Allison Samuels

Stories by Allison Samuels

  • Making Sure Dad Gets His Due

    Mario van Peebles is a man with an identity crisis. Deep in thought as he sits by the pool at the W hotel in Los Angeles, the handsome character actor is getting those quizzical "aren't you somebody?" stares from sunbathers. Even though he's appeared in nearly 60 movies, he remains familiar but not famous. He's still waiting to make the kind of mark his father, Melvin, did more than three decades ago, when he directed and starred in the seminal blaxploitation film "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song."Ironically, it's through his father that Mario, 47, may have found his chance. His latest film, "Baadasssss!" is a loving tribute to his father's struggle to make "Sweetback." Even though Melvin Van Peebles had just starred in the 1970 hit comedy "The Watermelon Man" and had a deal at Columbia, Hollywood wasn't interested in his pitch about a sexy black antihero who goes on the lam after stomping a couple of racist white cops into the pavement. At a time when most scripts portrayed...
  • In The Name Of The Father

    Mario Van Peebles is a man with an identity crisis. Deep in thought as he sits by the pool at the W hotel in Los Angeles, the handsome character actor is getting those quizzical "aren't you somebody?" stares from sunbathers. Even though he's appeared in nearly 60 movies, he remains familiar but not famous. He's still waiting to make the kind of mark his father, Melvin, did more than three decades ago, when he directed and starred in the seminal blaxploitation film "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song."Ironically, it's through his father that Mario, 47, may have found his chance. His latest film, "Baadasssss!" is a loving tribute to his father's struggle to make "Sweetback." Even though Melvin Van Peebles had just starred in the 1970 hit comedy "The Watermelon Man" and had a deal at Columbia, Hollywood wasn't interested in his pitch about a sexy black antihero who goes on the lam after stomping a couple of racist white cops into the pavement. At a time when most scripts portrayed...
  • DASH TO TOP OF THE WORLD

    Damon Dash doesn't look like a CEO this morning. He's sparring with his trainer in the courtyard of his Spanish-style Beverly Hills home, high above Hollywood's canyons , and trash talking all the while. "I ain't goin' down--I can hang as long you can," he pants. "Don't let my heavy breathin' fool ya." You may not recognize Damon Dash's name, but you've probably seen him in his business partner Jay-Z's rap videos--he's the one in the background, dancing with a bottle of vodka in his hand. Don't let that, or the baggy shorts, or all those tattoos (including the one of his mother) fool you either.Over the past 10 years, Jay-Z's music and Dash's business savvy have built their Roc-A-Fella Records into a half-billion-dollar empire. (Despite rumors of a rift, they're still partners.) Dash, 34, now has multimillion-dollar homes on Fifth Avenue and in the Hamptons; last Christmas, when he vacationed in Antigua, he quickly made friends with his next-door neighbor, Robert DeNiro. He...
  • FASHION: A STYLIN' SPRING

    Put the sweaters in moth-balls. It's time to show some skin! We all know bronzers and pedicures. Here are a few other items that any self-respecting diva should add to her list.
  • BLACK LIKE WHOM? JUSTIN LOSES CRED

    Has Justin Timberlake's all-access pass to the black entertainment universe been revoked? Few white artists have enjoyed as much support among African- Americans as Timberlake, thanks to a debut solo CD jammed with classic R&B and tracks produced by the likes of hip-hop maestro Timbaland. Just last year he was nominated for best male artist at the Soul Train Music Awards, and he performed during the ceremony to raucous applause, cementing his status as a less-talented version of reigning R&B prince Usher. But some believe he showed his true color after Janet Jackson's wardrobe infamously malfunctioned at the Super Bowl--and, in their view, allowed her to take all the heat for what happened. "If I do recall, there were two people on that stage," says actress-rapper Queen Latifah. "He loses a lot of my respect for not taking responsibility for his actions. I think that was real shady on his part."Timberlake, who had a brief fling with Jackson last year, laughed off the boob...
  • TYRA INC.

