Is Barney about to be extinct in Texas? Plus: Cecile Richards nameless and Bruce Willis homeless.
What’s big, purple, and rich and may be moving to south Florida? It’s not the artist formerly known as Prince; it’s Barney, the New Agey kid icon whose net worth proves he’s no entertainment dinosaur. At the end of this month, the Richardson-based Lyons Group, which manages the Barney empire, will not renew its contract with the Studios at Las Colinas, where it has rented space for fifteen months, and will move to an undisclosed location. One story circulating is that the production will resurface in Plano, at a soundstage now occupied by another Lyons Group project, but the hot rumor is that the destination is Universal Studios in Orlando, which is home to a permanent attraction called A Day in the Park With Barney. Lyons Group spokeswoman Susan Furman calls the Universal rumor “interesting,” noting that “toddler traffic” at the park increased by 60 percent in the weeks after the Barney attraction opened there, but she insists no decision has been made.
Less than a year after she founded the Texas Freedom Alliance to combat the Christian right, Austin activist Cecile Richards is garnering publicity worthy of her mother, ex-governor Ann Richards. So why is she changing her group’s name? Because of a threatened lawsuit by Oliver North. North’s lawyers say Richards has violated the trademark of his Freedom Alliance, a Virginia-based charity founded to “research…the causes of poverty” in Latin America. “Until I found out North was involved, I thought we’d offended UNICEF,” snickers Richards, who reluctantly grants that the marine-colonel-turned-conservative-gadfly has the law on his side. No word on what her group’s new name will be, though she says she might try the Texas Freedom Fighters “to see if we get sued.”
You Talkin’ to Me?
On screen, Robert De Niro’s ability to intimidate is unmatched, but off camera . . . well, listen to John Bloom, a.k.a. Joe Bob Briggs, the drive-in movie critic of Grapevine, Texas, who had a small role alongside the fiery actor in Martin Scorsese’s Casino. “Bobby wanted to get a reaction out of me while I was shooting my close-ups,” Bloom recalls, “so he stood back and yelled Texas insults. He called me a Texas shit-kicker and a yahoo, only he pronounced it ‘yay-hoo.’ He yelled for so long that he ran out of insults and starting calling me a ‘mo-mo.’ I had no idea what that meant. Marty didn’t know either.” Trivia buffs take note: De Niro’s calling Bloom a mo-mo made it into the film.
Business, apparently, is business—even if you’re dealing with Bruce Willis. Last fall, while Willis’ Last Man Standing was in pre-production, officials of New Line Cinema paid Bruce Foods nearly $60,000 to rent West Texas ranch land on which they would build sets and shoot scenes over two and a half months. But the ranch is thirty miles from El Paso—too far for a big movie star like Willis to commute each day, so where could he live? The film’s producers decided he had to have the ranch’s four-bedroom headquarters, and they were known to have offered $25,000 a month for a similar house in El Paso. But Bruce co-owner Gordon Brown said no. “We wouldn’t consider it,” he says proudly. “That’s where we entertain our customers.” The film’s publicist says Willis has made other arrangements.