Ramin Setoodeh

Stories by Ramin Setoodeh

  • Britney Gets Graded

    To find out just how good or bad Britney's performance was at the VMA, we sought professional help-a judge from 'Dancing With the Stars.'
  • When Tragedy Strikes a Hollywood Comedy

    Owen Wilson has a new movie coming out next month. Will his reported suicide attempt hurt 'The Darjeeling Limited' or perversely help it?
  • The Island of Dreams

    A century ago, if you immigrated to America by ship, the most important part of your journey was the six-minute medical inspection at Ellis Island in New York Harbor. You'd walk past a row of inspectors, each looking for a different disease. Does your head feel itchy? Maybe it's favus, fungus of the scalp. One medical examiner carried a small metal hook, to flip eyelids for trachoma (bacteria that can lead to blindness). Most of the newly arrived would pass quickly, boarding a ferry to Manhattan or New Jersey. But about 10 percent of immigrants needed further checking. They were sent—1.2 million of them, beginning in 1901—to the south side of the island. Here was a 750-bed hospital that tended to those trapped in purgatory, between their old homes and their new.When Ellis Island shut down in 1954, so did the wards and operating rooms of the hospital. The main hall on the north side of the island was restored and opened to the public in 1990, but the hospital, with its 29 surrounding...
  • What Will Rosie Do After 'The View'?

    Is anyone surprised that Rosie O'Donnell won’t be coming back to "The View"? Ever since she and cohost Elisabeth Hasselbeck shouted each other down on Wednesday's show like guests on "Jerry Springer," O’Donnell has been suggesting on her blog that she’s done with the show. (Rosie’s last day, officially, was supposed to be June 21.) Today, before ABC announced Rosie wouldn’t return, she posted a video that showed ripped-up photographs of her, Barbara Walters and Hasslebeck. If Barbara Walters fumed when Star Jones gave an interview to People magazine saying Barbara fired her, imagine how she felt about Rosie’s public displays of disaffection. In fact, Walters told NEWSWEEK last fall that she hoped Rosie wouldn’t use her blog to bash the other women on the show. The title of Rosie’s latest video? “True Colors.”The trouble on “The View” started this week, when the girls were talking about their big date with Emmy. Rosie said that the award belonged to Barbara, for being smart enough to...
  • Get Ready for 'High School Musical 2'

    It's springtime in St. George, Utah, and the hills are alive with the sound of "High School Musical." The production has invaded this small desert town to film a sequel, much to the delight of the students at Coral Cliffs Elementary School, located about a mile from the set. At recess, the kids swear that if they listen really hard, they can hear the movie's new songs echo on the horizon. "They filmed for two weeks on our baseball fields," says music teacher Stacie Bowden, who often uses songs from the TV movie in her choir class. "We had a lot of kids trying to get up there. It was crazy." Just as surreal, the film's stars—Zac, Ashley, Corbin, Vanessa; in the tween world, they're all one-name superstars—seem to be everywhere: at the movies, the go-kart track, even the bus stop, according to one sighting. "One day in PE," says Anje Olivas, a 9-year-old third grader, "I was doing the long jump. I looked up and I think I saw Zac Efron."Was it just her imagination? It's hard to say....
  • Star Jones on Gastric Bypass Surgery

    Remember when Star Jones thrived on excess? This was the woman, after all, who accepted wedding gifts from companies—clothing and merchandise—in exchange for plugging them on 'The View,' as if she needed the freebies. Now that she's returning to TV, 160 pounds lighter from (she finally admitted this week) a gastric bypass, she's got a new view: moderation. Take a recent breakfast. Jones orders a single scrambled egg with cheese. The waiter brings her two by mistake. "That's too much!" Star squeals, shoveling the extra egg away. Still, in many other ways, she's still the same Star. A few weeks before her new show on Court TV (it debuts Aug. 20) Jones spoke to NEWSWEEK's Ramin Setoodeh. Excerpts: ...
  • How Prison Made Steve Madden a Better Man