    Tyra Banks has obviously forgotten she's a supermodel. For one thing, she agrees to have lunch at a Hollywood joint called Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles, where she arrives wearing blue jeans, a red sweat shirt and just a hint of blush. No wonder the waitress, after taking Banks's gut-busting order of fried wings and cheese grits, says to her, "Girl, has anyone told you that you look like Tyra Banks?" After a few minutes, the waitress returns. This time, she realizes who she's talking to, and she's got some advice. "Your forehead ain't as big as they make it look in those Victoria Secret magazines," she says. "They don't do you justice, and you ought to tell them that." At this point, any self-respecting diva would slap the woman. Banks just plays along. "What should I do, girl? Should I tell them they need to make me look better?"The fact is, Banks has never looked so good. At an age--30!--when most models give up and marry a rock star, Banks is turning herself into a multimedia...
  • FACING LIFE AFTER 'SEX'

    Generally speaking, it's impolite to weep after sex. But if anyone's earned the right, it's Kim Cattrall, because this time was one for the ages. It lasted six years, she gave an award-worthy performance and, as Cattrall herself knows all too well, she may never have it this good again. So go ahead, Kim, have a nice, long cry. It's the very last day of filming on the very last episode of HBO's "Sex and the City," and Cattrall is about to shoot her very last scene as Samantha Jones, the show's brazen sexual conquistador. This season, Samantha has been fighting breast cancer, and her rotating gallery of wigs has become one of the show's most bittersweet jokes. In her final scene, Samantha stands before a group of cancer survivors and defiantly yanks off her wig, revealing the bald head of a chemo patient. The director yells cut. The crew roars, giving Cattrall a standing ovation. And that's when the tears begin.After "Sex and the City's" finale this Sunday, it'll be our turn to reach...
  • SNEAKERS: SPREE AND EASY

    Everyone's happy when he's winning, and Latrell Sprewell's no exception. After a sometimes turbulent time in New York, Sprewell tells NEWSWEEK he's been "reborn" on the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have the second best record in the Western Conference. "They make it fun to play again," says Spree. He's got other things to be happy about, like this weekend's launch of his new shoe. Codesigned by Dada, it's got "spinners" built in; they circle when you walk, just like the wheel rims on the most popular rides in urban communities. "It took our designer a year to make the final touches," says Lavitta Williams, Dada's co-owner and president. But Nike is apparently interested in more than just Spree's spinners. Williams says that, because Nike views her company as serious competition, Nike has "made it very hard for us. We're in litigation." (Nike didn't return calls for comment.) It's understandable if Nike's feeling protective. Though it's launching a new Michael Jordan shoe this weekend...
  • BOOKS: FLY FASHION

    It's all the stuff your mom didn't teach you because she was more concerned that you become a credit to the race. That's how author Jenyne Raines introduces "Beautylicious! The Black Girl's Guide to the Fabulous Life." Raines, a former editor at Essence, doles out witty tips on dating and fashion, while channeling legendary glam girls like Diana Ross and Josephine Baker. She also takes on taboos: "The black motto has always been that there is no emotional problem so big that alcohol, drugs, Oprah or the church can't solve. Not true." But the book really hums when doling out advice. "Don't mix money, men or Manolos unless you're clear you don't want 'em back," she says. Carrie Bradshaw probably already knew that.
  • NEWSMAKERS

    Farther and Farther Off the WallIt's a shame this page doesn't bestow a Newsmaker of the Year award, because Michael Jackson deserves some kind of recognition for keeping our staff fully employed. In the last week alone, Jackson generated stories on claims that the Santa Barbara police abused him, concerns that the Nation of Islam has taken over his life, allegations that CBS paid him $1 million for a "60 Minutes" interview and counterclaims (complete with videotape evidence) that he exaggerated the abuse charges. Even in their heydays, Ben and Jen, Madonna and Courtney Love combined never inspired copy at this pace.Of all these holiday-season gifts, the one that seems the most bizarre--and we use the term loosely--is the Nation of Islam story. Is there any black man in America who seems less likely to enlist the help of militant black separatists? The fact is, Jackson has been cozying up to the African-American establishment for months. He's befriended radio host Steve Harvey,...
  • Newsmakers

