season ended hopefully with crime down in Newark and the 2008 presidential election signaling a new age.

But as the current season begins in October 2009, there are signs the city's hard-won progress is stalled, or even coming unglued, with fiscal woes pressing and murders on the rise.

"I'm not the kind of guy who wants to have my ship rot in the harbor," declares Mayor Booker as his city's challenges mount. "I'd rather be sunk at sea than be timid and meek."

But the intertwining stories of "Brick City" highlight many other Newark residents.

A key character is Dashuan "Jiwe" Morris, who is an author, gang member and father of three who's been charged with attempted murder. Professing innocence, he must choose whether to take a six-year plea sentence or risk trial, with a possible conviction and 81 years behind bars.

He doesn't know what to do, as he confides to his aunt.

"Sometimes I feel like I deserve this, to a degree," he says, acknowledging unredressed misdeeds in his past. "If you believe in karma, you have to believe at some point you have to pay for your crime."

"Brick City" (whose title speaks to the unyielding spirit of this city of 280,000) remains a rich and engrossing series that makes good on its claim as a nonfiction blend of "The Wire" and "The West Wing."

It's the vision of collaborating filmmakers Marc Levin ("Gang War: Bangin' in Little Rock" and the Showtime cop series "Street Time") and Mark Benjamin ("The Last Party," "Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop"), with Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker a fellow executive producer.

Like "Boomtown," "Brick City" is planted squarely in the real world, and draws you in dramatically. Just please don't call this "reality TV."


Planet Green is a division of Discovery Communications, LLC. Sundance Channel is a subsidiary of Rainbow Media Holdings LLC.




EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)


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Patrick Page 'having a ball' as Spider-Man goblin


NEW YORK – The day Patrick Page got the offer to play an evil goblin on Broadway in "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," he quite literally was going in a different direction.

He was about to get on a plane to spend months sinking his teeth into classical parts: The title role in "The Madness of King George III" and the Fool in Shakespeare's "King Lear" at San Diego's Old Globe. On tap was the lead in Pirandello's "Enrico IV" and Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice" for the Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Now a cartoon villain beckoned.

Page had to make a decision quickly: Should he do serious dramas or another big-budget Broadway musical while slathered in makeup like his previous roles as Scar in "The Lion King" and the title role in "The Grinch"?

Was it to be The Goblin or The Bard?

In the end, the Goblin's lure — and that of director and co-book writer Julie Taymor, songs by U2's Bono and The Edge, and the sheer spectacle of it all — proved too big a temptation.

Months later, he has no regrets, despite finding himself at the center of a $65 million show plagued by delays, injuries and the defection of a lead actress even before its official opening.

"Everybody who comes from the outside thinks it must be this rigorous, difficult experience," he says. "I guess it is, but I'm just having fun. I'm having the time of my life. I can't wait to do the show at night."Page, 48, insists the negative press swirling around the show and the late-night jokes haven't become a distraction to the cast, but he understands why there's so much interest.

After all, he was performing Dec. 20 when actor Christopher Tierneyfell 35 feet into the orchestra pit after a safety harness failed. Page ran down to offer help and to try to clear the way so paramedics could get through.

"All of us, our hearts went into our throats and our stomachs clenched up. It was one of the worst nights I can remember. Of course, it's a happy ending now. Chris is up and walking," he says. "But it was a terrible thing to be a part of."

Tierney's accident — and stunts that have left two other actors with broken wrists or toes, and a concussion that chased lead actress Natalie Mendoza away — have only made the show safer, says Page.

"Not only is our show safe, it's probably the safest show on Broadway. Just like the plane that gets hijacked is going to be the safest plane in the air the next time out," he says. "We have safety protocols in there that are checking something three, four, five and six times."

The injuries and shake ups delayed the show's official opening again (it now opens March 15) and the preview period is likely to stretch to over 100 performances. That's fine with Page: With only 12 rehearsal hours permitted in a week, and with the show's finale still needing work, he knew something had to give and there wasn't enough time to polish the touches Taymor and Bono wanted to add.

