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Nov. 18, 1997

'Mad City' peeks into stars' media views

(U-WIRE) LOS ANGELES -- Get the story. Get The Times. The Post. The Bruin. Reporters and journalists have long held the stigma of being ruthless, information-seeking scandal producers who just want to get the story. The masses, as well, have long been known for their inquiring minds.

Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta's new movie, Mad City is Hollywood's latest look at the media's ability to manipulate and the public's willingness to be manipulated.

Travolta is gun-toting Sam Bailey who arrives at a museum to simply get his job back. However, Max Brackett (Hoffman) quickly takes control, turning the situation into one of the biggest hostage stories of all time.

'My take on the media is very simple. It's the scene where (Bailey is) in the windows. He's telling a story with the gun to the kids, and he's misperceived by the police,' Travolta said. 'It looks different than it is. He thinks that I'm going to hurt the kids, but I'm telling a sweet story to the kids.'

Travolta said these past three or four years have been like a lovefest with the media. He said they have treated him well, and he returns the sentiments.

Last summer when reports of walk-outs and creative differences on the set of Roman Polanski's 'The Double' surfaced, Travolta could have had a reason to be disgruntled. But the actor looks on that troubled time with calmness.

'Some of it was accurate, some of it was inaccurate, but then the truth came out in the end, you know,' Travolta said.

But far more notorious than reporters are the paparazzi. They are known for using more intrusive means to get their photo or story.

However, Hoffman said he never found the paparazzi to be a big issue. He attributes their lack of intrusion into his life to the fact that they didn't exist when he was a young star.

'What I find more offensive than the paparazzi, 'cause I've never been affected by them personally, is the normal person on the street with the video camera,' Hoffman said. 'You realize they've been invading your life for the last few minutes. You're talking to your kid, and someone's been standing there just recording you 20 feet away. You're going to be in their living room, your private life, and it would infuriate you if it was done to you.'

Unlike Travolta though, Hoffman has had his share of misrepresentation in the media.

'I was shocked the first time I ever did an interview, which was for The Graduate,' Hoffman revealed, 'because it was The New York Times, and the woman came over to my apartment and spent three hours, and it was about 10 total distortions. I mean that's putting it mildly.

'And I don't know whether it was different because she meant it to be,' Hoffman continued. 'I don't know what happens, whether it's the interviewer or whether it's the editor.'

If there have been any attacks on Hoffman, Mia Kirshner, who plays Laurie, Brackett's young intern, will vehemently defend her co-star's character.

'This is is the best experience I've ever had working with another actor. I mean this guy (Hoffman), he'd come in on his days off to read off-camera for me,' Kirshner recalled. 'He doesn't need to do that. I mean he's a seasoned actor ... he gave me so much for the character.'

Improvisational sessions with Hoffman helped Kirshner define her character. Kirshner said Hoffman's continual devotion and willingness to help out deeply affected her.

'He had hit his head on scaffolding, and he had to go to the hospital,' Kirshner revealed. 'He came back from the hospital to do the off-camera for me. I was so touched by that.'

Though Hoffman is a veteran actor, he confesses he's never quite mastered dealing with the media.

'I never learned the lesson,' Hoffman said. 'You never tell the truth. You make it up. You're an actor. You have an imagination. Have fun. Always make it up, and then you're never hurt. And it's never distorted 'cause you own the distortion.

'I never learned, but I would do it. It's too late now,' Hoffman said. 'Yes, I have a pet alligator in my bathtub, three months old. And get serious and talk about it, and the person gets a good story, and it's interesting and everybody's happy.'

Barbie's bustline, silhouette to shrink

The Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Barbie has an appointment with the plastic surgeon for a top-to-bottom makeover, and it may cost her some of her famous curves.

Mattel Inc. plans to give Barbie new, more realistic proportions and a less made-up face, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

The doll's new look -- including a wider waist, slimmer hips and a smaller bustline -- won't immediately replace the current Barbie, the newspaper said.

After its official unveiling at the toy industry's annual trade fair in January, Barbie's new body will be phased in gradually, beginning next year, the Journal reported. The new face will appear on several 1998 models.

'In the 80s, Barbie's world was more blond, targeted to glamour and beauty and activities that were right then,'' said Jean McKenzie, who heads Mattel's Barbie division. 'Now she'll have a contemporary look that's more natural and today. Kids tell us that everything we're doing to diversify away from pink and glamour and princess is right on.''

The most noticeable change may be a reduction in Barbie's generous (and sometimes controversial) bustline. 'Her profile will be less graduated,'' was all McKenzie would say.

One estimate puts the current Barbie's measurements at an unlikely 38-18-34 in human terms.

Many have criticized the El Segundo, Calif.-based Mattel for giving young girls an unrealistic standard of beauty, but company spokesman Glenn Bozarth said such criticisms were not the reason for Barbie's makeover.

'We've always been sensitive to that issue, but it wasn't the basis for our decision,'' Bozarth said.

In addition to the body work, Mattel's plastic surgeons will be giving Barbie a new face, her first in more than 20 years and only the third since the doll was introduced in 1959.

They'll replace the current Barbie's toothy grin, wide eyes and platinum hair with a closed mouth, softer, straighter hair and a finer nose.

The old look won't disappear completely.

Mattel still plans to use it for traditionally feminine, princessy models, McKenzie said.

'What little girls want isn't just one thing, one ideal,'' she said.

'What they want is a choice of different Barbies with different looks -- to reflect how different they look.''

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