Sideshow: Travolta case is dropped

Jerry Lewis exults as the tote board shows nearly $59 million pledged during the 45th annual Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon, which ended Monday. "I'm heartened by the unique ability of Americans to help others in need, when they themselves are likely struggling financially," Lewis said in Las Vegas.
Jerry Lewis exults as the tote board shows nearly $59 million pledged during the 45th annual Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon, which ended Monday. "I'm heartened by the unique ability of Americans to help others in need, when they themselves are likely struggling financially," Lewis said in Las Vegas.
Posted: September 07, 2010

A judge in the Bahamas on Monday dismissed charges against two people accused of trying to extort money from John Travolta after the actor decided he no longer wanted to face the pain of a new trial stemming from the death of his teenage son on the island chain.

Prosecutor Neil Braithwaite had submitted a motion to drop the case just as a retrial was about to start for the two defendants.

"The Travolta family has said that this matter has caused them unbelievable stress and pain and they wish to put this whole thing behind them," Braithwaite told the court after a jury had been picked to hear the case.

Ambulance driver Tarino Lightbourne and his attorney, politician Pleasant Bridgewater, were accused of threatening to release private information about the January 2009 death of Travolta's 16-year-old son, Jett, at the family vacation home in Grand Bahama.

Lightbourne, who was among the medics who treated Jett, allegedly sought $25 million from the actor with the assistance of Bridgewater, who resigned her seat in the Bahamas Senate after she was charged in the case.

A judge declared a mistrial in October, after a Bahamian lawmaker suggested that the still-deliberating jury had acquitted one of the suspects.

Jerry Hall auctioning her art

Model Jerry Hall plans to auction some of her art collection next month, including a famous portrait by Lucian Freud that shows her nude when she was eight months pregnant, Sotheby's said Monday.

The London auction will also include works by Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, David Bailey, and other prominent artists collected by Hall, ex-paramour of Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger.

The Freud portrait, called Eight Months Gone, is the centerpiece of the auction and is expected to fetch more than $460,000, Sotheby's specialist Oliver Barker said. "It's a wonderful painting. It was exhibited shortly after it was done at the Tate Gallery. He's always been interested in maternity. It's a very tender, loving painting."

Hall is willing to sell part of her collection because she has entered a new phase in her life, Barker said.

Venice and Joaquin

A buzz preceded actor Casey Affleck's directorial debut, I'm Still Here: Was the movie about brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix's seemingly downward spiral from actor to hip-hop musician really a no-holds-barred documentary - or was it just a setup?

On Monday in Venice, where his film was screened out of competition at the Film Festival, Affleck said he was leaving the answer up to the audience. "Elliptically, I would say . . . I sincerely don't want to influence people's interpretation," Affleck said. "I can tell you there is no hoax. It makes me think of Candid Camera or something."

The film is full of dark, sometimes graphic scenes about the Academy Award-nominated Phoenix, whose decision to go for a music career and concurrent decline was fodder for late-night comics. In one scene, Phoenix banters about the irony of his life being depicted in film, when he is trying to get away from the industry. The film follows Phoenix to his last acting and press events, where he grumbles that he "hates" acting.

Affleck noted that Phoenix was in Venice and "not hiding from the movie." The documentary includes scenes with entertainers such as Ben Stiller and Sean "Diddy" Combs. Because it would be difficult to film Combs and Stiller without their knowledge, it is thought that at least some of the film was scripted.

Venice, Part II

The Ditch (Le Fosse), a film exploring Chinese labor camps for dissidents, is a late addition to festival entries vying for the Golden Lion award. Director Wang Bing's entry is a documentarylike project set in the late 1950s, when China's communist government condemned to forced labor thousands of citizens who were considered dissidents for a variety of reasons.

For the film, the director said he interviewed many survivors of Jiabiangou Camp and "learned from them about the realities of their time there." The screenplay is also based on the book Goodbye, Jiabiangou by Yang Xianhui. The film is a coproduction from Hong Kong, France, and Belgium.

The Golden Lion will be awarded on the festival's closing day, Saturday.

On U.S. screens

George Clooney's hit-man tale The American captured the top spot at the box office with a $16.4 million debut over the long Labor Day weekend. Since opening Wednesday, the Focus Features release has taken in $19.5 million.

The 20th Century Fox revenge romp Machete and Sony's heist thriller Takers were in a duel for second place. Machete led with $14 million from Friday to Monday, followed by Takers with $13.5 million, though the rankings could change once final numbers are released Tuesday.


This article contains information from Inquirer wire services and from Web sites.

Contact "SideShow" at sideshow@phillynews.com.

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