updated 12/26/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/26/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST
Safe in Paris, the young girl whose diary chronicled Bosnia's agony still hears distant gunfire
At the international school she attends in Paris, Zlata Filipovi? fits in just fine. She plays basketball and soccer and works hard to improve her average grades. "Not everyone at school knows who I am," she says. "I just say, 'Hi, I'm Zlata,' that's it."
That, of course, is not the half of it. At 14, Zlata is a best-selling author: A Child's Life in Sarajevo, the diary she kept for two years as war ravaged her native Bosnia, has been published in 36 countries. Last winter Universal Studios paid $1 million for the film rights, allowing Zlata and her parents—Malik, an attorney, and Alica, a biochemist—to live comfortably in France. Zlata, who continues to keep a diary, is no longer making news—yet she still feels set apart. "Other girls think about boys," she says. "I come home and ask what the news is from Sarajevo."
Someday, Zlata and her parents, who are adjusting to exile but haven't found work, hope to return to the blighted land they love. "Our lives are okay," says Zlata. "But Paris could be any city. It's not home."
WHOSE CHILD IS THIS?
A little girl lives in legal limbo as her parents battle for the right to take her home
Maranda Ireland was recently exposed to chicken pox at the Ann Arbor, Mich., day-care center she attends. So far she has shown no signs of illness. Whether Maranda, 3, will remain unscarred by the bitter custody dispute being waged by her parents is another matter.
Last July, Macomb County circuit judge Raymond Cashen ruled that Maranda's unwed mother, 19-year-old Jennifer Ireland, was not fit to raise her because, as a scholarship student at the University of Michigan, Ireland had placed Maranda in day care 35 hours a week. Cashen decreed that the child should be raised by her father, Steve Smith, 20, a student at Macomb Community College, whose parents had agreed to help care for Maranda. Stunned, Ireland filed an appeal, which is expected to be heard by the courts this spring. (In October, Smith was found not guilty of assault charges that Ireland had filed against him in 1993.)
Meanwhile, Maranda, who begins preschool in January, is spending 28 hours a week in day care, visiting her father on alternate weekends—and starting to ask hard questions. "I tried to explain to her that her daddy's is where she goes for visitation," says Ireland, "and this is where she lives." But Smith is equally adamant. "I want Maranda to come home as soon as possible," he says. "I'm just sorry it's taking so much time."
A MATTER OF CIVIL RIGHTS—OR WRONGS
Four months after being fired as executive director of the NAACP, Benjamin Chavis settles out of court—and into domestic duties
"I know what it's like to be falsely accused of something," says Benjamin Chavis, who as a '70s civil rights activist spent four years in jail on a trumped-up fire-bombing charge. But what he's referring to this time is his August dismissal from a $200,000-a-year post as executive director of the financially troubled NAACR Officials at the organization alleged that Chavis had secretly agreed to pay up to $332,400 in NAACP funds to head off an employment-discrimination and sexual-harassment lawsuit by a former aide. Chavis, 46, vehemently denied any wrongdoing and immediately filed a lawsuit of his own against the NAACR claiming that he had been wrongfully dismissed.
On Oct. 24 the suit was settled out of court: Chavis received $7,400 to cover two mortgage payments on his $478,000 home in suburban Baltimore, as well as health and life insurance coverage through April—but agreed to forfeit $300,000 in future salary benefits.
Since then, Chavis has been spending time with his family (on Nov. 23 his wife, Martha, a diplomatic translator, gave birth to twins Reginald Louis and John Mandela) and mulling over the idea of starting his own NAACP offshoot. He still believes that the charges against him were the result of a vendetta by the NAACP's conservative old guard, which objected to his plans to bring urban youth—and Louis Farrakhan supporters—into the NAACP fold. But more than anything, Chavis is glad to have the dispute resolved. "It was not about money," he insists. "It caused a deep divide within the NAACP. And I think it's time for a reconciliation so we can put all of this behind us."
HEADS OF THE CLASS
When Ian O'Gorman underwent chemotherapy, his school pals all got buzz cuts
These days the Bald Eagles have hair. More important, Ian O'Gorman's hair, blonder and softer than it was before, has grown back. O'Gorman, now 12, lost his locks during eight weeks of chemotherapy after the removal of an orange-size malignancy from his small intestine. The Bald Eagles were born when 13 of his friends—and one 50-year-old teacher—at Lake Elementary School in Vista, Calif., shaved their heads in solidarity. "We didn't want him to feel left out," said fellow fifth grader Erik Holzhauer at the time.
