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'Sesame Street' sues over new Melissa McCarthy puppet movie

The makers of "Sesame Street" are suing the promoter of a new Melissa McCarthy movie, saying it's abusing the famed puppets' sterling reputation to advertise the R-rated film.

A judge Friday scheduled a hearing next week to consider a request for immediate relief by Sesame Workshop, which sued Thursday in federal court in Manhattan for unspecified damages and an order forcing the film to be marketed differently.

The film, "The Happytime Murders," is scheduled for release Aug. 17. McCarthy plays a human detective who teams with a puppet partner to investigate grisly puppet murders.

The lawsuit said the "Sesame Street" brand will be harmed by a just-released movie trailer featuring "explicit, profane, drug-using, misogynistic, violent, copulating and even ejaculating puppets" along with the tagline "NO SESAME. ALL STREET."

STX Productions LLC, in a statement issued in the name of "Fred, Esq," a lawyer puppet, said it was looking forward to introducing its "adorably unapologetic characters" to adult moviegoers this summer.

"We're incredibly pleased with the early reaction to the film and how well the trailer has been received by its intended audience," it said. "While we're disappointed that Sesame Street does not share in the fun, we are confident in our legal position."

In court papers, lawyers for Sesame Workshop asked the judge to order STX not to use any of Sesame's trademarks and intellectual property, including the phrase, "NO SESAME. ALL STREET," in marketing the film.

They said the marketing materials were confusing viewers into thinking Sesame was involved with or endorsed "this subversion of its own programming — thereby irreparably harming Sesame and its goodwill and brand."

In a release before the film was made, STX said it would be produced by The Jim Henson Company's Henson Alternative banner, On The Day Productions, and STXfilms, along with individuals including Brian Henson, Lisa Henson, Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone, among others.

In court papers, Sesame's lawyers said Lisa Henson, chief executive and president of Henson, just days ago emailed Sesame's chief executive, Jeffrey Dunn, saying it made her "terribly sad" that the marketing campaign "has devolved to this state of affairs."

Henson said Henson Alternative disagreed with the decision to reference Muppets and Sesame and argued against it, but "contractually we don't have the right to change it," according to the court papers.

She also said the Hensons did not view the film as a parody of the Muppets and "resisted creative suggestions. ...Therefore, trading off the famous Muppets to sell the film is exactly what we did not want to have happen," the court papers said.

Alicia Silverstone is divorcing husband of nearly 13 years

Alicia Silverstone is divorcing her husband of nearly 13 years.

The "Clueless" actress filed for divorce from Christopher Jarecki on Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The two have been separated for two years.

Divorce documents say the 41-year-old Silverstone and the 47-year-old Jarecki will share custody of their 7-year-old son.

The papers cite irreconcilable differences as the reason for the split, and say spousal support will be based on a prenuptial agreement the couple signed when they were married, without giving details.

Silverstone married the rock musician Jarecki in 2005 after eight years of dating.

Vindication, triumph, also fear: Weinstein accusers react

Watching the stunning images of Harvey Weinstein walking into a courthouse Friday in handcuffs, a detective on each arm, Louisette Geiss still felt a shiver of fear in reaction to the man who, she says, once cornered her and tried to physically force her to watch him masturbate.

Yes, Weinstein had certainly fallen hard and fast. And yet, Geiss said, even in handcuffs, he still somehow looked powerful and defiant — not humbled, and certainly not remorseful.

"He's not taking responsibility for a single one of these victims," she said in an interview. "He looks like he's just going through the machinery to get to the next step. I'm still scared, even talking to you about Harvey."

To be sure, there was plenty of satisfaction and relief among the scores of Weinstein accusers as the disgraced mogul, who has consistently denied allegations of nonconsensual sex, was arraigned sex charges involving two women, including one rape count. But emotions were mixed. Actress Rose McGowan tweeted: "We got you, Harvey Weinstein." But she also expressed uncertainty about how the case would play out in what she called an "elusive" justice system.

And others, like Geiss, who is a lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against Weinstein, cautioned there was a long way to go before ultimate vindication. "This is a win, but not THE win," she said. "The win would be him behind bars, not living on an estate somewhere."

Another accuser, actress Caitlin Dulany, felt more optimistic. "Today was a great day for all of us," she said, referring to what she called a sisterhood of accusers. "The fact that our voices have made a difference means so much to me and to all of us who spoke out in the MeToo movement."

Dulany, who has alleged a 1996 encounter with Weinstein in which he picked her up at her apartment before a dinner and stripped naked, before she managed to kick him out, said the day had meaning not only to those who have publicly accused Weinstein, but to other victims who haven't felt able to come forward.

"We represent a lot of women who haven't spoken out yet as well," she said. "It's a beautiful group of women. We're there for each other." The 54-year-old actress also said she hoped that younger women will see Weinstein being held accountable, and have faith that they, too, would be believed, should they find themselves in a similar scenario.

