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Revisionist History and Vincent van Gogh

Scrap that theory about Vincent van Gogh cutting off his ear. Blame it on his pal Paul Gauguin, says German art expert Rita Wildegans.

In an upcoming book, the author makes the case that the two had an alcohol-infused row on Christmas Eve 1888 after Gauguin said he was leaving Arles, in southern France.

Although Gauguin later maintained that Van Gogh had severed his ear, he initially omitted that fact from the police report. Equally suspicious in Wildegans’ eyes was the haste with which Gauguin left town and the fact that he had his fencing equipment with him during his visit to Provence. Van Gogh, who appeared to have suffered a seizure, could remember nothing of the incident.


“The weight of the evidence is overwhelming,” Wildegans said. “Everything we know about what happened is from Gauguin. But Gauguin was an inveterate liar. He was also armed.”

David Sweetman, a leading British art historian, says it was possible, but not probable: “Gauguin had no particular motive to cut off his ear. Even if he had been attacked by Van Gogh, he would not have had his sword in his hand and would have had to go get it.”


Bull Brutality Alleged in Almodovar’s Latest Film

Animal-rights activists have filed a complaint against director Pedro Almodovar and his production company for killing four bulls during the shooting of his new film, “Talk to Her.”

The complaint, filed before the regional environmental department in Madrid, argues that Almodovar and his production company, El Deseo, violated an animal protection law under which any film scene purporting to show cruelty to, mistreatment of, or suffering by animals must be mock.

El Deseo confirmed Monday that on June 25-26, Almodovar shot a scene in which four bulls were killed in the bullring of Aranjuez, a town near Madrid. Still, it insisted, filmmakers had obtained the necessary permits, hired a bullfighting consultant from a local school and shot the scene in the least painful way.

Animal-rights activists have questioned that account, saying that the action was conducted by an inexperienced bullfighter. Almodovar, who directed the Oscar-winning film “All About My Mother,” could face a fine of $1,350 to $13,513.



Honoring Parsons--A Few Decades Late

Fans are lobbying the National Park Service to officially recognize the final resting place of country rocker Gram Parsons in Joshua Tree National Park.

After the 26-year-old singer died of a drug overdose in a Joshua Tree motel in 1973, his road manager and a friend stole his casket from Los Angeles and, as he had requested, burned it in the park. Supporters of the singer--an influence on the Eagles, the Rolling Stones and the modern alternative country music movement--say it’s time to erect an official marker in his honor, to be featured on the official park map.

Clifford Tobias, a park history program leader, said it would take time and money to formally recognize the site, including research and exhibit materials. Rangers now have the option of telling Parsons’ story, but the visitors center and park brochures are silent on the subject. An unofficial Parsons memorial has a seashell necklace, a bottle of beer and the message: “God’s own singer.”


Abdul Hired for ‘Reefer Madness’ in New York

Paula Abdul will choreograph the New York production of the L.A. hit “Reefer Madness,” opening in October. It will mark the first off-Broadway production by James L. Nederlander, president of the Nederland Organization, his family’s Broadway theater and production company.

Christian Campbell, one of the L.A. holdovers, stars as a young man who ruins his life after one puff of the weed, and L.A. director Andy Fickman is still at the helm. “Reefer Madness” premiered at the Hudson Backstage Theater on April 30, 1999.


The fifth annual Hollywood Film Festival (Aug. 2-6) will give John Frankenheimer the Hollywood Outstanding Achievement in Directing Award at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Aug 6. Songwriter Diane Warren, composer Hans Zimmer, cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs and producer Edward S. Feldman are also being recognized. A screening of Woody Allen’s new movie, “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion,” will close the festival.... Nickelodeon’s 10th anniversary special of “Rugrats” attracted more than 6 million kids on Saturday night, based on Nielsen estimates, becoming the most-watched program in the cable channel’s history.... Radiohead, PJ Harvey, the Gorillaz and Basement Jaxx lead the list of finalists for this year’s prestigious Mercury Music Prize, which celebrates the “best of British music.” The award will be presented in September .... Outfest 2001, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, announced the winners of its Outie Awards Sunday night. Among them was Courtney Love, outstanding actress in a feature film for “Julie Johnson”; the coming-of-age drama “L.I.E.”; and a documentary feature about gay Orthodox Jews, “Trembling Before G-D.” All three movies are scheduled for release this fall.... Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks and “L.A. Confidential” director Curtis Hanson have been elected to the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Hanks, a member of the actors’ branch, fills the vacancy left after the resignation of Gregory Peck, who chose not to finish his three-year term.