MAKING MOVIES about ageless icons has worked well for producer Howard Baldwin, whose 2004 Ray received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture and refocused America on the music of Ray Charles. For his next project Baldwin will tackle another pop-culture giant close to his heart—Gordie Howe, who played for the Hartford Whalers in the late 1970s when Baldwin owned the team. The untitled and uncast movie will focus on Howe's stint with the Houston Aeros in 1973, when he came out of retirement at age 44 to help his two sons, Mark and Marty, win the WHA championship. Baldwin says the film will be edgy: "Slapshot meets The Rookie. This picture has to have an edge, especially the way the league was." Baldwin is also working on a Jackie Robinson biopic, in which Robert Redford will play Branch Rickey. The part of Robinson hasn't been cast.
• No one needs a tanning booth less than pro golfers, who of course spend many hours in the sun. But when LPGA star Natalie Gulbis (right) went to the photo shoot for her 2007 calendar, she discovered she had numerous tan lines. "It's awkward," said Gulbis. "I'm not really sure how to prepare for a swimsuit shoot." Somehow she muddled through. The calendar comes out this week.
• The 6,000 or so fans who turned up for Villanova's Hoops Mania last Friday got a special treat when 50 Cent made a surprise appearance at the end of the Wildcats' intrasquad scrimmage. Fiddy was introduced by G-Unit rapper Tony Yayo, who served as a special guest coach, and the two promptly launched into a rendition of Yayo's So Seductive. (Villanova coach Jay Wright met the rappers through former Wildcats star Tim Thomas.) The gig sent the capacity crowd into a frenzy—and had the fans who'd been turned away at the door bumming. A small consolation: The performance has made its way to YouTube.
• It looks like Kevin Federline finally found a way to please a crowd. The maligned dancer-rapper-actor appeared on an episode of Monday Night Raw, during which he got into a war of words with wrestler John Cena, who said Mr. Britney Spears was "less talented than Paris Hilton." Their spat ended with Cena, a former Division III All America center on the Springfield College football team, flooring K-Fed with his signature F-U body slam, much to the delight of the fans in Los Angeles.... Lance Armstrong and fellow Texan Matthew McConaughey had a good time with rumors they are gay. "We tried it," McConaughey joked to Details. "Wasn't for us." Armstrong and McConaughey became friends when both found themselves suddenly single. (Armstrong split with Sheryl Crow shortly before McConaughey and Penelope Cruz parted ways.) Says McConaughey, "A lot of people don't understand friendship and brotherhood."
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
At a peewee football game in Philadelphia, a 40 year-old man was arrested for allegedly pulling a gun during a fight with his son's coach over the boy's playing time, and a referee was arrested for assaulting a fan.
They Said It
TODD JONES, Tigers closer, on how he gets through his usual one inning of work without dominant stuff:
"By the time they realize I don't have anything, the inning's over."
You don't want to be in the pool when Blue Man Group goes for its annual all-swim. That's true even though this is a gathering of triathletes in the Pacific Ocean off Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, last Saturday. Awaiting the start of their race, Germany's Normann Stadler (who may or may not be one of the froggish figures above) won the Ironman world championship, thanks to a blazing bicycle ride. His split on the 112-mile trek was 4:18:23, a race record. Michellie Jones of Australia won the women's race.
HUGH GENTRY/REUTERS (PICTURE THIS)
JIMMY DEFLIPPO/US PRESSWIRE (JONES)
OCTAGON/PEG PREMIUMS (GULBIS)