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- December 23, 1985
- Vol. 24
- No. 26
What's New with '85's Newsmakers: Sasha Stallone Cares for Her Autistic Son, Ann Jillian Stars as Herself, and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh Loses His Paradise
Last summer thousands jammed a rain-soaked cow pasture in tiny Ballinspittle, Ireland to witness alleged miraculous moving and shaking on the part of a six-foot statue of the Virgin Mary. By fall the curious hordes had thinned and might have vanished altogether had not three men appeared one day, shouted, "You should not be here adoring false statues!" and smashed the Virgin's face and hands with a hammer and hatchet. After that the Virgin indisputably did move—by crane and truck to the studio of sculptor Maurice O'Donnell, who created the piece three decades ago. Following repairs it was returned to its hillside grotto. The night the Virgin's electric halo was relighted, buses rolled in from as far away as Belfast, 230 miles to the northeast. Ballinspittle is bustling again, and the three Dubliners who were charged with the vandalism—including a self-styled preacher—are scheduled to stand trial early next year.
In a room next to the cage with the jungle gym bars, a rocking chair symbolizes the pampering that has been lavished on Bon Temps (left) and Lagniappe, identical twin orangutans born last winter in New Orleans' Audubon Zoo (Feb. 18). Zoo staffers and volunteers rock the diapered tots in the chair while giving them their five daily bottle-feedings. The staff is pleased that the human touch hasn't retarded the hairy pair's mastery of "little orang abilities," such as hanging by their feet or swinging hand over hand. Nonetheless, Dee Nelson, 37, the zoo's assistant curator of primates, finds that raising the twins is "just like taking care of a baby." Well, almost. "I can go home and let someone else take over," Nelson says. "And I'm not gonna have to pay for their college, either."
For Sale: 64,000 acres in central Oregon; property includes two discos, a pizzeria, a 4,300-foot airstrip and a convenient pyre for outdoor cremations. Asking price: $40 million. This sprawling parcel, known as Rajneeshpuram, was until a few months ago a controversial Utopia run by the white-bearded Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, 54, and his pistol-packing aide Ma Anand Sheela (Oct. 7). Now, where once nearly 5,000 residents listened to the Bhagwan's daily perorations, only about 100 devoted followers remain to liquidate the vast estate and settle an estimated $35 million in debts. The community began to unravel last fall when Sheela, 35, fled after Rajneesh accused her of attempted murder and embezzlement. In October, Rajneesh and several aides left the commune in two Learjets after he was indicted in Oregon for violating immigration laws. Arrested when he landed in Charlotte, N.C. (inspiring a spate of local "We Bhagged the Bhagwan" T-shirts), Rajneesh was taken back to Oregon, where he pleaded guilty to two of the 35 counts in the indictment, paid $400,000 in fines and was allowed to return to his native India. Sheela, meanwhile, had been apprehended in West Germany, where she awaits extradition to Oregon for the alleged attempted murder of Rajneesh's personal physician, Swami Devaraj. But it's an ill monsoon that blows nobody good. Texas car dealer Robert Roethlisberger was able to buy up 85 of the Bhagwan's 94 Rolls-Royces for a reported $6 million.
Since she proved she is the illegitimate daughter of country & Western legend Hank Williams, Cathy Stone (Sept. 2) has found the road to stardom and wealth littered with obstacles. Seeking up to one-third of all past, present and future Williams royalties, Stone is locked in a protracted legal battle with Acuff-Rose-Opryland Music Inc., Williams' widow, Billie Jean, and singer Hank Williams Jr., 36, Cathy's half brother, whom she has never met. Using the professional name Jett Williams, Stone, 32, has cut six songs—none written by her father—under the supervision of Nashville impresario Owen Bradley. Two songs are being submitted to music companies for their consideration. Bradley, who helped make stars of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, says he is confident Jett will eventually land a recording contract.
In Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy's slingshot one-liners and searchlight smile helped him outshine all his supporting players except newcomer Bronson Pinchot (Jan. 28), who walked off with his two scenes as Serge, the swishy art gallery assistant with the vaguely Baltic accent. Since his surprise triumph, Pinchot, 26, has resisted the temptation to play it again and again, Serge, turning down invitations to do a comedy album and a video based on the character. Though Sara, the NBC sitcom in which he played a gay lawyer, was scuttled after four months, Pinchot has shot a pilot for ABC and is looking for someone to play an off-camera supporting role. "I'm really desperate. If this series goes, I'm going on the prowl," he says. "I want a kid immediately, so I want to find his mother now."
