Mr. Motown Himself Takes Another Personal Hit on the Silver Screen

Don Cheadle as Petey Greene in
Don Cheadle as Petey Greene in "Talk to Me." (Michael Gibson - Focus Features)

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By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Just months after "Dreamgirls" skewered Berry Gordy Jr., the legendary producer who brought us the Temptations and the Supremes is getting another slap on the big screen -- this time in "Talk to Me," the biopic of D.C. broadcaster Petey Greene.

In a pivotal early scene, the WOL-AM deejay (played by Don Cheadle) refuses to play a Motown tune and mouths off on-air about how the label founder is "a hustler and a pimp" for supposedly exploiting his stable of talent. (Station execs freak out until they realize listeners are actually cheering Greene's tirades.)

(Sooo . . . is that why the soundtrack, laden with vintage R&B, features only a single song fragment from Gordy's vast catalogue? Reps for Focus Features declined comment and Gordy's reps did not offer an answer by press time.)

Did it really happen like that? We called Greene's former station manager Dewey Hughes, ex-husband of Radio One Chairperson Cathy Hughes, who made WOL into the cornerstone of her broadcasting empire after their early-'80s split. Dewey Hughes, who now lives in L.A., was a consultant on the film (co-scripted by his son Michael) and is prominently portrayed in the movie by Chiwetel Ejiofor.

All true, says Hughes: "He talked about Berry. But it was all in fun. He had no personal vendetta. In the neighborhood, if people are talking about you, even if it's derogatory, it's usually a compliment. If someone referred to you as a 'pimp,' it didn't have to mean you had ladies on the street. You could 'pimp' good grades, you could 'pimp' those clothes. It's all relative."

Would Greene, who died in 1984, be happy with the movie? "Petey is happy with it. His spirit is happy with it."

The Ins and Outs of City Paper vs. Late Night Shots

Sharks vs. Jets? Greasers vs. Socs? Clique warfare broke out when Washington City Paper ran a scathing cover story about Late Night Shots, an online "closed social network" catering to preppy bons vivants. Writer Angela Valdez quoted the crass sexual come-on that a member made to her at a party and cited chatroom banter that "made light of date rape, bashed brunettes, and compared notes on handouts from Mummy and Daddy."

LNS fans flooded the paper's Web site to denounce the staff as "hipsters" who are "jealous of our privilege, jealous of our economic success, jealous of our fun"; while detractors took aim at "pampered, rich frat boys." Meanwhile, on the front of Latenightshots.com, founder Reed Landry posted a mostly restrained rebuttal ("highly biased . . . completely distorted") with a photo . . . from Winona Ryder's '89 flick "Heathers."

Meaning -- what exactly? In the dark comedy, Ryder ends up murdering the cool girls who lord over her high school. Bad behavior, sure, but does LNS really want to identify with the witchy Heathers? Landry broke down the themes for us: "There's a group of people who is extremely upset about the existence of another group of people who could care less about them." Also: "We love everything from the 1980s."

HEY, ISN'T THAT . . . ?

· Nicole Richie brunching Sunday at McGarvey's Saloon & Oyster Bar in Annapolis. The tiny "Simple Life" co-star was with boyfriend Joel Madden (the Waldorf rocker who launched Good Charlotte with brother Benji playing nearby City Dock clubs.) Richie wore a yellow shirt dress that revealed a slight bulge (no official confirmation of a pregnancy); had iced tea and an order of crab dip.

· Michael Chertoff and Ambassador Salem Al-Sabah at Leopold's Kafe on Saturday night. The Homeland Security head and the Kuwaiti envoy and their wives were spotted having a casual dinner (veal schnitzel, chicken salad) on the patio in Cady's Alley.

THIS JUST IN . . .

· For the second time this year, Lindsay Lohan checked out of rehab and beelined for a club. On Friday, Lohan completed a 45-day program at Malibu's Promises; on Saturday, she partied at Pure nightclub in Las Vegas, reports People magazine. But this time Lilo's sporting an alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelet that tracks ethanol levels, so "there are no questions about her sobriety if she chooses to go dancing or dining in a place where alcohol is served," says rep Leslie Sloane Zelnik. Lohan's outpatient program also includes AA meetings, daily tests and therapy.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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