All this may have been a bit more than Page expected when he was debating last year whether to hit the road for Shakespeare or play Norman Osborn, the obsessed scientist who becomes the Green Goblin after an experiment goes awry.

"I was a little concerned about putting on green makeup again," he admits. "But the fact that Julie was doing it and the fact that three-quarters of the character is Norman Osborn, who is a man with pink skin, that encouraged me."

The choice between Shakespeare and Spidey was as stark as the two seemingly contradictory sides of his career, which has veered from playing Lumiere in "Beauty and the Beast" to portraying Henry VII in "A Man for All Seasons."

Michael Kahn, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., considers Page a special talent — even if he did leave the company jilted by picking "Spider-Man" over its "The Merchant of Venice."

"I don't think there are many people who can go back and forth from musical comedy to Shakespeare or to Pirandello," says Kahn. "The energy that he has used in his life to do Shakespeare and the care that he has about words and character make him a great musical performer."

Page, who fell in love with acting while watching his father perform at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, first came to New York in 1993, wanting to be a serious stage star. After all, by his mid-20s, he'd already mastered Iago and Richard II at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

He was auditioning for the national tour of "Angels in America" when he was asked to be a reader — someone who reads lines opposite the person auditioning — for "Beauty and the Beast." The casting director noticed his height and powerful, deep voice.

"As we were doing it, he asked us to flip characters, which was odd. And then he sent the other actor out of the room and said, 'I think you should do this,'" Page recalls. "Oh, I fought it like crazy. I just thought, 'This is not who I am!' I was very snobby about it. 'I'm not going to do this!'"

He was eventually convinced, paving the way for a parallel career in musical theater. That's how he met Taymor, when he stepped into the role of Scar in "The Lion King." It's also how he met his wife, actress and home-improvement host Paige Davis.

He says his grounding in Shakespeare — the heightened language, the characters' naked determination — actually helps create his musical villains. Page has modeled the Green Goblin on Ted Turner and J. Robert Oppenheimer, with a dash of MacBeth.

It takes him about three minutes to transform into the Goblin. Two makeup artists, one hairdresser, two dressers and one sound technician descend on him, painting his face, putting on prosthetics and a mic, pulling on his boots, slapping on a wig.

He says he loves it — just as much as he loves Shakespeare. "It is a different career than other people have. But for me it's so much fun as long as they'll let me keep doing it," he says.

It looks like they will — look no further than opening night of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." Scheduled to sit beside his wife as Page's guest will be Kahn, the head of the Shakespeare Theatre Company.




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For Chris Brown, the focus is back on his music