    Steve Madden is showing off his spring collection: gumball-colored sneakers with wedges that look like souvenirs from an acid trip. Fix, they're called, appropriately enough. "Fix?!" groans a Brooklyn shoe-store owner, whom Madden has invited to this New York trade show to critique his line. "Girls will look at them and say, 'What's wrong with me? What do I need fixed?' " Madden gives a quiet nod of his baseball-capped head. One of his employees fidgets nervously. But the store owner doesn't let up. "It's old. It's done. You need to define yourself in the marketplace."After a three-year hiatus, of sorts, Madden, 50, is doing just that—and he's not letting himself be rattled by critics. In the mid-'90s, Madden was a rock star to millions of young women who couldn't get enough of his affordable bejeweled platforms and big-toed clogs. The college dropout who'd gotten his start peddling shoes on Long Island was Manhattan royalty, holding court in his SoHo flagship and sitting courtside...
  • How Prison Made Steve Madden a Better Man

    Steve Madden is showing off his spring collection: gumball-colored sneakers with wedges that look like souvenirs from an acid trip. Fix, they're called, appropriately enough. "Fix?!" groans a Brooklyn shoe-store owner, whom Madden has invited to this New York trade show to critique his line. "Girls will look at them and say, 'What's wrong with me? What do I need fixed?' " Madden gives a quiet nod of his baseball-capped head. One of his employees fidgets nervously. But the store owner doesn't let up. "It's old. It's done. You need to define yourself in the marketplace."After a three-year hiatus, of sorts, Madden, 50, is doing just that—and he's not letting himself be rattled by critics. In the mid-'90s, Madden was a rock star to millions of young women who couldn't get enough of his affordable bejeweled platforms and big-toed clogs. The college dropout who'd gotten his start peddling shoes on Long Island was Manhattan royalty, holding court in his SoHo flagship and sitting courtside...
  • Auditioning for 'Big Brother'

    Of all the nice people I meet at the "Big Brother" auditions last spring, my favorite contestant is a woman named Emillan. She arrives for her big date with Hollywood dressed from head to toe in black lingerie, which she purchased for $200 from Frederick's of Hollywood. "I work in the sex industry," Emillan tells me. Really? How? Actually, Emillan holds three different jobs. "I'm a stripper. I'm a foot-fetish model—that's where I make money—and I specialize in domination." Really? How? OK, I'll spare you the details. I ask Emillan if she has any reality TV experience. "I auditioned for 'Coyote Ugly,' where they were looking for a bartender/singer, but I didn't make that. My friend told me I was sneaky and conniving and I'd be perfect for this." It's settled. If I make it into the "Big Brother" house and so does Emillan, we're definitely forming an alliance.Tonight marks the eighth season of what I think is the greatest reality TV show of all time. "Survivor" has its rats and ...
  • Q&A With Enrique Iglesias

    The world's best-selling Spanish music artist, on his way to Live Earth, holds forth on Al Gore, performing in a gay club, 'Insomnia'—his new album and the real thing—and sleeping pills.
  • Q&A: Hugh Dancy on 'Evening', Clare Danes

    Is Hugh Dancy the next Hugh Grant? The 32-year-old British actor has been pegged as the next big thing in Hollywood. He just completed a successful run on Broadway in "Journey's End," as the lead, Capt. Stanhope (a role that Laurence Olivier originated). He has four movies out this year, including "The Jane Austen Book Club," based on the recent book. In his latest drama, "Evening," Dancy plays Buddy Wittenborn, a rich New Englander who is dating the film's heroine, Ann. In real life, Dancy is now dating the actress who played Ann, Claire Danes. He spoke to NEWSWEEK's Ramin Setoodeh. ...
  • Paula Abdul’s Reality

    Paula Abdul is TV's most famous cry baby. She tears up when contestants are voted off "American Idol." She bawls when they win the grand prize. At one point last season, Abdul even started wailing when one finalist—Melinda Dolittle—sang really well, because she was just so happy for her. So it's no surprise that the tears flow in Abdul's new reality show, "Hey, Paula," airing on Bravo tonight.The shocker is how quickly Paula Abdul blows up—for the strangest reasons. In the premiere episode, the former pop singer is on her way to Philadelphia to film a QVC spot for her jewelry line when she realizes her two assistants have forgotten to pack her sweat pants, and she'll need to squeeze into a pair of jeans instead. "Why these pants?!" she asks. "I could kill you guys ... it's supposed to be a comfortable trip ... take your foot and shove it down your throat." By the end of the scolding, it's not just Paula who's crying but her two intern-like assistants as well.Train-wreck reality TV...
  • Paris Hilton's Celebrity Justice

