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Dramatic Developments on Jett Travolta`s Death; Oprah`s Brand-New Weight Confessions; Barack Obama`s as Restaurant Critic?; Letters to Michelle Obama

Aired January 6, 2009 - 23:00:00   ET


BROOKE ANDERSON, HOST: Now, on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, dramatic developments in the tragic death of John Travolta`s teenaged son, Jett. Tonight, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT with brand-new puzzling questions. What really killed Jett? Was the investigation into his death handled properly? And what are Travolta`s funeral plans?
Plus, we`re taking your call into "Showbiz On Call," your emotional words for the Travolta family.


RUSSELL WETANSON, "POPSQUIRE.COM": We have seen a huge outpouring. both from people inside the entertainment industry and the public, wishing him and his family well.


ANDERSON: Oprah`s remarkable brand new weight confessions. Tonight, Oprah Winfrey`s startling revelations in her own words about abusing food, about hiding her body, and whether she is battling depression. Tonight, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT with Oprah`s 200-pound weight battle.

Plus, Barack Obama`s bizarre job before he got elected president.


BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT-ELECT: That is the problem those Johnnycakes. They`ll get you early, then you won`t have room for the peach cobbler.


ANDERSON: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT with the lost Obama tapes. Barack Obama restaurant critic?

TV`s most provocative entertainment news show starts right now.


Hi there, everyone. I`m Brooke Anderson, coming to you from Hollywood. And tonight, the late-breaking developments in the tragic death of John Travolta`s son. Right now, John Travolta is back home in Ocala, Florida, back from the Bahamas where his life was turned upside down by the sudden death of his 16-year-old son, Jett. Tonight, there are lingering questions about the autopsy performed on Jett and the reported cause of his death.

And I`ve got to tell you the show of support by Travolta`s fans calling into the "Showbiz On Call" phone lines is nothing like we have ever seen before. We will have those powerful, emotional calls throughout the next hour.

But first, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT bringing you the latest developments making news right now.


(voice over) A sad homecoming for John Travolta and his wife, Kelly Preston. The star couple is now back in the U.S., making plans to lay to rest their beloved 16-year-old son Jett who died during a family trip to the Bahamas.

RUSSELL WETANSON, "POPSQUIRE.COM": John Travolta and Kelly Preston have left the Bahamas, sadly with an urn filled with Jett`s ashes in hand. They are now in Ocala, Florida, their hometown.

ANDERSON: Jet Travolta was declared dead last Friday after he was found unconscious in the family`s vacation home. A family friend tells SHOWBIZ TONIGHT that a memorial service is planned for Thursday. Travolta and Preston reportedly took their son`s remains home Monday night on this private jet after Bahamian officials finished their autopsy.

OBIE WILCHCOMBE, TRAVOLTA FAMILY FRIEND: He had to formally identify the body.

ANDERSON: A family friend talked about the wrenching moment at the morgue where Travolta and his wife, Kelly Preston, identified their son`s body.

WILCHCOMBE: His words were, "That is my son." And then he asked for some moments, he and his wife, to spend with Jett. And they stayed in the morgue for several hours.

ANDERSON: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT can tell you the doctors who did the autopsy did not release their findings. But it got out anyway with employees at the funeral home telling the media that a seizure was listed as the cause of death.

DR. HUBERT MINNIS, BAHAMIAN MINISTER OF HEALTH: I was somewhat amazed and appalled.

ANDERSON: On the "Today" show, the Bahamian Minister of health went off on those who leaked the autopsy findings to the media.

MINNIS: It`s strictly confidential. In cases of coroner`s matter, only the coroner and the family should really be in the position to release the report.

ANDERSON: Travolta and his family apparently were able to keep something private in the Bahamas - their ride to the airport. The media were thrown of their trail when they followed this black hearse as it left the funeral home. Reporters assumed it was taking Jett`s body to the airport. Turns out, Jett`s remains were still inside where they were cremated and given to Jetts` heartbroken parents, who then left largely unseen.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Was it a ruse to try to fool people?

ANDERSON: The funeral home director later told CNN`s Larry King, the hearse mix-up was not an attempt to throw off the media.