    Simon Says: No More MooreEverybody complains about how nasty New York theater critics are, but what about the playwrights themselves? Last week Neil Simon decided he didn't like the performance of the star in his new off-Broadway play, "Rose's Dilemma," so he sent her a letter telling her off. "Learn your lines," he wrote, according to one published account, "or get out of my play." Never mind that the recipient of these encouraging words was one of America's longest-running sweethearts, Mary Tyler Moore. When Moore read the letter--delivered by Simon's wife only a few minutes before the Wednesday matinee--she stormed out the stage door and hasn't been seen since. Maybe she went in search of comfort from Mr. Grant.The merits of all this are, predictably, in dispute. Simon's camp says that Moore, 66, truly hadn't learned her lines, and that he'd already rewritten an entire scene in the form of a letter so that she could simply read it. (Moore was, in fact, wearing an earpiece so that...
  • Rising Up

    "Please be patient with me," a frail-looking Afeni Shakur tells the crowd inside the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard. She's just flown in from her farm in North Carolina for the premiere of "Tupac: Resurrection," the documentary she produced about her only son, the rapper and actor Tupac Shakur. She's fighting back tears as she describes the four years it's taken to complete the story of her son's prolific, chaotic, sometimes self-destructive life. "This is such a bittersweet victory for me, to get this on the screen for everyone to see, and to finally understand my son's life fully. But it's so hard for me to watch, to see my child who is no longer here."But for the next two hours, Tupac is here, practically leaping off the screen in all his brash vibrancy. He even narrates the film himself, thanks to clever editing of old interviews. In fact, Tupac, who was murdered in 1996 at the age of 25, has never really been laid to rest. Some fans even believe he faked his death and is...
  • Cosby In Winter

    Imagine for a moment that Cliff Huxtable has been possessed by the ghost of Fred Sanford. That's the first thing that comes to mind when Bill Cosby greets you at 3 in the afternoon in his palatial Manhattan brownstone, still puttering around in red-plaid flannel pajamas on an unusually warm fall day. It's been a decade since the 66-year-old comedian stopped playing TV's favorite dad, and in retirement he's grown older and more ornery than we remember. The round, friendly face is worn and thinner, and the mischievous sparkle is dimmed by weariness. In case you were wondering why he's wearing bedclothes to an afternoon interview, Cosby cuts a playfully defiant look that screams "I dare you to say a word," and explains, "In my house, on my couch--I love it. It's the best work environment you could ask for."He wants to talk about his latest effort, "I Am What I Ate... And I'm Frightened," a comic, poignant memoir about letting go of the finer things in life--namely cigars and potato...
  • Kobe Off The Court

    It's His Defining Feature: An Intense Focus On Basketball That Has Made Kobe Bryant One Of The Game's Greatest, But Left Him Self-Absorbed And Socially Stunted. Now He's On Trial For Rape. The Book On Kobe.
  • No More Teachers, No More Books

    Yes, we're open," the phone message at Morris Brown College greets callers. You'd barely know it, walking around the Atlanta campus of this 122-year-old institution. The gym is dark. The fraternities have all disbanded. The band, whose fiery dance routines inspired last year's movie "Drumline," is silent. "It's like a ghost town," says sophomore Frederick Williams, 20, one of only 100 students left at the school from 2,200 a year ago. And now the school is $27 million in the hole.It wasn't long ago that the nation's 105 historically black colleges were thriving, thanks in part to their visibility on "The Cosby Show" and "A Different World." But in the sagging economy, many smaller schools like Morris Brown and Clark Atlanta University are ailing, as donations have dwindled and students and graduates have defaulted on their loans. Worse, private black colleges operate with almost no safety net: their total endowment is $1.6 billion; Harvard's alone is $17 billion.At Morris Brown,...
  • Twins Beneath The Skin

    Andre Benjamin--you know him as Andre 3000, of the rap duo Outkast--is in daddy mode today. He and his 5-year-old son, Seven (so named because it's a divine and indivisible number), are just back from the Magic Mountain amusement park, and Seven's now zooming around the Hollywood studio where Benjamin's trying to work on a new track and do an interview. Seven lives most of the time in Texas with his mother, the singer Erykah Badu, and while Benjamin would like to see more of him, you get the idea it's been a long day. "We had fun at the park," Benjamin says, keeping a watchful eye on Seven, "but it would've been cool if he'd had someone his own age to hang out with, too. He needs company."Benjamin, 28, has lucked out in that respect. He and Antwan Patton, a.k.a. Big Boi--who's a daddy three times over--have been collaborators and best buddies for the past decade. "We know each other like brothers," says Patton, also 28, "and we can finish each other's sentences." They met in high...
  • A Rags-To-Riches Story