    Hotel heiress Paris Hilton went to jail, came home for medical reasons—and has now been sent back again. Inside the strangest journey into celebrity justice since O.J.
  • Listening In: Paris and the Pokey

    Should the Hilton hotel heiress be forced back to jail? Should she be allowed to serve out her term under house arrest? Should you care?
  • Lindsay Lohan, Rehab and Oscar

    With all the problems in her life lately, it's easy to forget: Lindsay Lohan was once a terrific actress. For proof, look no further than her first starring role, in "The Parent Trap." Lindsay was 12. Director Nancy Meyers ("Something's Gotta Give") auditioned many young girls in search of "a little Diane Keaton ... so alive on the screen," she later said. She handpicked Lohan, who gave not one but two flawless performances as identical twins Hallie Parker and Annie James. Audiences loved her, so did critics. "She has the same kind of sunny charm Hayley Mills projected," wrote Roger Ebert, when the movie opened in 1998.Today, audiences have become familiar with a different Lindsay Lohan—and it has nothing to do with her acting. Sure, she's still making movies, but she's getting a lot more attention for her role as a tabloid star. Newspapers splash their headlines with her latest partying misadventures. Hooks ups! Break ups! Family feuds! But despite her trip to rehab this year,...
  • Listening In: American Idol Smackdown

    Who will take home the coveted 'American Idol' trophy: Jordin or Blake? The cases for and against—and a thorough debunking of the myth that kids today don't vote.
  • Trump: Who's the Boss at Home?

    He's a real-estate developer, a reality-TV star and a published author. But the job that Donald Trump doesn't talk much about? Being a dad. After raising four children from two previous marriages—Donald Jr., 29; Ivanka, 25; Eric, 23, and Tiffany, 13—the 60-year-old Trump is changing diapers again (OK, we mean that metaphorically). Last year, his wife, Melania, gave birth to a son, Barron William. Trump spoke to NEWSWEEK about the ups and downs of fatherhood. ...
  • Law: Paris Hilton's Appeal? Unlikely

    Last week, a judge ruled that Paris Hilton was going to jail for 45 days, after violating her probation on a previous DUI-related conviction. She couldn't use a work permit to postpone her day behind bars, scheduled for June 5. She couldn't pay extra, as some are allowed to, for a nicer jail cell. She probably couldn't even pass Go or collect $200. But then again, this is Paris Hilton—she can do whatever she wants. Right?She sure talks a good game. Over the weekend, she said to photographers camped outside her house: "I feel that I was treated unfairly and that the sentence is both cruel and unwarranted and I don't deserve this." But then the earth seemed to shift. This week, Hilton added DUI lawyer Richard Hutton to her legal defense team, and she came out with a new statement: "I am ready to face the consequences of violating probation."What happened to that petulant defiance? Apparently, Hilton finally woke up and heard what the judge said: it will be virtually impossible for her...
  • TV: An Identity Crisis at the New CW Network

    Teen sleuth Veronica Mars knows how to crack a murder. Now she's fighting for her own life. "Mars" is among five or so series being considered for cancellation by the CW, the network launched this past fall with the merger of Warner Bros.'s WB network and CBS Corp.'s UPN. This week, series creator Rob Thomas will plead with network executives for a stay of execution. Veronica can be rehabilitated, he'll argue. If you don't like her Nancy Drew college act, we can tart her up in a "sexy pantsuit" and make her four years older, with a career as an FBI agent. Thomas hopes this new Veronica will appeal to network bosses who want a cop series as part of their lineup. "I'd be thrilled for her to come back in any incarnation," he says.Veronica's identity crisis mirrors the network's own. The CW borrowed most of its lineup from the WB, home of "Dawson's Creek" and "Felicity," and UPN, which counted African-Americans and women as its core audience. It was supposed to be the best of both...
  • Sanjaya: The Interview

    He couldn't carry a tune, but that didn't stop millions from tuning in—transfixed. Hillary Clinton was even grilled about Sanjaya Malakar on the radio. "That's the best question I've been asked in a long time," she said, of her thoughts on the "Idol" candidate. "People can vote for whomever they want." Well, the votes are in and Sanjaya is out, finally. He spoke to Ramin Setoodeh. ...
  • Geico's Cavemen: Ready for Prime Time?