KEITH MCSWEENEY, FUNERAL HOME DIRECTOR: It was a private case. The funeral home does numerous cases and it was a private matter. It was another matter. But you know, I guess the press saw the hearse pull off from the funeral home. They assumed that that was Jett`s body.

ANDERSON: Hearse-chasing reporters, leaked death certificates - all part of the difficulty Travolta and his family face as they grieve for their son in the public eye.

WETANSON: Tragedies involving celebrities always get a lot off tension. John Travolta is someone that is near and dear to many people`s hearts. And we have seen a huge outpouring both from people inside the entertainment industry and the public wishing him and his family well.

TIM ALLEN, ACTOR: The GPS in my phone now.

JOHN TRAVOLTA, ACTOR: Let me see that. Cool. Look at that.

ALLEN: What are you -

ANDERSON: Tim Allen who starred with John Travolta in the hit film, "Wild Hogs," tells SHOWBIZ TONIGHT his heart goes out to Travolta and his family. In a statement, Allen says, quote, "We know how much they loved an adored Jett and words cannot express how sad we were to hear about his passing."

RANDY EWERS, MAYOR OF OCALA, FLORIDA: We`re very sad about the unfortunate events from one of our community members.

ANDERSON: Meanwhile, the mayor of Ocala, Florida where Travolta and Preston lived with Jett and their 8-year-old daughter, Ella, say the entire community will rally around the family in this difficult time.

EWER: We are trying to prepare for them and we`re going to do our best to help the family through their grieving process.


ANDERSON: While the Travoltas continue to grieve, questions still remain tonight over what exactly caused Jett Travolta`s death.

Joining me tonight in Hollywood, Carlos Diaz, who is a correspondent for "Extra." And in New York, Ashleigh Banfield, who is an anchor for "In Session." Welcome, Carlos. Welcome, Ashleigh.

And we know that the reported cause of Jett`s death was a seizure. Now, that information came from the funeral director where Jett`s body was taken. Listen to more of what the Bahamian minister of health said this morning on the "Today" show about that information being released.


MINNIS: I was somewhat amazed and appalled that the funeral director or someone may have leaked the report. It`s strictly confidential. In cases of coroner`s matter, only the coroner and the family should really be in the position to release the report.


ANDERSON: All right. Dr. Minnis, really not happy that private records went public in this way. Carlos, it does seem really unfair to the Travoltas who obviously didn`t want this information out yet.

CARLOS DIAZ, CORRESPONDENT, "EXTRA": It is extremely unfair, but the thing you have to realize is - and I experienced this firsthand covering the Anna Nicole Smith tragedy a few years ago, being down in the Bahamas. It`s a great place to visit. Sometimes, the customs down there are much more laid back than here in the states.

And so things are much easier leaked down in the Bahamas, and that`s one of the things that after this tragedy that happened last week with the Travoltas. They`re having to experience this in the worst kind of way.

ANDERSON: Right. And though we know Jett reportedly died of a seizure, there are still so many questions surrounding the circumstances of his death given the initial reports that Jett severely injured his head when he fell after the seizure. Ashleigh, why is all this information? Why are all the details such a secret at this point, still?

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "IN SESSION": Actually, it`s a real easy question, and that is because this isn`t a suspicious death and there is no suspicion of foul play. So this kind of stuff doesn`t have to be public. Just because someone gets an autopsy even from a public coroner doesn`t mean the autopsy results are public information unless criminal activity becomes involved. And then public record becomes part of our domain. But if it is just their own family tragedy, you and I don`t have a right to this stuff.

ANDERSON: Well, whenever we have seen the family, Travolta, and his wife Kelly Preston in public, they were really the picture of happiness. And that is the image in our minds. Carlos, isn`t that one of the many reasons that maybe this tragedy has touched so many of us?

DIAZ: It really is. One thing, you know, John Travolta is an actor who spans generations. I mean, if you grew up in the `70s, you are a big fan of him from "Saturday Night Fever," "Welcome Back, Kotter." You know him from the `90s with "Pulp Fiction" and into this new millennium. So that`s one reason - his superstardom.

