Rich Heldenfels


Gymnastics star Gabby Douglas is leading a gold-medal kind of life these days, whether making a recent guest appearance on Dancing With the Stars with the other Fierce Five Olympians or awaiting Tuesday’s release of her new memoir, Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith. But she offers details of her rocky past in an excerpt from the memoir in the new issue of People magazine.



“When my parents couldn’t find a single rental in Tulsa that was in their budget, we lived in the only place that wouldn’t cost them a cent — the floor of our blue Dodge van — for several months,” she wrote.



“My mother would carefully spread a napkin on the floor of the van to prepare the only daily meal our family could afford — peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.



“Things looked up after the family moved in with relatives in Texas,” she said. “My oldest sister, Arielle, a former gymnast, showed me how to do a perfect cartwheel when I was just three. After a week of mirroring Arielle’s moves, I went solo: I taught myself how to do a cartwheel on one hand.”





Isabella Succeeds Erickson. WNIR (100.1-FM) has named Jim Isabella as the replacement for the late Tom Erickson in its evening lineup. Isabella is a veteran broadcaster — and member of the Beacon Journal family. His show officially launched Thursday night; it airs 7-11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 4-7 p.m. on Saturdays.



Erickson died on Nov. 3 after a long struggle with illness. Isabella, a substitute host on the station for the last two years, saw his work increase during the many months Erickson was off the air and after the sudden death of Howie Chizek in June. “From that exposure WNIR’s audience became much more familiar with Jim’s talents,” said a station announcement, and Isabella generated positive feedback that led to the full-time job.





Lest We Forget … CNN has hired veteran TV executive Jeff Zucker as its new president, proudly noting his old news credentials. But Zucker is also known for turning NBC into a wasteland during his years running it, compiling a record so terrible that people long marveled at how he managed to hold onto a job. (He left NBC after Comcast took control from G.E. — and saw no need to keep Zucker.)



Here are a couple of memorable comments about Zucker in his NBC days:



“Zucker is a case study in the most destructive media executive ever to exist. You’d have to tell me who else has taken a once-great network and literally destroyed it.” — An unidentified competing network executive, to Maureen Dowd in 2010.



“Jeff Zucker is the worst thing that ever happened to network television.” — Modern Family mastermind Steve Levitan, in Warren Littlefield’s NBC memoir Top of the Rock.



How bad must things be at CNN for it to think this is a good choice?





Smash Notes. When NBC’s musical-drama-about-making-a-musical Smash returns to NBC on Feb. 5, it will be without Cincinnati’s own Theresa Rebeck, the playwright and TV veteran who created the series but left after the first season. With a new play opening in New York, she has been making the interview rounds and opening up about her recent TV experience. Here’s one painful comment from her to the New York Observer:



“One of the points of contention last year was that the network thinks they have the right to say to the writer of the show, ‘We don’t want her to do this. We want her to do this. And I would sometimes say back to them, ‘She would never do that.’ And they’d look at me like I was crazy, and I’d be like, ‘Nope, it’s not crazy, it’s just who the character is.’ You have to respect who the character is. It has its own internal truth and you can’t betray that.”





Cross Coming. The movie Alex Cross, which was shot partly in Akron, will be on DVD and Blu-ray on Feb. 5. The thriller, which stars Tyler Perry, was based on a character created by novelist James Patterson (and played by Morgan Freeman in two previous films).



It was not a success with critics — the Rotten Tomatoes site gave it a 13 percent positive rating, the lowest for any movie starring Perry — or at the box office. So the video gives you another chance to study the local scenes.





Speaking of video ... Sparkle, the update of the ’70s cult film, arrives on DVD and Blu-ray today. The movie was noteworthy for having the last acting performance by Whitney Houston, and the extras include 20 minutes of the cast and crew speaking very fondly about Houston, who gives a strong performance in an uneven movie overall. The cast also included Jordin Sparks and Carmen Ejogo.





On the Blog ... The HeldenFiles Online includes my look at The Revolution Was Televised, a new book by TV critic (and friend) Alan Sepinwall, which examines the making of a dozen breakthrough TV shows, including The Sopranos, Mad Men, Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24 and Breaking Bad.



Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.