Ian's cancer (non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which has a 68 percent survival rate after five years for children under 15) is in full remission, according to his doctors at Children's Hospital in San Diego. And Ian, who has moved on to Madison Middle School along with all his old classmates, has resumed normal life. "I feel really good," he says. "I'm looking forward to basketball season."
The erstwhile Bald Eagles are separated now, divided between two classes. But friends like that stay friends. "We still get to see each other all the time, and most of us are together in the school band," says O'Gorman, who plays the trumpet. "We'll always be real close." With luck, though, their close shaves are behind them.
REBEL WITH A CAUSE
An Alabama high school student stands up to bigotry and keeps her classmates' respect
It's not unusual for memories of a high school prom to linger. For Revonda Bowen, they will surely last a lifetime.
Last February, at an assembly at Randolph County High School in Wedowee, Ala., principal Hulond Humphries announced that he would cancel the prom rather than see it attended by mixed-race couples. When Bowen, 17, the daughter of an African-American mother and a white father, rose to ask whom she should take to the prom, Humphries, 57, allegedly replied that Bowen was the kind of "mistake" he wanted to prevent.
In June, Bowen was awarded $25,000 after a suit filed on her behalf was settled out of court, but her joy was short-lived: On Aug. 6, unknown arsonists destroyed the school. For now, Humphries—who says he has written a book claiming he was misunderstood—has been reassigned to the school system's central office. (A Justice Department suit that will determine his ultimate fate is pending.) Bowen, whose classes are now held in trailers, is still dating her prom escort, Chris Brown, who is white. She plans to use her settlement money for college next year. And she was thrilled last fall when her schoolmates voted her senior class vice president. "I thought it would be the worst," she says, "but this is about the best of my high school years.
FINDING HER FOOTING IN EXILE
Settled in small-town Georgia with her beloved only child, Castro's daughter Alina Fernandez fashions a life
When Fidel Castro's daughter fled Cuba for the U.S. last December, she hoped to clear the way for the emigration of her 16-year-old daughter Alina Maria and, eventually, to forget the oppression of her past. Within two weeks, Alina Fernandez Revuelta, 38, was joined by Alina Maria, and the two moved into a modest apartment in Columbus, Ga., near the home of Elena Amos, who had helped arrange the mother's defection. But forget? "I want to, but my thoughts are in Cuba," says Fernandez, who worries about the island's constant shortages of food and other necessities. "I feel guilty having left my friends and relatives."
One thing she has done is write a book about her life. "It's all there," she says—her brief modeling career, her three failed marriages, her estrangement from the dictator-father whose policies she detests. Supported by a hefty advance from a German publisher, Fernandez went to Paris last spring to "isolate myself" in order to write the book. "It was a scary experience," she says, "but I finished it."
While Fernandez was away, Amos cared for Alina Maria, now a junior at a Catholic high school. Castro's granddaughter has learned to drive, loves watching Jeopardy! and has many new friends. Fernandez herself has few friends and spends most of her time reading and writing. (She hopes to earn a living writing nonfiction.) "Alina's walking, but I'm still crawling," says Fernandez. "I'm not enjoying America yet—but I will."
A DEPOSED DIVA CHANGES HER TUNE
The Met dismissed her for bad behavior, but no one said Kathleen Battle can't sing
It may have been the most humiliating ovation any diva had ever received. The cast of Donizetti's The Daughter of the Regiment at New York City's Metropolitan Opera broke into spontaneous applause on Feb. 7 when they heard that Kathleen Battle, a coloratura soprano whose sublime singing voice was matched only by her impossible temper, had been fired from the production for "unprofessional actions." Those reported actions, including a string of missed rehearsals and such prima donna behavior as ordering other singers to leave the stage while she rehearsed, had earned Battle, 46, an unenviable reputation in the notoriously temperamental world of opera.
Since the Met showed her the door, Battle has not sung in a full opera—but she does have four albums coming out in 1995. "I personally don't know of Kathleen having any contracts at all with any major opera companies," says Tim Page, chief music critic for New York Newsday. "That does not mean she's not in demand. She continues to do concerts, she continues to do recordings, she's going to have a fine career—it just will not necessarily be in places where you have 500 people relying on you." (Her manager will say only: "Kathleen has a very full schedule.")