And the other reason is this - there were not two nicer actors - there are not two nicer actors in Hollywood than Kelly Preston and John Travolta. I got a chance to interview both of them numerous times. And they are both two of the most genuine people that you are ever going to want to meet. And that`s one thing that everyone who knows them. That`s why they`re so heartfelt for these two.

ANDERSON: Yes, I agree with you. Every time I spoke with them as well, they had smiles on their faces. They were very welcoming and just such a pleasure to be around. And SHOWBIZ TONIGHT learned today that Oprah Winfrey called Travolta to offer her condolences.

And Ashleigh, this weekend at the Golden Globes where Travolta is nominated for the animated movie, "Bolt," I would have to imagine there will be an emotional outpouring of support for him and his family.

BANFIELD: I think there will be a lot of red carpet questions and a lot of people talking on the red carpet about it. I really hope that nobody exploits this in their speeches, et cetera. Certainly, a mention here and there is OK.

But I will tell you what - if he wins, I think you are going to see a really emotional moment in the auditorium, maybe a standing ovation or that sort of thing. But I just don`t think this is something that everybody should be jumping on and making it part of their world as well. The Golden Globes are the Golden Globes. And let`s leave them to their privacy.

ANDERSON: That said, Carlos, it still will be at the top of everybody`s minds, won`t it?

DIAZ: Yes, it will be, and it is going to be tough. I mean, obviously, I don`t think John Travolta is going to be there at the Golden Globes even though he is nominated for an award for the song in "Bolt."

But you know, I mean, it is going to be one of those things where actors are very tight-knit community. And John Travolta has one of the most impeccable reputations in Hollywood. So you are going to see a lot of outpouring of support. And I would find it hard to believe - I respect Ashleigh and what she is saying. But I would find it hard to believe that someone would try to, you know, use this to their own favor. I think everyone will be genuine this weekend at the Golden Globes.

BANFIELD: Let`s hope so.

ANDERSON: Yes, let`s hope so. Well, we all know how close John was to his son Jett. Ashleigh, what do you think? Could you see John giving up show business for good after this? Or could continuing doing what he loves give him maybe a little bit of comfort in the future?

BANFIELD: You know, everybody is different. And I think of John Walsh whose horrible tragedy, the loss of his son spurred his career into doing good and bringing about, you know, awareness of his issues.

There have been a lot of people whose careers have taken big hits by losses of family members. James Caan(ph) suffered a real dip in his career. Joaquin Phoenix lost his brother, but his career propelled. So everybody is a little bit different. And I just hope - I hope that the Preston-Travolta family can stay together and stay strong and have a wonderful life going forward, whatever they choose to do.

ANDERSON: Yes, cling to each other during this really, really difficult time. Carlos Diaz, Ashleigh Banfield, thank you both.

I`ve got so much more coming up on this Travolta tragedy. We are heading to Ocala, Florida - that`s where the Travoltas are right now. We`ve got the very latest on the funeral arrangements for Jett Travolta.

Plus, the outpouring of support by SHOWBIZ TONIGHT viewers for the Travoltas has been truly amazing. Our "Showbiz On Call" phone lines have been flooded - your emotional words and thoughts. I`m playing your calls, next.

Also, Oprah`s remarkable brand-new weight confessions. I know Oprah Winfrey has opened up about her weight before, but never like this. She talks about abusing food, about hiding her body and if she is battling depression. It`s Oprah`s 200-pound weight battle.

And also this -


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Producer David Manilow says Obama was terrific, and he seemed like a rising star even then. But there is a reason this episode never aired.


ANDERSON: Barack Obama`s bizarre job before he got elected president. Barack Obama, restaurant critic? I have got the lost tapes and you don`t want to miss them.

And now the SHOWBIZ news ticker - more stories from the SHOWBIZ TONIGHT newsroom making news right now.

(CAPTION READS: "": Jennifer Love Hewitt and fiance call off their engagement. Queen Latifah will remain a Jenny Craig spokesperson in 2009.)


ANDERSON: Some big news for one of our very own. Tonight, I can tell you that President-elect Barack Obama may be paging Dr. Gupta to the White House. Chief CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been approached by the Obama administration about the U.S. surgeon general`s post.