    Tracy Reese knows how cut-throat couture can get. Fresh from Parsons School of Design, Reese expected to storm the runways. "I was only 23 years old, and I thought I knew everything," she says."It didn't take long to realize I didn't know much at all." Her business flopped.Sixteen years later, her designs are on the racks at Bergdorf's and Saks and on the backs of Julia and that other Reese. In the process, this 38-year-old Detroit native is doing something no black woman in America ever has--she's thriving atop the fashion world. "It's wonderful to see this chocolate girl doing her thing with the big guys," says celebrity publicist Marvet Britto, who'll be under the tent in New York City when Reese unveils her spring collection Sept. 14. The designer's two sportswear lines--a high-end Tracy Reese label and the funkier Plenty line--racked up sales of $12 million last year, up from $5 million in 2001, Reese says.It's not that Reese's designs have changed radically since her first...
  • PERISCOPE

    MARKET WATCHDefying GravityThe world's markets have been going gangbusters of late. The Dow is up 24 percent since March. Tokyo's Nikkei has surged 30 percent over the same time period. Europe's bourses have been even hotter, with Frankfurt's DAX leading the pack. The world's soaring share prices have analysts raving, central bankers cheering--and investors hoping that this time the rebound is for real. But how likely is that? Every year since 2000, hopes for a global economic recovery have fed big rallies in share prices. Twice, they have been followed by even bigger crashes.This time is different, argue analysts, because the basis for a healthy rebound of growth and profits looks a great deal more solid than on previous occasions. Positive signals abound: U.S. companies have begun investing in IT again. In long-stagnant Germany, all-important business confidence has increased three months in a row. Even depressed Japan posted an unexpectedly strong second-quarter GDP. Another key...
  • Who Is The Real Kobe

    When Kobe Bryant was arrested two weeks ago after a 19-year-old Colorado woman accused him of sexual assault, the reaction from friends and fans was almost universal: that's just not like Kobe. It seemed impossible that the 24-year-old Los Angeles Laker, best known for his signature slam dunks and megawatt smile, could commit such a crime. But on Friday, the Eagle County, Colo., district attorney, Mark Hurlbert, charged Bryant with felony sexual assault. Now, as the basketball star prepares to convince a jury that his only crime was "the mistake of adultery," not rape, friends and fans are wondering this: who is Kobe Bryant?Bryant's life on the court has been an open book--from his leap straight out of high school to the NBA in 1996 to his public rivalry with team captain Shaquille O'Neal. Yet even those who should be familiar with Bryant's every move admit the young man in the No. 8 jersey is something of an enigma. "I think a lot of people never really got to know Kobe at all,"...
  • A Tough Summer--And Maybe A Hard Fall--For Kobe

    Kobe Bryant thought his summer could get no worse. His L.A. Lakers had been knocked out of the playoffs, they were about to sign Utah's superstar Karl Malone (who could cut into Bryant's fan base) and he had to have shoulder surgery. In fact, his troubles had just begun. On July 4, Bryant, 24, was arrested for sexual assault on a 19-year-old woman in a Colorado hotel.One report suggests the woman, a desk clerk at the hotel, was delivering room-service food to Bryant; sources close to him say he invited her up. After an indeterminate length of time, she reportedly returned to the lobby "in hysterics"; both she and Bryant briefly checked in to local hospitals. Bryant turned himself in to the Eagle County Sheriff's Office and agreed to give DNA evidence; he was released on $25,000 bond; early this week, after the analysis of evidence taken from both Bryant and his accuser, the D.A. will decide whether to file charges. Bryant's lawyer says he's innocent, and the Sheriff's Office is...
  • Newsmakers

