The night before the Emmy Awards, an event south of Hollywood in Laguna Beach drew nearly two dozen TV stars to the 12th annual Celebrity Gala for the Festival of the Arts’ Pageant of the Masters, helping to raise $200,000 for the festival’s building fund. A summer staple for the past 77 years, the pageant recreates famous art in tableaux vivants with the help of 550 volunteers, replicating (in this year’s program) everything from Frederic Remington sculptures to living dioramas of Mardi Gras posters, Etruscan murals, and Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.”
“I hope to be here every year. I love it,” raved event emcee Mario Lopez, a pageant returnee whose girlfriend Courtney Mazza will give birth to their first child this month. Planning ahead for their baby’s nutrition, “We’re doing this organic garden. I’m following her lead,” said Lopez, who also recycles at home. The author of "Knockout Fitness" and "Extra Lean", the self-described “grill guy” has another book due out this fall about healthy eating for the family. And in addition to hosting "Extra" and "America’s Best Dance Crew", he’s producing a boxing documentary and will be the subject of a VH1 reality series. But number one on his mind is his imminent fatherhood. “I think I’ll be an awesome dad,” declared Lopez, whose own father encouraged him to follow his instincts as a parent. “If you come from a place of love, you can’t go wrong.”
Marg Helgenberger, who we also bumped into at the event, is into gardening and water conservation. “I’ve got a drought-tolerant garden with succulents and a lot of gravel. It’s not that thirsty,” said the actress, now shooting season 11 of "CSI", premiering Sept. 23 on CBS. This year, she’ll become romantically involved with one of the show’s recurring characters, Detective Vartann (Alex Carter). She’ll also take part in the multi-network "Stand Up to Cancer" telethon on Sept. 10.
“We’re big recyclers,” Sarah Drew of "Grey's Anatomy" told MNN at the event. “We’re trying to run my Dodge Stratus into the ground so we can go buy a hybrid. That’s high on our priority list.”
After spending a summer throwing parties for her just-married best friend and new doctorate holder husband, she’s back before the cameras on "Grey’s", dealing with the aftermath of a lethal shooting spree in last season’s finale. Picking up three weeks later, the seventh season premiere Sept. 23 introduces James Tupper as a grief counselor who determines whether the staff members — including her character April — are able to return to work. “April jumps right back into surgery, but I feel she’s just trying to keep it together and she’s going to crack at some point,” guessed Drew, who finds her character unpredictable, insecure, real and therefore fun to play. “She’s very passive aggressive, which is not an very attractive quality, but I love that about her because it makes her human.”
“It’s fun to make new things out of old things. It exercises the brain and the consciousness,” says Maria Canals-Barrera, the "Wizards of Waverly Place" mom who returns as the cook (and mother to Demi Lovato’s heroine Mitchie) in "Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam", premiering on Disney Channel Sept. 3. A real-life mom of two, she has raised her kids on organic milk and produce and has taught them to recycle, reuse bags, pick up litter, and find new ways to use old stuff in craft projects.
Now shooting the fourth and final season of "Wizards", she recently wrapped a role in next year’s "Larry Crowne" opposite Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks, who directed. As a shy community college classmate to Tom’s title character, she goes through a metamorphosis and comes out of her shell with Larry’s encouragement. “He helps change all of us and he changes too,” says Canals-Barrera, who has high praise for Hanks’ direction. “He knows how to talk to an actor. I just can’t tell you what a blessing that was.”
Tune In: On Sept. 6, a special episode of Animal Planet’s "Whale Wars" called "From Pirate to Prisoner" chronicles Captain Peter Bethune’s experiences as a detainee after his arrest by Japanese authorities on charges of trespassing, obstructing the passage of a vessel, carrying a knife and damaging property.
"The Lion Ranger" is Kevin Richardson, a behaviorist who is working to preserve the lion habitat known as the Kingdom of the White Lion in a new Nat Geo Wild series premiering Sept. 6. He tries to restore peace to a pride fraught with infighting in the opening episode.