The transition team is impressed with Gupta`s past government experience, his work with then-first lady Hillary Clinton and his skills as both a neurosurgeon and communicator. Sanjay, good luck.

And welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m Brooke Anderson in Hollywood. It is time now for the "Showbiz Obama Watch." SHOWBIZ TONIGHT has shocking new details on the life of Barack Obama before he became the president-elect.

You know he was a Harvard scholar, former law professor and Illinois state senator. But a restaurant critic? Who knew? Here`s CNN`s Susan Roesgen for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome to "Check Please," the show where regular Chicagoans review and talk about their favorite restaurant.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yes, there he is. Seven years ago, when he was just an Illinois state senator, a public television producer persuaded Barack Obama to be a guest on a restaurant review show.

OBAMA: I`ve learned from my some past mistakes, you know that -


OBAMA: I`ve got to be cautious. I do have to put in a plug for the peach cobbler. The Johnny cakes, you know, they`ll get you early and you won`t have time, you know room for the peach cobbler.

ROESGEN: The president to-be talking about the joys of peach cobbler.

DAVID MANILOW, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: I think the people really find it to be charming.

ROESGEN: Producer David Manilow said Obama was terrific and he seemed like a rising star even then. But there is a reason this episode never aired. Turns out Obama kind of dominated the conversation.

MANILOW: It was a little imbalanced. The reason it was imbalanced was because the other two folks probably had a little trepidation when they go in the set.

ROESGEN: Even then, in a restaurant review Obama just couldn`t resist being a politician, making a plug for the businesses in his district.

OBAMA: The restaurateurs that are out there - I just want to let you know if you give good value and you`re not too expensive that in fact, you can do some good business out on the south side of Chicago.

MANILOW: I think he provided a lot of depth. A lot of people who come on the show, they just want to talk about food, and service and atmosphere. He talked about things about community, about neighborhoods, about things that have a little bit more depth.

ROESGEN: Obama might not remember his turn as a restaurant reviewer, but Chicago viewers will get a treat, seeing a skinny guy who needed eat a lot more peach cobbler.


ANDERSON: That was CNN`s Susan Roesgen for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. And I also want to let you know that SHOWBIZ TONIGHT will be right there in Washington for Barack Obama`s presidential inauguration. It is expected to be the most star-studded one ever. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT at the inauguration right here of course on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

And so many celebrities are coming out to celebrate Barack Obama`s inauguration. But is it right to call the Obamas celebrities? That`s what we asked on Monday in our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day - "Barack and Michelle Obama: Is it OK to call them celebrities?" Only 27 percent of you say yes; 73 percent of you say no.

Well, we have been overwhelmed by your calls, emotional words of support for John Travolta and his family following the sudden and shocking death of Jett Travolta. John and his wife Kelly Preston`s son Jett was just 16 years old. Now the "Showbiz On Call" phone lines have been flooded. Here is Nancy calling in from California.


NANCY, CALLER FROM CALIFORNIA: Those of us who have lost children know that there is no other pain and grief as deep as that - losing a child. John and loved ones, take the support offered from friends, family and God. And know that those of us who share the same loss of a child are thinking of you and sending our support at this time. We are so, so sorry.


ANDERSON: Thank you, Nancy. And we also heard from Kirk in Oklahoma.


KIRK, CALLER FROM OKLAHOMA: I watched these guys on TV every day. It`s like we`re family. It`s a loss to us like it is to them.


ANDERSON: Thank you, Kirk. And here is Dave.

DAVID, CALLER: You are a man among men. And I have the utmost respect for you. My heart goes out to you, man. And I am sorry for your loss. I am really sorry for you, pal. Hang in there, buddy.


ANDERSON: Dave, we appreciate your call. And remember, you can call us at "Showbiz On Call." Let us know what you think about this or anything else that`s on your mind. The "Showbiz On Call" phone lines are open 24/7, 1- 888-SBT-BUZZ; 1-888-728-2899. Simply leave a message. We will play some of your calls right here on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. And your calls to "Showbiz On Call" are also now on line on our homepage,

I`ve got so much more of our continuing coverage of the Travolta tragedy, more of your heartfelt words of comfort for the Travoltas, "Showbiz On Call" coming up. And your calls to showbiz on call are also now on line on

Plus, we`re heading to Ocala, Florida, where the Travoltas are right now. What are the funeral arrangements for their 16-year-old son, Jett?