NEW YORK – Two years ago, the Grammy Awards appeared to mark the end of Chris Brown's career. This year, it is serving as a new beginning.
Life for the multiplatinum sensation dramatically changed on the eve of music's biggest night in 2009, when he assaulted then-girlfriend Rihanna and both were forced to bow out of the ceremony. In the months that followed, he saw his reputation tarnished, he had to plead guilty to a felony, and his comeback CD, "Graffiti," was a commercial disappointment.
But with the success of his brush-off anthem "Deuces," three nominations at this year's Grammys (including best contemporary R&B album), an upcoming CD and an Australian tour in April, the focus on Chris Brown has returned to his music, without adding the Rihanna-prefix.
"We feel good now that everybody's talking about his music, which is exactly what Chris' intention is," said Tom Carrabba, the executive vice president and general manager of Jive Label Group, Brown's home label since he released his first album at age 16. (Brown's representative said the singer would not be interviewed for this story and, as of now, would not be attending the awards).
Carrabba says Brown has a newfound confidence, which he believes is the reason for the singer's current success.
"I think when he was a little bit younger he was still trying to find his way a little bit and fine-tune his craft, but I think over the last two years he's absolutely developed a confidence and is very secure in his decision-making process," Carrabba said.
Brown, now 21, is serving five years of probation after pleading guilty to felony assault for the attack on Rihanna in the early morning hours before the 2009 Grammys. The Virginia native was commended in November for completing more than one-third of the required 180 days of community service and for almost finishing his domestic violence counseling.
Over the past year, Brown has released a flurry of music. After "Graffiti," released in December 2009, failed to create a buzz for the singer like his past albums, Brown put out various mixtapes. One of those, "Fan of a Fan," a collaboration with rapper Tyga, featured "Deuces," a mid-tempo tune that hit No. 1 on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart for nine weeks; the platinum-selling single peaked at No. 14 on the Hot 100 chart. The music video for the song was No. 1 on BET's Top 100 videos of 2010.
Brown, who has acted in movies such as the popular "Stomp the Yard," also hit No. 1 at the box office last year as part of the ensemble cast in the heist film "Takers," which also starred rapper T.I. and Idris Elba.
"Deuces" is up for best rap/sung collaboration at the upcoming Grammys, where it will compete with Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind," Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie" and B.o.B's "Nothin' on You," songs that are all up for the coveted record of the year award and had been No. 1 pop hits in 2010.
Carrabba says the Grammy nominations are "another step in the right direction for Chris Brown." "Graffiti," Brown's third album which has only sold 336,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan, is one Carrabba says will be more appreciated in the future.
"We always thought one day when Chris is where he belongs, people will go back to that record and say, 'You know what, this is a record that was overlooked,'" Carrabba said. "We'll see in time, but right now that's behind us and we're kind of looking forward."
Other tracks have also helped keep the focus on Brown's music. The Euro-dance tune, "Yeah 3x," is a Top 15 pop hit, while the bedroom groove "No Bull" is also a hit on the R&B charts. A new album, "F.A.M.E. (Forgiving All My Enemies)," is due out this spring.
Jive hopes his new CD will put Brown back on the path to phenomenal success that he blazed when he made his debut as a teen. His 2005 self-titled debut was a double-platinum success and featured three Top 10 pop hits, including the No. 1 smash "Run It!" He racked in even bigger hits with the release of his sophomore album, 2007's double-platinum "Exclusive," including the No. 1 song "Kiss Kiss" and the hits "With You" and "Forever." He was named Billboard's top artist for 2008 among other accolades.
"Some people might have forgot, but then once you see him perform, you understand the gift that he has," Carrabba said.
One performance that brought his talents to the forefront was Brown's emotional Michael Jackson tribute at last year's BET Awards. Mirroring Jackson's signature dance moves while performing "Billie Jean," he then started to sing "Man in the Mirror." But he broke down in tears, fell to the stage, and couldn't finish. The audience, some people in tears themselves, cheered him on.
Stephen Hill, BET's president of programming, music and specials and the awards' executive producer, says Brown's performance at the ceremony was "the turning point" of his rising return.
"Here's a young man that made a very, very bad mistake and he was in danger in being marked by that event," he said. "I think that moment and that tribute, we probably gave him another chance."
He has had missteps: Last month, Brown got in a short Twitter war with former B2K singer Raz B, where some people accused Brown of being homophobic. He later apologized.
But Brown has had plenty of industry support from his peers: He appears on the latest songs from T.I., Twista and Bow Wow, and on recent albums from Keri Hilson, Nelly and Diddy-Dirty Money.
One of Brown's Grammy nods is for his duet with R&B singer-producer Tank. The song, "Take My Time," appears on "Graffiti" and is up for best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals; they'll compete with veteran acts like Sade, Aretha Franklin and Ronald Isley.
Tank, who has another song with Brown on his own recently released CD, "Now or Never," says he and Brown had conversations about how a solid return could happen for the embattled pop star.
"I told him, 'We're not perfect people, you know. The beauty of your situation is that, you know, in spite of what you go through, as long as you humble yourself and as a man, take responsibility for the things that you do, people recognize that. And recognizing that, you're only a record away from being where you were,'" Tank recalled. "So I was like, 'Just keep on doing your music. ... Say and do the right things and you'll be fine.' And, like I said, he was one record away. Here he is right back."
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