On Twitter, some were more outspoken than others.

"Today Harvey Weinstein will take his first step on his inevitable descent to hell," wrote accuser Asia Argento. Her friend, chef Anthony Bourdain, wrote: "What's on the menu for #Weinstein," with an image of a prison menu. Actress Annabella Sciorra, who has accused Weinstein of rape, tweeted, "Are you kidding me?" in reaction to Weinstein lawyer Benjamin Brafman's statement that "the casting couch in Hollywood was not invented by Harvey Weinstein." Actress Mira Sorvino saluted "all my sisters today who stood up against a monster."

A number of women spoke proudly of their conviction that the Weinstein case, and the #MeToo reckoning that it sparked, would have a profound and permanent impact on how society treats powerful abusers — and those who come forward to accuse them.

"We can't go backward," McGowan said in an interview. "The genie can't go back in the bottle. This is the first time since written history that women are being believed — begrudgingly, but still."

Geiss, despite expressing fears that Weinstein might be able to escape justice, was also full of hope for a future in which women would be believed. "The tide is rising, and it's full of women!" she said.

The Los Angeles-based actress and screenwriter found herself recalling one of Weinstein's earliest responses to the growing accusations against him, shortly before The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine articles were published, when he told Variety through a spokesman: "The story sounds so good I want to buy the movie rights."

It was that comment, she said, that ultimately spurred her to go public with her own accusation.

"Well," Geiss said on Friday, "I hope he enjoys that movie from jail!"

Resentment over Trump election helped fuel Weinstein case

Throughout much of last year, millions of American women resented that a man who'd bragged about sexually assaulting women had been elected president. Then came an electrifying moment — detailed allegations that another powerful man had sexually assaulted or harassed dozens of women as one of Hollywood's leading producers.

"It just explodes. It was like throwing a match into a bucket of kerosene," said Kathy Spillar, executive director of the Feminist Majority Foundation, describing the reaction to accusations against Harvey Weinstein that helped launch the #MeToo movement.

Donald Trump's victory in 2016 hardened the resolve of many women who, when confronted with the Weinstein case in October, saw a rare chance that a serial predator with immense prestige and clout might be held accountable.

The infamous "Access Hollywood" tape that revealed Trump's boasts helped fuel their outrage.

"We, as victims of that kind of behavior, we had all heard that kind of talk before," said Weinstein accuser Louisette Geiss. "And then you felt like, oh my gosh, now someone can treat women like that and become president! It was just, 'Enough is enough.'"

Spillar suggested that the intense response to Weinstein arose directly from Trump's election.

"The backlash to him and his election was so massive among women that that was the setup," Spillar said. "I don't think the Weinstein Effect could have happened without the Trump Effect first, and the massive women's marches and the protests."

For some women, Weinstein's arrest Friday on rape and criminal sex act charges was a relief. It was bittersweet for Danielle Campoamor, a New York-based writer and editor who says she was sexually assaulted by a co-worker five years ago.

"I watched Harvey Weinstein walk out of the police station in handcuffs and closed my eyes and thought about what it would be like to see my rapist walk out in handcuffs," she said. "It's something I will never see. But so many women today did, and that's something."

Campoamor agreed the Weinstein case should be viewed in the context of Trump's rise to the White House.

"We heard these stories (about Weinstein) after a man accused of sexual assault and harassment from multiple women ascended to the highest office in the country," she said. "Victims of sexual assault want to believe that justice will be served regardless of who the abuser is. Weinstein has shown us that it's possible."

Geiss, 44, says she had an encounter with him in a hotel room in 2008, when he undressed and tried to force her to watch him masturbate. She says she managed to elude his grasp and run out, but the incident convinced her to leave the movie business.

Though the Weinstein allegations, as initially reported by The New York Times and The New Yorker, were a catalyst for #MeToo, the movement did not emerge out of thin air. Activists involved in combatting sexual assault on campus and in the military had laid groundwork over the previous years, and were poised to help expand #MeToo once it emerged.

"It was activists on the ground who really primed our culture to be ready for this," said Jess Davidson, a sexual-assault survivor who is now interim executive director of End Rape on Campus.

For Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women, news of Weinstein's arrest brought "a tremendous sense of relief."

"Law enforcement and prosecutors are no longer protecting men," she said. "They are believing the victim and diligently prosecuting, and that gives other women the courage to come forward."

Reflecting back to October, she said the initial revelations about Weinstein were so powerful "because credible newspapers finally published the story from a women's point of view."

And it helped, she said, that some of the initial accusers were celebrities who found news outlets eager to provide coverage.