Also, Oprah`s startling brand-new revelations about her weight battle. You have got to hear her admit to abusing food and hiding her body. Plus, is Oprah Winfrey suffering from depression? You don`t want to miss this coming up.

And also this -


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ordinary women wanted a chance to say something to Michelle Obama. And they saw this as an avenue.


ANDERSON: A really amazing story. How Michelle Obama has already inspired women all over the world, so much so, that they have written Michelle tons of letters, what it means to them that Michelle is about to become the first lady of the United States.

And now the SHOWBIZ news ticker - more stories from the SHOWBIZ TONIGHT newsroom, making news right now.

(CAPTION READS: Seventy-seven-year-old actor Rip Torn pleads not guilty to drunken driving charge in Connecticut. Josh Brolin`s attorney says prosecutors have agreed to drop charges from bar fight. Brolin and others from "W" were arrested in Louisiana during shooting of film.)


ANDERSON: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m Brooke Anderson. Tonight, Patrick Swayze is giving his first television interview since revealing he is battling pancreatic cancer. On "The View, Tuesday morning, Barbara Walters shared a clip of her dramatic interview with him. Take a look.


BARBARA WALTERS, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER AND CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": I wanted to show you a little bit of it because he is so honest. And after he described what he has gone through, I said to him, "Are you scared? And I thought you might want to just see that little section on it." So here it is. Are you scared?

PATRICK SWAYZE, ACTOR: I don`t know. I will be so either truthful or stupid as to say no. But then, immediately when I say that, I have to say yes I am. I don`t know what is on the other side. It tests everything that I believe in, that there is something unique in all of us that does not die.

I like to believe that, and always have, that I have got a lot of guardian warriors sitting on my shoulder including my dad saying, "You just let Swayze`s dog know it`s been his turn all this time. You just let us do the work and we`ll finish it for him."

And so I`m trying to shut up and let, let my angels speak to me and tell me what I am supposed to do.

WALTERS: Patrick, this is your first television interview since your illness.

SWAYZE: I knew I would at least be able to talk straight with you, you know. There is a lot of fear here. There is a lot of stuff going on. Yes, I`m scared. Yes, I`m angry. Why me? Yes, I`m all this stuff. My bull monitor tolerance level does not exist for me or anybody else.


ANDERSON: How touching. And you can catch the rest of Barbara Walter`s special with Patrick Swayze, Wednesday night, January 7th, on ABC.

OK. Oprah Winfrey is speaking out - sort of - about getting tricked again by an author who appeared on her show. Herman Rosenblatt, a 79-year- old holocaust survivor, said he met his future wife at a concentration camp. Oprah and so many others fell in love with their love story. Oprah even put Herman and his wife on her show.

But Herman has since admitted to making up the story. And his publisher has canceled plans to print his book about it. Oprah has put a disclaimer on her Web site about all of this, but hasn`t spoken publicly yet.

You may remember the scandal when James Frey admitted parts of his book, "A Million Little Pieces," were made up. It was one of Oprah`s book club picks.

Well, Oprah is not only battling authors who make up stories, she is also locked in a fierce weight battle with herself. Tonight, brand-new revelations about her abusing food, hiding her body, and she reveals whether she is dealing with depression, coming up.

And next, more continuing coverage of the Travolta tragedy. We are heading to Ocala, Florida where the Travoltas are right now to find out the latest. What will the funeral arrangements be for their 16-year-old son Jett? Plus more of your "Showbiz On Call" thoughts for the Travoltas.

And this -


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ordinary women wanted a chance to say something to Michelle Obama. And they saw this as an avenue.


ANDERSON: An amazing story of women everywhere inspired by Michelle Obama becoming first lady and how they`re letting her know it.