And after filing for arbitration alleging breach of contract against the Met, Battle has apparently been behaving herself. "Kathleen was definitely trying to be charming," says one orchestra figure who worked with her this year, "but there were moments when I could tell that if these were the old days, she would have screamed, barked or had a fit."
Beyond the barking and screaming, though, there is Battle's magnificent voice, for which opera fans are prepared to forgive all manner of poor behavior. "I'm very sorry that I probably won't ever hear her again in the Met's Marriage of Figaro ," says Page. "That, for me, is a real loss to music."
WORKING ON MR. GOODBEAR
Gus wasn't a happy cub, so his keepers put him in therapy
Gus is making progress. He's taking tiny little bear steps toward wholeness. He's beginning to heal his inner beast—which is good news for his keepers at the Central Park Wildlife Center and for every therapy-obsessed New Yorker whose heart went out to the neurosis-plagued polar bear last summer.
Born in 1985 at the Toledo Zoological Gardens in Ohio, Gus had become increasingly strange after his 1988 move to Manhattan. Every day, he got into his pool and swam back and forth, back and forth. Backstroke. Flip. Dog paddle. Flip. His roommates, two females named Ida and Lilly, engaged in a well-adjusted mix of gamboling, swimming and snoozing. Did Gus have something akin to obsessive-compulsive disorder? Was Gus a candidate for Prozac? Called in to consult, animal behavior specialist Tim Desmond of Ventura, Calif., quickly determined that the bear wasn't "getting all the behavioral opportunities he needs"—that is, he was bored. To bring some challenge and enrichment into Gus's life, Desmond suggested hiding toys and fish in the rocks of the 5,000-square-foot enclosure that Gus calls home. "Bears," he said, "need to work for their food."
Now, says Desmond, who flies periodically to New York City to consult with Gus's keepers, "he is doing okay. On a given day, he can be as neurotic as ever, but the number of these days has been reduced."
Desmond will work with his famous patient, whose swimming is down 25 percent, as long as he sees a need. But his dedication does have limits. "I'm not going to go in and pet him," Desmond says. "He's dangerous—and I'd be the most enriching thing he's seen in a long time."
STILL DEEPLY SHAKEN BY THE QUAKE
Two former tenants of L.A.'s devastated Northridge Meadows apartments look for a new lease—on life
Never mind what the seismologists said. In human terms, the epicenter of the earthquake that rocked Los Angeles last January was the three-story Northridge Meadows apartment complex some 30 miles northwest of downtown L.A. Sixteen people died when the top two floors of that wood-and-stucco building collapsed onto its ground level.
In October, Northridge Meadows was torn down. But for surviving tenants like former roommates Steve Langdon, 46, and Jerry Prezioso, 68, what happened there will never be obliterated. Both were trapped in the rubble for more than 5 hours before being rescued.
Langdon, who rents an apartment from one of his rescuers, is back at work at Speedo swimwear after four months healing from a broken collarbone, broken ribs and a punctured lung. "I don't sleep more than a couple of hours a night," he says. "I have nightmares about being trapped and not being found."
Along with others, he and Prezioso, a shuttle-bus driver, have filed a lawsuit against Northridge's owners.
Prezioso, who spent six weeks in the hospital with an infected leg, suffers flashbacks—but there have been positive consequences. "I try to be nicer to everyone," he says. "It's the least I can do for being allowed to survive." And he's taking fewer chances. "I live in a one-story home now," he says. "There's nothing to fall on me except the ceiling."
Kathleen Sullivan lightens up and launches a TV comeback
Her debut commercial for Weight Watchers last winter said it all: "One minute I'm a network anchor, and the next...well, look at me." The former network up-and-comer had been dumped from CBS This Morning in 1990 amid a spate of rumors about difficult behavior and indiscreet affairs. She had gained 20 pounds and been reduced to advertising her own battle with the bulge.
But just look at her now. "Can you believe it?" says Kathleen Sullivan, 41. "I lost 30 pounds. I was so thrilled to get into a size 4 Armani, I almost cried." There have been other transformations as well. She meditates, does yoga and, although her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., is pleasingly appointed, she insists, "I'm not into acquiring anymore. That's an '80s thing. I've been very lucky to find an inner path."