The Weinstein allegations "demonstrated that men who prey on women have handlers and enablers that allow them to assault and harass with impunity — silencing victims and ruining lives," said Debra Katz, a sex-harassment lawyer based in Washington, D.C. "Exposing not only the harassers ... but the systems that allowed them to get away with this for decades jump-started the #MeToo movement."

Gayle Goldin, a state legislator in Rhode island who's been campaigning against sexual misconduct, said multiple factors — aside from the Trump Effect — distinguished the Weinstein case from previous cases involving high-profile men.

"The story is a combination of excellent journalism, high-profile women willing to speak out publicly ... the sheer number of women who then spoke out about their own experiences with him," Goldin said in an email.

"Given that most women never report sexual assault or sexual harassment to authorities, hearing these famous women tell their stories resonates deeply with women," she added.

Goldin says she's been heartened that many high-profile women with Hollywood ties have now joined in helping create the TIMES UP Legal Defense Fund so that women without wealth and privilege can also seek justice.

That fund, administered by the National Women's Law Center, is already connecting low-wage women with attorneys who can help them pursue complaints of sexual assault and harassment.

"I think this is just the beginning," said the center's CEO, Fatima Goss Graves. "It's not going to end with seeing Harvey Weinstein in handcuffs. It's bigger than one man."

Veteran publicist to the stars Paul Bloch dead at age 78

Paul Bloch, a veteran Hollywood publicist for Rogers & Cowan who counted John Travolta, Eddie Murphy and Tom Cruise among his clients in a career that spanned more than five decades, died Friday after a long illness. He was 78.

Bloch died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said longtime friend and fellow publicist Stan Rosenfield. Rosenfield called Bloch "THE most respected veteran in the business."

The Brooklyn native started with the publicity powerhouse in the mailroom in 1961 after a stint in the Army and his graduation from UCLA, a school he remained dedicated to throughout his lifetime, the firm said in a statement. He was mentored by company co-founder Henry Rogers, rising to president of the music department with The Beach Boys, The Bee Gees and Julio Iglesias among his clients.

Over 58 years, Bloch deftly handled crisis management for A-listers, including Murphy after his traffic stop for picking up a prostitute and Cruise after his couch-jumping incident on Oprah. In 1991, Bloch received the Les Mason Award from the Publicists Guild of America for maintaining the highest professional standard in entertainment public relations.

Stars Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Costner and Michael Keaton were among Bloch's other clients, along with filmmakers Robert Zemeckis, Brian Grazer and Jerry Weintraub.

Rosenfield said Bloch was hard working and dedicated until the end.

"If it's 5:35 in the morning and Paul was not in office, go look for him because something's wrong. That was seven days a week," he said. "He was very personable. People liked him. They liked doing business with him. He listened."

Bloch is survived by his sister, Lois Golden and nephew Douglas Golden, among other loved ones. Funeral services will be private and a memorial service was pending, the company said.

Ivanka Trump defends Serena Williams, slamming her status as unseeded at French Open

Ivanka Trump is defending tennis great Serena Williams and slamming Williams’ lack of seeding at the French Open, calling it a penalty for being pregnant.

>> Read more trending news 

“This is ridiculous,” Trump said on Twitter. “Serena Williams is a formidable athlete (best ever) and loving new mother. No person should ever be penalized professionally for having a child.”

French Open officials announced this week they would not give Williams a seeding based on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings. The 23-time Grand Slam champion and three-time French Open winner is ranked No. 453 by the WTA.

>> Related: Serena Williams back in action, playing first match since giving birth

“This year again, tournament officials will establish the list and ranking of the women's seeds based on the WTA ranking,” French Tennis Federation officials aid in a statement to The Associated Press. “Consequently, (the seeds) will reflect this week's world ranking.” 

“The WTA should change this rule immediately,” Trump said.

Williams took 14 months off to have her first child and was No. 1 in the rankings at the last Grand Slam she played, the 2017 Australia Open, before taking time off to give birth in what turned out to be a difficult pregnancy, including six weeks of bed rest.

>> Related: Tennis champ Serena Williams reveals she ‘almost died’ after giving birth to first baby

Without seeding at the French Open, Williams could potentially have a tough time in the early rounds, having to face top-ranked players right off the bat, instead of in later rounds. 

Meghan Markle’s coat of arms released: what does the emblem mean?

Less than a week after becoming the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle has received an official coat of arms approved by Queen Elizabeth II.

>> Read more trending news

According to Kensington Palace, the Duchess of Sussex is represented in the emblem by a songbird, with its wings elevated as if it is flying. The bird also has an open beak, with three quills that represent communication and the power of words.

The blue background represents the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California and two golden rays across the shield also represent the Sunshine State, Kensington Palace said

Beneath the shield on the grass is a collection of golden poppies, California’s state flower. It also includes wintersweet, which grows on the grounds of Kensington Palace.