ANDERSON: Now on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, the Travolta tragedy. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is taking you to Ocala, Florida where John Travolta and his family have returned after their heartbreaking ordeal in the Bahamas. Tonight, the very latest from the scene. Plus, your remarkable and emotional messages to the family - your calls to "Showbiz On Call."

Oprah`s brand-new weight confessions. Oprah Winfrey reveals all about her weight gain and what she plans to do about it. Did depression play a role?

TV`s most provocative entertainment news show continues right now.


Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. It is 30 minutes past the hour. I`m Brooke Anderson, coming to you from Hollywood. Right now, more late- breaking developments in the tragic death of John Travolta`s 16-year-old son Jett.

John Travolta, Kelly Preston and their daughter are back home in Ocala, Florida right now, this after leaving the Bahamas following Jett Travolta`s autopsy. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is taking you to Ocala in just a moment.

The official results from the autopsy have not been released, but the cause of death is reportedly listed as seizure. No funeral plans have been announced by the family yet. But an official in the Bahamas says there is a memorial service planned for Thursday.

It has been an emotional overwhelming day in Ocala, Florida for the Travoltas. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is taking you there right now.

Joining us is Tony Potts, who is a correspondent for "Access Hollywood."

Tony, again, thanks for your time. And first, give us a sense of what is going on there. I can imagine the mood is very somber.

TONY POTTS, CORRESPONDENT, "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD" (on the phone): Yes. You know, Brooke, it`s just like when I was telling you about yesterday when I was in the Bahamas, in the west end and how the people there were in shock because the Travoltas are just like one of them.

Well, the same thing in Ocala today, driving around, talking to people, having lunch at a diner and whatnot, and actually a sign outside the diner where John used to go for breakfast and took Jett once that says, you know, their sympathies for the Travolta family.

And I can tell you today, that, you know, activity picked up. There were some flowers delivered. I know Shania Twain sent some flowers. Residents nearby came to the gate outside of the Jumbolair, which is where the compound where Travoltas live, and delivering flowers and signs and what-have-you.

I think it`s (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from sources that the sheriff was inside today with the family as they are planning a memorial service for Jett. I do know that there is - in Florida if you want to bury somebody on your property, you have to get a permit as well. So there is a lot of activity. What`s nice is a lot of residents here are saying, "Please leave the Travolta family alone. We love them. Please be respectful." And that`s good to hear and see.

ANDERSON: Yes. That love and support. And speaking of that, the mayor of Ocala, Florida, called Jett`s death a, quote, "unfortunate event for one of our community members."

Tony, the Travoltas have homes in so many places. Why is Ocala so special to the family?

POTTS: Well I think it is John`s love of jets. And it allows - you know, son Jett was named after jets in a certain aspect - also loved jets, and what-have-you. And I know it is a fly-in community. You fly in into a tarmac, take the plane right up to your house.

So it`s a kind of a mix of fantasy, kind of like Disneyland in a sense, Disney World. If you love jets, you can fly them in. It was great for the family. I know people inside the compound there used to see Jett running around, you know, on a golf cart always smiling, having fun, and a little love and affection.

So I think there`s a mixture of just everything the family loved. And it was essential for them to go to the Bahamas from there. It`s a place at the main as well. So it`s just the best of both worlds.

ANDERSON: Yes. I`m sure - a very difficult time. You know, as you say, for all those people who watched Jett grow up there and spent so much time with him as well. Tony Potts, we`ll leave it there for now. Tony Potts in Ocala, Florida tonight, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

And if you want a perfect example of how this has touched people everywhere, look no further than the "Showbiz On Call" phone lines. We have been absolutely flooded with calls from fans all over the country, from personal stories to very personal messages to the Travolta family.

Joining tonight from Hollywood, Carlos Diaz, who is a correspondent for "Extra." And in New York, Ashleigh Banfield, who is an anchor for "In Session."

Carlos, Ashleigh, I`ve got to say that the number of calls we have received and continue to get is unprecedented including personal stories like this one from Donna in New York who shared with us her own tragedy.


DONNA, CALLER FROM NEW YORK: We want to send our sympathies to the Travolta family. We lost our son in May of last year. And we just give our love to them. It`s going to be a very hard time for a long time for them. And we do ask, as a family, knowing what it is to lose a child, to let everyone give them their peace at this time and give them their privacy.