    Knight's Bad DaySuge Knight was arrested--again--last week, and may return to jail for violating the terms of his parole. The man who put the likes of Snoop Dogg on the hip-hop map allegedly hit a valet-parking attendant at an L.A. club; no assault charges have yet been filed, and Knight's lawyer says his client never hit the man. The California Board of Prison Terms will decide his fate in the next 30 days. He could be sent away for a year.The 6-foot-3, 300-pound-plus Knight spent nearly five years in jail after police saw a tape of him, along with Tupac Shakur, beating up another man in a Las Vegas hotel in 1996. Shakur was shot dead hours later, while riding in Knight's car. Just six months ago Knight served 61 days after reportedly gathering 50 gang members to gain access to a 50 Cent video shoot. "He just wanted to let me know that he was still around," says 50 Cent. "He said he wanted to get a look at the new kid on the block." Associating with known gang members also violates...
  • Big Bow Wow

    In his trailer behind the MTV studios, Snoop Dogg is winding down after filming an episode of his new comedy show. The Lakers are on the big-screen TV, and his boys--DJ Pooh (who co-wrote the film "Friday"), ex-Laker Isaiah Rider, a gang of Snoop's grade-school pals from Long Beach--are passing around a blunt whose haze cuts off most of the oxygen. OK, oxygen may be overrated, but didn't Snoop announce just months ago that he'd stopped getting high on account of his three kids? "I'm only human, you know?" he says. "Sometimes it takes time to break a habit. But I'm trying to stay healthy--playing ball and working out. Ever since you've known me, I've been slim, right?" Right, but how does he get away with it all? Not the dope-smoking--hardly unusual, however illegal--but his 1990 conviction for cocaine possession, the murder rap he beat in 1996 and the criminal charges he may face after last week's BET Awards, when three armed men were arrested after dropping him off in an armored...
  • Newsmakers

    Bonnie, We Hardly Knew YeNot even the Us Weekly staff saw it coming. All Thursday morning, editor Bonnie Fuller had been working the magic that had turned the magazine around in 16 months (with help from Ben, J. Lo, Ashton and Demi). Then she disappeared to meet with Jann Wenner, head of the company that co-owns Us--and never came back.Where'd she go? To Hawaii on vacation. After that, to run the editorial side of American Media, owner of such supermarket tabloids as The National Enquirer and The Star. What about that three-year contract Wenner gave her just this spring? She says she never signed it. American Media will give her an equity stake in the company that distributes more than a third of all magazines sold in the United States--as well as the chance to earn considerably more than the million bucks a year she was reportedly earning at Us.Wenner officially took the defection in stride; he told Us's staff he'll name a new editor soon. But like whom? Janice Min, Us's No. 2,...
  • Newsmakers

    A New RacketAt this point, Venus Williams is used to being overshadowed by her younger sister, Serena, but at least for this week's Wimbledon she'll be better dressed. Venus, in conjunction with her sponsor Reebok, will debut a line of women's tenniswear that she helped design with fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg. "Dressing Venus was a joy," says von Furstenberg, "because she radiates power, elegance and beauty.'' Williams says working with von Furstenberg was "like a dream come true."This isn't just a celebrity athlete talking up a business partner. Williams has been interested in fashion and design--"anything that requires creative flair"--for years. She owns an interior-design company and takes fashion classes at a local college in Florida; she and von Furstenberg actually passed sketches back and forth.Venus's style has been more staid than her sister's (remember Serena's supertight cat suit?), but she'll hit the court at Wimbledon in a white corset-style dress with an...
  • Newsmakers

    We're sick of her, too, at this point, but wait till you hear the latest. Jennifer Lopez is cleaning house--not the zillion-dollar one she bought with her beau, Ben Affleck, but metaphorically. First she canned her publicist, then her agent (she now joins Julia, Cameron and Sandra at CAA) and now Benny Medina, the member of her management team who essentially created her diva image--and helped dePuffify her after the infamous P. Diddy nightclub shoot-out."Ben's been getting a little tired of all the attention and the reaction to all the attention," says an understandably nameless--and of course perfectly disinterested--source from the Lopez camp. "At the beginning, it was cool and didn't really bother him, but now he thinks it's negative for the both of them." Well, can't have that. Worse yet, Ben's friends are backing away. "Matt [Damon] is in no way as close as he used to be," says this source. That Jezebel!With the two movies the couple made together en route to theaters, J. Lo...
  • Newsmakers