Her outer path has led her to more Weight. Watchers commercials, as well as to a just-wrapped pilot for a new Fox show, tentatively titled Kathleen. "It's somewhat in the talk show format, but with lots of surprises—more like an emotional game show," she explains.
Then life is perfect? Well, not quite. "I don't get asked out," Sullivan says. "I've been mugged more than I've been asked out on dates."
Rosanna Delia Corte may be the world's oldest new mom
Riccardo is 4 months old. Naturally his mother, Rosanna, thinks he's wonderful. "He has two light blue eyes like his father, and his mouth and little nose are like mine," she says. "He has a beautiful smile." A typical new mother? Hardly. At age 62, Rosanna Delia Corte of Viterbo, Italy, is believed to be the oldest woman ever to have given birth.
In 1992 Delia Corte and her husband, Mauro, 64, a farmer, sought the help of Dr. Severino Antinori, a controversial fertility specialist in Rome who has helped dozens of women over 50 give birth. The Delia Cortes had lost their only child, also named Riccardo, 17, in a motorbike accident three years earlier, and Rosanna decided she "would like to see his likeness again." After therapy to regenerate her uterus from the effects of menopause, Rosanna was implanted with a donated egg fertilized by Mauro.
Is the new baby Riccardo redux? Although Rosanna sees "an incredible resemblance" between the two children, she says that "the first Riccardo cannot be replaced. Riccardo II is his brother, and I love him the same." The friends who criticized her for having a baby at her age have apparently changed their opinion. "People don't judge me anymore," says Rosanna (whose child has two young godparents to take custody should she and Mauro die). "They say, 'Rosanna, you have a beautiful son."
Antinori has said he would not help impregnate a woman older than 63 or 64, and Rosanna has no plans to get pregnant again. But anything, it would seem, is possible. "Physically, I am perfect—I feel like a 20-year-old mother," she says. "I feel good enough to have another."
By trading goods for guns, Fernando Mateo is shooting for safer city streets
It has been Christmas all year long for Fernando Mateo. Since last December, when the carpet-business magnate's Toys for Guns program prompted New Yorkers to exchange 3,000 firearms for Toys "R" Us gift certificates, corporate donations have swelled the coffers of Mateo's new foundation, Goods for Guns, to $150,000. "I'm not a one-man show anymore," says Mateo, who started Toys for Guns after his son Fernando Jr., then 14, said he'd give up his Christmas presents to get guns off the streets. "If other cities want to do this, and many have, we can now hold their hands and show them how."
This season, Goods for Guns hopes to be swapping weapons for clothing, sporting goods and more in Chicago, L.A., Miami, Boston and San Juan, as well as in New York City. What becomes of the firearms? At least some will be sent to corporate donors—melted down into paperweights, that is. "We're the only foundation in the country," Mateo says," where you can see what you're getting for your money.
VICTOR, NOT VICTIM
Fired after being raped, Jacqueline Hedberg fights for others—and makes peace with her former boss
On election night last month, Jacqueline Hedberg was jubilant. The survivor of a knifepoint rape two years ago, Hedberg, 34, says she "jumped for joy" upon learning that voters in her home state of Utah had passed the victims' rights amendment, for which she had campaigned. But Hedberg's joy was tempered by the defeat of a candidate she had supported, state representative Sara Eubank—the woman who had fired her after the rape for being too distraught to handle her job.
Only last spring, Hedberg was suing Eubank, a Democrat and a feminist, for wrongfully terminating her employment at Eubank's staff-leasing firm. (The suit was dismissed in April on a technicality.) But after a heart-to-heart in June, the pair agreed to forget their differences. Although not the best of friends, they are no longer enemies. Says Eubank: "She understands why I made the decision I made." Hedberg offers another explanation. "I got exhausted," she says, "and decided to focus my energies elsewhere."
Since then, she has concentrated on victims' rights, taking advantage of tips from her onetime adversary. She is still haunted by the rape—she recently began having nightmares. "They say I'm suffering from posttraumatic stress syndrome," says Hedberg, who has resumed psychotherapy.
But the best medicine may be the future she is trying to build with husband Troy, 24, at their new three-bedroom home in the suburbs south of Salt Lake City. In what she calls her safe haven, Hedberg currently does data entry for American Express—and hopes one day soon to be changing diapers. "I'm moving on," she says. "With all the trauma I went through, I feel like I've made a difference."