After languishing more than a year in a Nigerian prison, where she contracted malaria and her glaucoma went untreated, New Jersey businesswoman Marie McBroom (Jan. 14) was acquitted in February of conspiring to traffic illegally in oil and gasoline. McBroom—a New York-based commodities broker—had been held without charges for nine months, then tried under a law, carrying the death penalty, that had been enacted during her detention. Though relieved to be free—she is living in Manhattan with one of her three daughters—McBroom, 59, is unemployed and lacks the money to revive her fledgling import-export firm. She requires continuing treatment for her glaucoma and $1,500 in dental work but can afford neither. After returning to the U.S., McBroom's most traumatic moment came when she saw herself in a mirror for the first time after losing 45 pounds in prison. "That's the time I really cried," she says. "Every rib was showing. I looked exactly like the Ethiopian famine victims." Although she was a frequent traveler to Africa before her arrest, McBroom's ordeal has led her to conclude that "black Americans in general overglamorize the whole African picture. You're so anxious to have the ties, and you really don't know as much as you think you know."
Talk about Pyrrhic victories. When Coca-Cola decided to sweeten up last spring, tinkering with its 99-year-old secret soda formula, Gay Mullins rushed to man the barricades. Opening a storefront headquarters in downtown Seattle, the 57-year-old former medical researcher and real estate speculator organized the Old Cola Drinkers of America and demanded that the company cancel its ignoble experiment. At the height of the battle, Mullins' office was fielding 4,200 calls a day from fellow soft drink hard-liners. Mullins stockpiled bumper stickers ("Coke was it"), T-shirts and buttons, virtually bankrolling the campaign from his own finances. "I thought I could see many ways to get my money back within the three months or so that I figured it would take either to change Coke's mind or force them to release the old formula," Mullins says. But the giant corporation surrendered just six weeks after Mullins got started, leaving him $120,000 in the red. "By August it was all over," he says. "A guy is selling furniture in the old office, and all that's left for me is to stand off the remaining creditors and avoid bankruptcy." Mullins has been renovating an apartment building in West Seattle and reviewing the pros and cons of his short-lived crusade. "I didn't plan to lose a big chunk of money, but I did and I'm not going to cry about it," he says. "It's still possible for individuals to make a difference. Given the same opportunity, I'd do it again tomorrow."
Divorced since July from Rocky I, II, III and IV, Sasha Stallone has been dating Los Angeles contractor Richard Wander (above). She continues to devote herself to her autistic son, Seargeoh, 6, and to promoting research on the baffling condition afflicting him. Largely as a result of a PEOPLE article June 3, Sasha says, 50 research proposals were submitted to the fund that she and her ex-husband, Sly, Seargeoh's father, set up under the National Society for Children and Adults With Autism. "Eight of them have been funded," Sasha reports, "and we are planning on funding eight or nine more." Though Seargeoh hasn't made any dramatic advances, his mother continues to seek out promising treatments for him.
Letters keep arriving for Dr. Haing S. Ngor (Feb. 4). Some come from fans who were moved by the physician's performance as Cambodian journalist Dith Pran in The Killing Fields, which earned him an Oscar (presented by actress Linda Hunt, above) last March. But most come from fellow Cambodians struggling for survival in refugee camps on the Thai side of the border. For Ngor, who lives in Los Angeles, the letters are a lifeline. But the stories they tell about life in Cambodia are chilling. "Right now 75 percent of our children are suffering starvation," he says. "Cambodia is still under a Vietnamese Government, and they kill my people secretly. They knock on the door at midnight and take them away. Some people have gone to the border to find some safe place, and the Phnom Penh Government kills them in the jungle or follows them to the border and bombs them."
Ngor hopes to visit the refugee camps soon as the guest of two expatriate Cambodian generals he met at a wedding party in L.A. Since winning the Oscar, Ngor has lectured frequently on his country's plight and has signed a contract with Warner Bros. TV to star in a miniseries about life in Cambodia and his own harrowing escape from the despotic Pol Pot regime. Meanwhile, he is completing his autobiography for Macmillan.
All in all he is "crazy busy," he says, and is currently on leave from his job at L.A.'s Chinatown Service Center where he was working as a placement advisor when he was picked to play Dith Pran. "I have to tell the world what's happening," he explains. "That's my mission. Right now I sacrifice my work to my mission."