    Comedian John Lehr is a famous man, though you probably wouldn't recognize him on the street. But trick him out with a sloping latex forehead, decaying brown teeth and nearly as much chest hair as Alec Baldwin, and he's unmistakable. Yes, Lehr is the Geico caveman. Actually, he's one of three post-, post-ironic Neanderthals who sigh and snipe their way through the insurance company's hilarious and unavoidable television ads—a campaign that has helped make Geico, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the fastest-growing major car-insurance company in the nation. Since 1998, sales have jumped to $11 billion from $2.8 billion. (Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett sits on the board of The Washington Post Company, which owns NEWSWEEK.)Geico is known as much for its offbeat ads as it is for its discount auto insurance. It targets older customers with campy spots featuring aging stars—Little Richard, Charo—who knowingly play off their washed-up status. Geico's other mascot, that maddeningly...
  • Newsmakers Q&A: Celine Dion

    She's leaving Las Vegas to sing at the Oscars, but Dion took time to chat with Ramin Setoodeh.Oh, I'm not sure about that. I've been to the Oscars five times.It was definitely very different. For me, it was glamorous. A lot of people hated it.Of course not. This year, my husband, Rene, is going to wear the white hat.The first year, I did 200 shows, five nights a week. I couldn't talk to my husband or son. Two days of taking a break vocally.I don't talk at all. My husband and I communicate on the phone without me talking. [ She starts tapping the phone .] Did you hear that? How many hits mean different things. One means yes, two means no. But I'm not going to tell you all our secret things.I finish the show at 10:30 at night. By the time I take a shower, I have my little snack, I do my drive back home, I never arrive before midnight. I love to sleep late. I can go to bed at 5 a.m. and wake up at 2 p.m.Actually, my 6-year-old son has the same hours as us. Isn't that amazing?He's home...
  • Guys, Need a Lift?

    Arnie Bautista buys designer underwear by the bunch. "For me, it's an investment," says the 31-year-old advertising executive from New York. "I like to look really good out of my clothes." He spends up to $350 a season on expensive stretchy shorts from brands like 2xist ("to exist"), Calvin Klein and Ginch Gonch, a Canadian retailer that sells little briefs with prints of stars and firetrucks. He has 50 or 60 pairs—so many, that he's run out of shelf space for all those drawers. About the only kind of undies he doesn't own? "I don't wear Fruit of the Loom," he says.It wasn't long ago that guys had only two choices in the morning: boxers or briefs, usually both in white. But in a metrosexual age, sexy skivvies in a rainbow of colors have become the hot new fashion accessory. Much like Victoria's Secret and Frederick's of Hollywood did with women's lingerie in the '80s, upstart companies like 2xist and C-in2, along with stalwarts like Jockey and Calvin Klein, are selling designer ...
  • Fame Junkies

    Troy sawyer first auditioned for "American Idol" in 2002. He drove from his home in Kansas City, Mo., to Detroit, where he performed the country ballad "Tonight I Want to Be Your Man." A producer rejected him, but Sawyer wasn't about to give up. "I saw a lot of gimmicks people used to make it," he says. In 2003, he trekked to Houston to perform "Rockin' Robin." Rejected again. In 2004, he dressed in Pillsbury Doughboy pajamas--"I figured I needed to stick out"--and crooned "Soul Man" in St. Louis. "I was told I had a really good voice, but I should take it more seriously and not dress up," he says. That same year, with money he raised washing cars and selling bubble gum and taffy, he hit Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and San Francisco. No luck. The next two seasons are a bit of a blur, but they included stops in Austin, Denver, Chicago, Las Vegas and, finally last summer, Memphis. In case you've lost count, that's a total of 11 auditions . "I don't have the Justin Timberlake or...
  • Silly Prizes, Major Fun