In the emblem, the arms of a married woman are shown with those of her husband, a representation of their union side by side in the same shield. 

Markle also picked those flowers to be featured in her wedding veil.

>>Read: Meghan Markle selects Givenchy dress for royal wedding

The coat of arms was designed by the College of Arms in London.

Thomas Woodcock, the Garter of Arms who helped craft the design, said Markle was active in the design process. 

“The Duchess of Sussex took a great interest in the design. Good heraldic design is nearly always simple and the Arms of The Duchess of Sussex stand well beside the historic beauty of the quartered British Royal Arms,” said Woodcock in the statement from Kensington Palace. “Heraldry as a means of identification has flourished in Europe for almost nine hundred years and is associated with both individual people and great corporate bodies such as Cities, Universities and for instance the Livery Companies in the City of London.”

Markle also represented her California roots in her royal wedding invitations, which were printed with American ink.

Now that Meghan has received her coat of arms, she and Harry can get their own “conjugal coat of arms,” which will likely be officially unveiled in a couple years, PEOPLE reports.

William and Kate’s conjugal coat of arms debuted in September 2013, just over two years after their wedding in April 2011.

Grab tissues: New ‘Christopher Robin’ trailer drops

Grab the box of Kleenex. The first full-length trailer for the “Christopher Robin” movie has been released and it will take those who had a special toy when they were young back to their childhood in an instant.

>> Read more trending news 

Watch the trailer below: 

The movie stars Ewan McGregor as adult Christopher Robin, Hayley Atwell as Evelyn, the voices of Jim Cummings as both Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Toby Jones as Owl, Peter Capaldi as Rabbit, Brad Garrett as Eeyore, Sophie Okonedo as Kanga and Nick Mohammed as Piglet.

“Christopher Robin” hits theaters Aug. 3, E! News reported.

Luke Bryan announces 2018 Farm Tour; stops include Ohio, Florida, Georgia

Luke Bryan announced the official dates for the 10th annual Farm Tour 2018, with six stops in cities from Ohio to Florida.

This year, the “Sunrise Sunburn Sunset” country superstar will kick off the tour September 27 in Irwin, Ohio. 

“I can’t believe we’ve been doing this 10 years!” Bryan said in a statement on his website. “Our goal was to bring big-city production concerts into these small towns across the U.S. giving those communities the opportunity to attend shows that would never come their way.”

Tickets for the “Bayer Presents Luke Bryan Farm Tour 2018” go on sale June 6. Presale ticket sales begin June 1, according to his website

Proceeds from the Farm Tour go toward college scholarships for students from local farming families who are attending local colleges or universities near their own town.

Over 100,000 people have attended the Farm Tour since it kicked off in 2009. Over 50 scholarships have been given out to date, according to Bryan’s announcement

Bryan, a Georgia native, told Billboard that the Farm Tour is a very personal experience for him. 

“My whole existence, and the reason that I’m in country music, was based on me being in an agricultural family,” Bryan told Billboard. “It taught me everything I know about life, and my work ethic. It has shaped who I am. I took all those values, and I brought them to Nashville, and used that hard work to get my career off the ground. I still go back home and talk to my dad, and talk about how the business is going. It’s still very present, and very important in my life.”

Luke Bryan 2018 Farm Tour dates:

  • Sept. 27: Irwin, Ohio – Springfork Farms
  • Sept. 28: Pesotum, Illinois – Atkins Farm
  • Sept. 29: Boone, Iowa – Ziel Farm
  • Oct. 4: Archer, Florida – Whitehurst Cattle Company
  • Oct. 5: North Augusta, South Carolina – Misty Morning Farms
  • Oct. 6: Ringgold, Georgia – Doug Yates Farms

Famed chef Mario Batali's Vegas Strip restaurants will close

Mario Batali's three Las Vegas Strip restaurants will shut down July 27, officials said Friday, as the celebrity chef faces sexual misconduct allegations from multiple women.

Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group partner Joe Bastianich sent a letter to nearly 300 workers about the closures of Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria at The Venetian and Palazzo resorts. He promised to visit the restaurants to speak to employees.

The letter said Las Vegas Sands Corp., which owns both properties, was ending the business relationship. Sands Corp. issued a statement confirming the closure.

The move came days after police in New York confirmed an investigation into a woman's claim on "60 Minutes" that Batali drugged and sexually assaulted her in 2005. Batali denies assaulting the woman.

A Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group representative said the company decided to close the Las Vegas restaurants before the "60 Minutes" report aired, reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is owned by the family of Sands chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Batali stepped down in December from daily operations at his restaurant empire and cooking show "The Chew" after four women accused him of inappropriate touching over a period of 20 years.

Batali has apologized for those encounters.

____

This story has been corrected to show that the closure date is July 27, not next month.

___

Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com

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