This was a year of triumph and trial for onetime drug addict and biker Rusty Dennis (Mar. 18). The story of her stirring relationship with her son Rocky, who died in 1978 of a rare disease that had grossly distorted his face, came to the screen as the film Mask. In June Cher won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her searing performance as Rusty. But that same month Rusty learned that Joshua Mason, her 29-year-old son by her first marriage, had contracted AIDS. Since then she has spent $6,000 of the $15,000 she received for the film rights to her story on holistic treatments for Joshua. Rusty, a practicing Buddhist, says her years with Rocky have made it easier to accept Joshua's illness. "I was chanting to try and make Joshua well when Rocky appeared to me and said, 'Mom, I thought you said nothing ever dies.' I'm not sad. I'm just happy my boys are supporting each other. I don't believe AIDS is a death sentence. Joshua is in remission right now." Still living in San Francisco's Mission District, Rusty, 49, has been lecturing parents of handicapped children. "I try and teach them to let their kids do as much as they possibly can," she says. "My life hasn't changed much. But the movie helped change people's consciousness."
When Milwaukee garbageman Manuel Garcia lost most of his hair after undergoing chemotherapy for inoperable stomach cancer, more than 100 of his friends shaved their heads to show their concern and support (Aug. 26). On Sept. 9 Garcia, 39, died at Milwaukee County Medical Complex. He spent his last hours surrounded by dozens of his family and friends, including his wife, Carmen, mother of their four children. To make room for them all, a second bed had to be wheeled from the room. "It was one of the most emotional scenes in my 10 years here," says a spokesman for the hospital. "Everyone was crying."
Next spring Ann Jillian (Aug. 19) will begin filming the most challenging role of her career. She'll be playing herself in an NBC movie about her battle with breast cancer, which resulted in a double mastectomy last April. "I do have trepidations about doing the part," she says. "I'm wondering how I'll be able to deal with it. I think, and I hope, I'll be looking at myself detachedly, as another person." There's been no recurrence of cancer, and she has been able to quit chemotherapy. "My hair suffered minimal loss from the chemo," she says. "Now I'm waiting for my doctor to give me the okay to bleach it again. Right now it's cut short and is dark. I look very punk."
After first discussing her cancer in PEOPLE, Jillian received hundreds of letters from women who were similarly afflicted. "I have four or five letters saying, 'Because of you I had a checkup and my cancer was caught in time. You saved my life.' Whatever doubts I had about going public were immediately dispelled," Jillian says. A popular guest speaker for the American Cancer Society, she reports that the organization hasn't responded favorably to her offer to do free television spots for breast cancer prevention. "TV can't deal with breasts unless they're in low-cut gowns," she says.
Fans of the syndicated TV sitcom It's a Living won't be seeing Jillian after this season. After 22 episodes, she resigned in a contract dispute. On Jan. 6 she'll begin filming a TV movie based on the 1964 Bette Davis thriller Dead Ringer, about a woman who murders her twin. "Cancer is a terrible price to pay," says Andy Murcia, Jillian's husband and manager, "but because of it Ann's finally being taken seriously as an actress. She's no longer thought of as just a sex symbol."
For Sister Boom Boom, heaven must wait. The 30-year-old drag queen, otherwise known as Jack Fertig, raised eyebrows even in jaded San Francisco when he announced he was going to marry a woman, 33-year-old Mystie Grey (Oct. 7). For a while Boom Boom's planned platonic union was proceeding peachily. Under the name Sister Mysteria of the Holy Order of the Broken Hymen, Grey was performing with Boom Boom and his lover, Sister Dana Van Iquity (Dennis McMillan), as the first woman in the drag theater troupe known as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. But suddenly Sister Dana succumbed to a surge of retrograde heterosexuality and ran off with Sister Mysteria, leaving Sister Boom Boom bereft. Sadder but wiser, Boom Boom still believes in marriage but vows, "This time I'm going to hold out for the right man."
Ireland, North and South, stood united—for once—when boxer Barry McGuigan (June 3), the 126-pound featherweight from Clones, in the South, unanimously outpointed Panamanian Eusebio Pedroza last spring in London to win the World Boxing Association crown. For 15 rounds McGuigan, a Catholic who is married to a Protestant and who is a symbol of the reconciliation that has largely eluded his countrymen, relentlessly pursued his foe around the ring, putting him down once, in the seventh round. When the decision was announced, even fight writers stood on their seats and cheered. Aglow with victory, McGuigan declared, "Every drop of sweat, every punch I have ever thrown, has now been worth it." But the truest measure of his achievement did not become evident until a few days later, when he was paraded through the thronged streets of both Dublin and Belfast in a celebration that crossed both borders and sectarian lines. His recently published biography has now arrived in bookstores in Ireland, and the subject hopes that his compatriots will heed the message of its title, Leave the Fighting to McGuigan. He has already defended his championship once, defeating Bernard Taylor of the U.S. in September, and is looking forward, cautiously, to an eventual showdown with rugged Azumah Nelson of Ghana, the World Boxing Council's featherweight champion.
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