At 'SNL,' after 5 years, black is the new black

Posted: January 08, 2014

VIVA Zamata!

On Jan. 18, "Saturday Night Live" will debut its first African-American woman cast member in five years, and she's Upright Citizens Brigade alum Sasheer Zamata.

The casting comes after the series faced criticism for its lack of diversity - how many times can Keenan Thompson play Whoopi Goldberg?

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Zamata beat out Amber Ruffin for the spot.

* Probably not getting a gig on "SNL" any time soon is French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, who's become an issue for France's interior minister because of a routine considered anti-Semitic.

Dieudonne is known for popularizing a hand gesture (a downward Nazi salute) that Manuel Valls, the French minister, sees as anti-Semitic code.

Valls notified regional prefects yesterday that they, along with mayors, can close down Dieudonne's shows based on a potential risk to public order.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said there's "no doubt" that Thursday's show in the western city of Nantes, where he used to be mayor, would get the ax.

Valls says the racial and anti-Semitic remarks in Dieudonne's show are legal infractions and "no longer belong to the artistic and creative dimension."

* In Israel, meanwhile, the latest star of reality TV is . . . Filipino.

She's Rose Fostanes, a 47-year-old caregiver, who has put a human face on the thousands of foreign workers who toil away in menial jobs in Israel.

Israeli viewers of the country's many reality shows ("The Real Housewives of Haifa," anyone? How about "Mossad Wives"? Maybe "Kosher Kitchen Nightmares"?) have grown accustomed to reality stars from various backgrounds, including black-clad ultra-Orthodox Jews, Ethiopian immigrants and a German convert to Judaism who became a celebrity chef. But they've never seen someone like Fostanes before.

The 4-foot-11 woman with a booming voice has taken "X-Factor Israel" by storm and emerged as a national phenomenon. Known simply as Rose, she is mobbed by fans wherever she goes.

In the type of audition scene that has become a YouTube talent-show staple, Rose walks out on stage, a small, middle-aged woman with a simple haircut and simple clothes, in no way to be confused with Katy Perry or Beyonce, and in a few notes (in this case, of Shirley Bassey's "This Is My Life") changes the crowd's and judges' smirks to slack-jawed astonishment.

"It's a big change in my life because before nobody recognized me, nobody knew me," she said. "But now everybody, I think everybody in Israel knows my name. And it is very funny."

Rose spends her days caring and cleaning for an ailing woman in her 50s. Several months ago, a friend encouraged her to enter "X-Factor," hosted by Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli. Not just an old-school belter, Rose has appealed to younger voters with versions of Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," a take-no-prisoners rendering of Lady Gaga's "You and I" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." She is among the final five contestants and widely seen as a favorite.


* Authorities say they have arrested former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz for investigation of driving under the influence after he hit a freeway median in Los Angeles.

The California Highway Patrol says Ortiz lost control of his vehicle about 3:50 a.m. yesterday on Interstate 405 as he was driving his 2012 Porsche Panamera. Authorities say his car hit a concrete center median and sustained moderate damage.

Ortiz had two passengers in his car, but no one was injured.

Would you have tried to take the keys from Tito Ortiz?

* British writer Kate Atkinson (one of Stephen King's favorites) has won the novel-of-the-year prize at Britain's Costa Book Awards with her reality-altering historical saga Life After Life.

Other winners in the event's five categories include poet Michael Symmons Roberts for his collection Drysalter, and mental-health nurse Nathan Filer, who takes the first-novel prize for his saga of madness, The Shock of the Fall.

Lucy Hughes-Hallett won the biography category for her portrait of an Italian fascist, The Pike, while author and illustrator Chris Riddell won the children's book prize for Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse.

One of those five books will be chosen as the overall winner and awarded $50,000 at a Jan. 28 ceremony. The awards are open to writers based in Britain and Ireland.

* "The Queen Latifah Show" has been renewed for a second season. That's another season of paychecks for Will Smith, wife Jada PinkettSmith and producing partner James Lassiter and their Overbrook Entertainment.

The Eurythmics are reuniting - to pay tribute to the Beatles.

The Recording Academy announced yesterday that Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart will perform as a duo for "The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles." The event will be taped at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Jan. 27, a day after the Grammy Awards (for broadcast Feb. 9).

Longtime Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich, who is also producing the Beatles special, wouldn't say which tune the British duo would perform, but John Mayer and Keith Urban will pair up to do "Don't Let Me Down," while Alicia Keys and John Legend will duet on "Let It Be."

The special will air exactly 50 years after the Beatles made their U.S. debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and 49 years after Tattle's parents saw the Fab Four live at Shea Stadium. An estimated 73 million viewers tuned in to watch the appearance on the Sullivan show, considerably more than currently watch "Duck Dynasty."

- Daily News wire services

contributed to this report.

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On Twitter: @DNTattle

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