Daniels' 'Butler' serves up hometown premiere

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Cuba Gooding Jr. (left) sneaks up on co-star Yaya Alafia and director Lee Daniels on the red carpet at yesterday's premiere of "Lee Daniels' The Butler," at the Perelman Theater in the Kimmel Center.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Cuba Gooding Jr. (left) sneaks up on co-star Yaya Alafia and director Lee Daniels on the red carpet at yesterday's premiere of "Lee Daniels' The Butler," at the Perelman Theater in the Kimmel Center.
Posted: July 31, 2013

DIRECTOR LEE DANIELS and stars Cuba Gooding Jr. and Yaya Alafia walked the red carpet at the Kimmel Center last night at the premiere of "Lee Daniels' The Butler," the story of Cecil Gaines ( Forest Whitaker), a man who served in the White House under eight presidents.

"I demanded it, I told Mr. [ Harvey] Weinstein it must be!" Daniels, who grew up in Wynnefield, said with dramatic flair about why he wanted a local premiere. "[Philadelphia] is safe, it's home. I directed my first film ["Shadowboxer"] here. The family part of 'The Butler' is really my family's story."

And the Daniels family got to see it all. Daniels said his entire family was in the audience. "They're all here. Oh Lord, I hope they don't get too loud," Daniels said, joking. He leaned in, grinning. "I'm happy, but am I? Twenty minutes in, am I?"

Gooding, who starred in "Shadowboxer," along with Helen Mirren, sees this movie as an important history lesson, telling the story of the Civil Rights movement through the eyes of one man and his family.

"I know my kids learned about Anne Frank and the Holocaust but they didn't know there were sit-ins. . . . [My son] didn't have the knowledge of things that were going on in this movie," Gooding said, who added he's had the benefit of starring in several of these stories, including "Men of Honor" and "Red Tails."

"To not have these stories told at the same time as other races has been an injustice. Now that studios aren't financing dramas, filmmakers like Mr. Lee Daniels are given the opportunity to tell whatever stories they want if they raise their own money," Gooding said. "We have minority individuals of wealth who are putting their money where their mouths are and telling this film on the proper scale."

Last night, that story was told, literally, on a rather large scale. "The Butler" is the first film to be screened in the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater after a recent addition of a digital projector.

Grossman leaves NBC10

NBC10 meteorologist Michelle Grossman is leaving the station to become a full-time mom. Grossman, who grew up in Doylestown and graduated from Central Bucks East, had been with the station since January 2008.

She'll be leaving 10 to stay at home with new son , Jeremy, who was born in December. She has a daughter, Ella, from a previous marriage. But Grossman won't be straying far from the NBC family.

Her husband, Jamie Simmons, is the station's digital-assets manager. She'll also be doing fill-in work when necessary.

Grossman's last day was Sunday.

Uncle's anthem

Dominic Chianese, who played Uncle Junior on HBO's "The Sopranos," will sing the national anthem at tonight's Phillies game against the Giants in honor of the Fiat Italian Heritage Celebration.

But the biggest celebrity at the game, sports fans? Former Daily News Phillies beat writer Paul Hagen, who will be honored on the field for receiving the 2013 J.G. Taylor Spink Award and induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Congrats, Paul!

OUT AND ABOUT

* Former teen idol David Cassidy sang an impromptu encore at Boogie Nights, the '70s- and '80s-themed dance club at the Tropicana Casino Resort, where he played a show that night. The rest of the Partridge family, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found.

*  Billy King, former 76ers president, dined at Villanova's Avenue Kitchen Restaurant. King, who was fired from the Sixers in 2007, is now the general manager of the Brooklyn Nets.


Email: eichelm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @PhillyGossipDN

Online: ph.ly/DNGossip

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