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association really is the most ridiculous little club in Hollywood. If you had any doubts, they should have been put to rest last night at the Golden Globes when the organization's president, Philip Berk, took the podium. A correspondent for FilmInk (Australia) and Galaxie (Malaysia), Berk, who looked like he'd borrowed his glasses from Martin Scorsese, rattled on wildly about Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicholson, before offering a quote I can't find on Google today.The rest of the show was equally wobbly. Why, for example, is the award for best actress in a TV comedy presented after the award for best TV comedy? Still, no matter how dubious the distinction (only 80 or so journalists pick the winners), the show is still tons more entertaining than the Oscars. Here's our rundown:Acceptance speechesThe Good: Meryl Streep. Maybe she's nominated for every award because she's also the best at accepting them. That's all. Runner-up: Sacha Baron Cohen,...
  • Newsmakers

    Zellweger's back with another British accent, as author Beatrix Potter in "Miss Potter." The actress spoke to Ramin Setoodeh.A little bit. But I don't want to talk about it. Otherwise, I'm going to talk about my weight every single day for the rest of my life.I was aware of a couple of her stories. I read Peter Rabbit and I remember Jeremy Fisher. But I have a Norwegian mother, so there was more Hans Christian Andersen.Oh, good god--that's an exaggeration. I've written children's short stories, poetry and prose. But they're for me. They're on different computers that I've closed because they've gotten different viruses.My computer got the "love" virus when I went over to make the first "Bridget Jones" and I had the beginning of two books on that. I did without a computer for five years.Lucky me.Oh, that's funny, isn't it? Maybe I bring out the boring in him. We're saving the nude scene for the "Miss Potter" sequel.I called the sources close to the sources and they say it's not true...
  • Get Ready to Rumble

    For each of the past 47 years, Barbie has traded in her most prized accessories for something new, depending on the fad of the moment: one season, it's cowgirl boots; another, leg warmers. Next year she's trading up to an iPod--just plug her in, and she becomes a karaoke singer, belting out whatever songs you've downloaded. Mattel's top-selling brand has been remade before, but now she's going positively bionic: the Fairytopia Magic of the Rainbow Barbie has an infrared transmitter embedded in her torso that allows her to double as a TV remote. Wedding Bride Barbie has a rock on her finger that sparkles brighter than a Tiffany, thanks to a light bulb. My Scene RollerGirl, a member of the Barbie family, electronically performs splits on giant purple skates.If Barbie seems to be turning into RoboDoll, that's because she's preparing for the battle of her life. Her opponents? The Bratz dolls--Yasmin, Cloe, Sasha and Jade--midriff-baring girls who flaunt their "passion for fashion" with...
  • Behind the Scenes: At the Caption Contest

    Seated in a small cubicle 20 floors above Times Square, a 23-year-old Harvard graduate named Zachary Kanin sifts through submissions for The New Yorker's caption contest. The latest cartoon, depicting an Indian shooting a bow and missile, has generated 4,516 responses. Only about 50 are good enough to make it to the next round. Kanin looks at a sample entry: "Howwww much I want to destroy the building." "This," he says, "is weird," discarding it.Since it debuted 78 cartoons ago, in the issue of April 25, 2005, The New Yorker's back-page contest, which asks readers to write the caption for a cartoon, has attracted a storm of entries--525,000--along with plenty of protests from rejected would-be writers. There's now a board game, which sold 23,000 copies last month, and even an anti-caption contest, at Radosh.net, for bad quips. "Originally there were all sorts of conspiracy theories, like we wouldn't let anyone from New York win," says Bob Mankoff, the magazine's cartoon editor. "But...
  • Behind the Scenes: At the Caption Contest

    Seated in a small cubicle 20 floors above Times Square, a 23-year-old Harvard graduate named Zachary Kanin sifts through submissions for The New Yorker's caption contest. The latest cartoon, depicting an Indian shooting a bow and missile, has generated 4,516 responses. Only about 50 are good enough to make it to the next round. Kanin looks at a sample entry: "Howwww much I want to destroy the building." "This," he says, "is weird," discarding it.Since it debuted 78 cartoons ago, in the issue of April 25, 2005, The New Yorker's back-page contest, which asks readers to write the caption for a cartoon, has attracted a storm of entries--525,000--along with plenty of protests from rejected would-be writers. There's now a board game, which sold 23,000 copies last month, and even an anti-caption contest, at Radosh.net, for bad quips. "Originally there were all sorts of conspiracy theories, like we wouldn't let anyone from New York win," says Bob Mankoff, the magazine's cartoon editor. "But...