    Dancer in the DarkLuther Vandross's 15th album, "Dance With My Father," is already gold with a million copies presold--and it doesn't even hit stores until Tuesday. But the achievement is bittersweet: the 52-year-old R&B crooner is still in the intensive-care unit of a New York hospital, in a state of semiconsciousness, two months after suffering a massive stroke.His good friends Aretha Franklin and Cissy Houston (Whitney's mom) each held candlelight vigils for him, and Vandross's nieces have filled his hospital room with some of his favorite music--by Dionne Warwick and the Shirelles. "I hold his hand and pray with him,'' says his mother, Mary Vandross. "Right after the stroke, he was in grave danger; it was very touch and go. But I feel that it is just a matter of time before he improves. I believe there is nothing too hard for God.''Last week the singer gave his family a glimmer of hope when he opened his eyes and appeared to recognize faces for the first time since the...
  • Newsmakers

    Just last month, when Michael Jordan walked off the court forever, Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin paid him the usual greatest-player-ever tribute. But last week he told Jordan he wasn't welcome back as president of basketball operations, the job he'd held before returning to play in 2001. Jordan released a statement saying he was "shocked." Everybody else was shocked that he was shocked.Jordan had a rocky time with the Wizards. He never helped them to the playoffs, and he openly criticized the very players he'd handpicked. "Most of the real new guys like Kwame [Brown] just melted because of the way Michael raked us out," says one Wizard. "The rest of us just passed him the ball and got out of his way. Him going upstairs wasn't going to make that much difference--he'd have found a way to f--- with us from there."Jordan's friend Charles Barkley, the NBA star turned announcer, admits Jordan mishandled players, particularly Brown. "He was way too hard on that kid. But M. didn't...
  • Minstrels In Baggy Jeans?

    Desmond James, 16, and two of his buddies were in the mood for a good laugh. So they decided to catch "Malibu's Most Wanted,'' the new movie in which a superrich white kid (Jamie Kennedy) is so obsessed with hip-hop that his parents have him kidnapped and taken to the 'hood to "scare the black out of him.'' When the friends left the theater, they couldn't tell if they'd been amused, offended--or both. "It was sort of funny,'' says James, a junior at Los Angeles's Dorsey High School, who's writing his own rhymes in hopes of becoming the next Jay-Z. "But then some of it was too over the top, particularly coming from a white boy.''Hip-hop culture has dominated the music industry for well over a decade, but it's taken all this time for Hollywood to cash in. The solution? Make hip-hop movies about white people. Most African-Americans didn't have a problem with Eminem--who they believe respects their culture--either as a rap-per or as a movie star in "8 Mile." But several new hip-hop...
  • The Teflon Pop Star

    People who know R. Kelly tend to use the same word to describe him: unflappable. Last June, the Chicago-based R&B singer was arrested and indicted on 21 counts of possession of child pornography, after a copy of tapes allegedly showing him having sex with a young girl was sent to the Chicago Sun-Times. He promptly locked himself in his private studio, completed two new albums and produced several hit songs for other stars. This January, just after he was arrested again in Florida and charged with 12 more child-porn counts--same girl from the same incident, different poses--he played the Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey. He made a typically grand entrance: in a skybox above 20,000 heads, his arms stretched out as if nailed to a cross. The standing ovation lasted nearly five minutes.No one, either inside the music industry or out of it, could have predicted this. R. Kelly, whose 1996 "I Believe I Can Fly" has been the anthem of thousands of graduations, was supposed to be...
  • Time To Tell It Like It Is

    We wanted to hear directly from black women about the challenges in their lives--the feelings and frustrations they share regardless of profession, education, class or skin color. At the table: "The View" host Star Jones, ABC correspondent Deborah Roberts, singer and actress Beyonce Knowles, money manager Mellody Hobson, bank CEO Deborah Wright, rapper Foxy Brown and Teri Woods, a single mother and former paralegal who has started her own publishing business. They talked candidly--and sometimes painfully--about the choices they confront. Some excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Why are black women, as a group, so successful?Star Jones: Well, I grew up in a family of very strong black women. My mother left me with my grandparents to go back to school. That was a big example to me. I could certainly do no less.Deborah Wright: My mom was a teacher, and we had extended families all on the block. All those women's expectations were, we were going to take what they had done and triple it. And every single...