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Paula Deen hopes for rescue by fixer who inspired ‘Scandal’

Today - Seas62

Today - Season 62

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Updated: July 30, 2013 6:03AM



As Paula Deen’s multi-million-dollar professional world continued to appear to crumble around her — and friends became increasingly concerned about the Southern cooking queen’s emotional and psychological well-being — there did seem some evidence Thursday she might be able to staunch the “bleeding.”

Many corporate damage-control pros applauded Deen’s decision to hire famous crisis manager Judy Smith — the inspiration for the Olivia Pope character portrayed by Kerry Washington on the ABC hit, “Scandal.” Like Washington, Smith is African-American.

Among Smith’s previous high-profile, troubled clients have been Kobe Bryant and Michael Vick, and she worked to improve the reputation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after the 9/11 terrorism attacks.

† As most of Deen’s corporate sponsorships evaporated in the wake of her Food Network contract cancellation, a longtime personal friend of the twangy-voiced cook told this column Thursday, “I am so worried about Paula. Fortunately, she has her boys and husband and other family members right there for her. But she is emotionally a wreck and I worry she could revert back to the days when she never left the house.”

Deen has openly discussed her battle with panic attacks and agoraphobia when she was in her 20s. She turned to cooking as something she could do to provide for her family without leaving the house — until she was able to overcome those issues.

FITS TO A ‘T’: Considering James Gandolfini prematurely died at age 51, the black T-shirt that “The Sopranos” script supervisor Veronica Lupu wore to the actor’s New York funeral Thursday was ominously prophetic.

The shirt was one that Gandolfini had given as a present to the show’s entire cast and crew. On it was: “ ‘The Sopranos’ 1997-2007: Only the Good Die Young.”

THE IVY LEAGUE: Casey Moran’s owner Kevin Killerman and his team will be unveiling the new rooftop deck of the popular Clark Street sports bar on Sunday. Considering the watering hole is located right across the street from Wrigley Field, it’s appropriate the rooftop venue is being called the Ivy Lounge — a nice homage to the iconic plantings in the Friendly Confines.

WEDDING PLANS? No one is talking on the record, but there’s lots of buzz from folks close to Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis that the couple are seriously talking about getting married.

If that happens, the duo’s “That ‘70’s Show” co-star Laura Prepon fully expects to be part of the wedding party. The actress told Confidenti@l, “ Of course I will [be there]. Are you kidding? All of us are going to be right up there on the altar.”

Wonder what Demi Moore thinks about all this.

FAMILY UNHAPPY: Members of President John F. Kennedy’s family are well aware of the stories about the alleged affair between JFK and Marilyn Monroe. However, I’ve heard several key Kennedys are upset about the numerous references in “White House Down” starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx (opening Friday) to supposed tunnels beneath the White House — where Kennedy took Monroe to have sex.

While there is a lot of evidence JFK and possibly Bobby Kennedy had flings with the actress, the concern is about those flings happening at the White House, which most experts sincerely doubt.

COMING ‘OUT’: While the Chicago International Film Festival has showcased movies with gay themes or made by gay filmmakers since as early as 1969, festival founder Michael Kutza announced Thursday the fest’s 49th annual competition this fall will include both a separate “OUT-Look” section of features, documentaries and short films — as well as the first presentation of the Q Hugo Award, to the festival’s outstanding film in this category.

TV TALK: Don’t know if he’ll say yes, but “Hannibal” showrunner Bryan Fuller told E! News he has offered rock legend David Bowie the chance to play Count Robert Lecter, the uncle of the cannibalistic title character, in season two of the chilling NBC drama series.

Also on the “Hannibal” wish list for what Fuller calls “some fun stunt casting” is Our Town’s own Chi McBride, “if he’s available.”

Chelsie Hill from “Push Girls” — which just won best new reality series at the Broadcast Critics Choice Awards — will be in the town for the Abilities Expo this weekend at Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. The 21-year-old is the youngest member of the Sundance Channel show’s cast. Paralyzed since age 17, due to a car accident, Hill is featured on the show continuing her passion for dance via the “Colours ’n’ Motion” wheelchair dance group. The Abilities Expo is the nation’s leading exposition completely focused on people with disabilities.

SEEN ON THE SCENE: George Wendt has played lots of roles since his “Cheers” days, but for many he’ll always be “Norm,” and clearly everyone knew his name — spotting him hanging in the bar at Harry Caray’s on Kinzie the other night. … Desiree Rogers and CBS-2 anchor Kate Sullivan were spied Monday dining at Coco Pazzo — where owner Jack Weiss happily was chatting up his latest eatery, the Tre Soldi Roman-themed trattoria and pizzeria at 212 E. Ohio. The name means “three coins” in Italian, bringing back memories of that classic Roman flick (and song) “Three Coins in the Fountain.”… Mayor Rahm Emanuel was on hand Wednesday to help East Bank Club chairman Dan Levin unveil “Our Kind of Town,” the new painting by Chicago artist Emmett Kerrigan at the popular health club’s entrance. … Still basking in the glow of their Stanley Cup win, the Hawks’ Viktor Stalberg and Ben Smith were spied separately dining at Sunda. … Newlyweds George Lucas and Mellody Hobson were seen having a quiet, romantic dinner at Paris Club.



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