When the lovelorn men of Herman, Minn., put out the word, droves of women came a-courtin'
Before he got busy on the harvest, Dan Ellison, who works 2,000 acres outside Herman, Minn., was actually dating, sometimes three times a week. "That's a pretty big increase for me," he chuckles. It's also a sign that single women are drifting into the tiny farming town. Herman had, at last count, 78 single men and 10 available women. The imbalance was reported nationally after Ellison, 37, mentioned it in a speech to the Herman Development Corporation in February. Soon, Herman was besieged by women, including a busload sponsored by a radio station. The furor even prompted a movie company to option Ellison's story.
The bachelorette flood has abated, but some women—14, by Ellison's reckoning—have come to stay. (A handful of married women, attracted by business opportunities, have shown up as well.) There haven't been wedding bells yet, and Ellison won't even admit to a girlfriend, but Herman's hermits have hope. "These things take time," says Ellison. "That's the way it should be, isn't it?"
A famous lost cat came back down to earth, but her owner still has high hopes
Yes, that was Tabitha featured in Cat Fancy magazine. Tabitha has a press kit, and she is the heroine of a screenplay-in-the-works—all because she spent 13 days lost in a plane's cargo hold. Tabitha escaped from her carrier on a Tower Air jet in June as her owner, aspiring actress Carol Ann Timmel, 26, flew from New York City to L.A. The plane continued its rounds until public outcry prompted Tower to let Timmel conduct a prolonged search for Tabitha. After 7 hours, Timmel says, she "heard a wonderful meow," and there was her cat, thin but healthy.
Tabitha's popularity hasn't helped Timmel's acting dreams—she works in a gardening store. Although a producer paid $30,000 for the rights to the story, the option has lapsed. Meanwhile, says Timmel, "I really don't feel like traveling with Tabitha anytime soon."
Courtney Love goes on tour with her 2-year-old daughter—and her grief for husband Kurt Cobain
The pressures of rock-and-roll stardom, Kurt Cobain's suicide note read, made him take his own life at 27. That same music has helped his 31-year-old widow, Courtney Love, move on.
The leader of the Seattle rock band Hole, Love spent the first months after Cobain's death last April in a haze of anger and sorrow. Her band's latest album, presciently titled Live Through This, was a hit with critics and fans, but Love passed her days brooding and lashing out on the Internet. ("I don't do heroin!" read a typical entry. "I hardly ever have, so b—w me.") After the fatal drug overdose of Hole member Kristen Pfaff in June, says Wendy O'Connor, Cobain's mother, "Courtney really lost sight of her music. I had to shake her and say, 'You're good! You have to go on!' "
Love's fall tour with Hole has been "very therapeutic," says one friend. "I think she'd be thinking about Kurt a lot more if she wasn't on the road." The couple's 2-year-old daughter, Frances Bean, travels with Love, and "Courtney's face lights up whenever she's around," another friend says.
But for those Cobain left behind, the healing has just begun. "One day last August, Frances was crying, I want back Kurt,' " says O'Connor. "I think before that she thought he was coming back. I lifted her up, and we just laid in bed and cried."
RECLAIMING TWO LOST LIVES
Debra Fisher's grandparents died in the Holocaust; artist Jeanne Boylan made them live again
Since the death of her father in 1993, Debra Fisher, 35, had felt an urgent need. "I wanted to see what my grandparents looked like, but no pictures existed," says Fisher, whose paternal grandparents, Olga and Jeno Fischer, died at Auschwitz.
A March 28 PEOPLE story helped her find a way. Reading about Oregon forensic artist Jeanne Boylan's eerily accurate renderings of wanted criminals (like the man who confessed to the abduction and murder of Polly Klaas), Fisher, a Manhattan video company executive who lives in Port Chester, N.Y., felt "a lightbulb go off in my head." She contacted Boylan and made her plea. "The longest I'd ever gone back to retrieve a memory was 10 years, for a hit-and-run victim," says Boylan, 41. "Going back 50 years was a definite challenge."
Using descriptions provided by Miklos Cikk, 73, a family friend who had known Fisher's grandparents in Hungary, Boylan produced a sketch that had an overwhelming impact on Fisher. "I expected them to look like grandparents," she says, but when they died, "they were only about eight years older than I am now." Only Cikk, of course, would know whether the likenesses were apt. When Fisher asked him, "Do I now know how my grandparents looked?" she says the old man replied: "Absolutely."