ANDERSON: Donna, thank you for your call, and we are so sorry about your loss. Carlos, do you think that the Travoltas are going to get the privacy that Donna and so many others say they desperately need at this time?

DIAZ: That is a touchy situation, and it is a very unfortunate situation. I mean, I remember when I covered the Anna Nicole Smith saga that went on after she died a few years ago. People were saying, you know, "Give the family their space," and this and that.

At the same time, America and the world wants to see, you know, a picture of John and Kelly and see how they`re doing. So there is going to be media there. But Ocala is a very small community, so it`s going to be kind of a touchy-feely kind of thing.

Just remember while you are saying you want them to have their privacy, you are also curious to see how they`re reacting to this tragedy.

ANDERSON: Good point, Carlos. And you know, so many calls we received into the "Showbiz On Call" phone line were from long-time fans of John Travolta.

John from Utah shared with us his message of strength for Travolta. Listen to this.


JOHN, CALLER FROM UTAH: John Travolta, I am sorry for you and I`m sorry that your family has to go through something like this. It`s very, very difficult time. But your fans are with you, John. You have been a great actor from all the way from "Welcome Back, Kotter" and your previous movies. But I just hope the best for you and your family. Jett looks like he was a really good kid.


ANDERSON: Thank you for your call, John. And with John bringing up "Welcome Back, Kotter" Travolta`s TV show from the `70s, it really shows how much Travolta has been a part of all our lives for decades.

Ashleigh, it seems like people have a vested interest in seeing John and his family through this.

BANFIELD: Well there is a difference between friends and childhood friends. And sometimes celebrities you grew up with seem as though they`re childhood friends as well. And so, a vested interest, I think, would be putting it mildly. I think a lot of people are deeply affected by this.

And then I also think about Princess Diana dying and how much the world was outpouring towards the sorrow that her children must be feeling.

But again, you invite these people into your living rooms almost daily. You go to their movies. You feel like you know them. And when they lose and suffer you feel like you`re right along there with them.

ANDERSON: Yes, you`re impacted as well. Well, Donna from California called in to "Showbiz On Call" and shared with us, not only her own personal story but her hopes that we can learn from Travolta`s tragedy. Listen.


DONNA, CALLER FROM CALIFORNIA: I am calling on behalf of John Travolta and his son`s death and his family. And I would just like to say that as a person that has suffered with seizures myself for all 59 years that I hope that we can learn something from this as families and that they will learn something from the autopsy that they have taken on his son. I wish to God bless his family again.


ANDERSON: Donna, thank you for calling "Showbiz On Call." You know, celebrities do bring attention to medical conditions. Michael J. Fox has become a pioneer in the search for a cure for Parkinson`s Disease. Patrick Swayze has become a symbol of strength to people battling cancer. Carlos, I would imagine that we shouldn`t be surprised if we see Travolta become an advocate for the millions who suffer from seizures.

DIAZ: And I hope so. Keep in mind the two actors that you just mentioned are suffering from the disease that you mentioned. John Travolta, if he is going to be a spokesperson for seizures, is going to have to first get over the incredible loss of his son. So that could be something which could, you know, hinder him from becoming that spokesperson.

But we all know John Travolta as a compassionate human being and a very well-spoken human being, so he would be a perfect candidate for that job.

ANDERSON: Yes, you`re right. And you know, I want to take a look at some of the family pictures the Travoltas actually provided after Jett`s death. And as we look at those, Ashleigh, it really just displays the joy that this family had together.

Here we see Jett with Kelly. It really reinforces how much they loved one another as a family, doesn`t it?

BANFIELD: I think, and it also does something else. It gets the press to back off a little bit. Look, they know they`re celebrities and even in tragedy, they know there is public interest. And so possibly, it was a publicist who right away got on the ball and suggested that some photos be let out just to try to ease up the coverage.

Everyone wants to know how they`re doing. And the press is supposed to provide that liaison. So by doing this, this was somehow satisfying the press, satisfying the public, and at the same time, maybe giving them a little bit of breathing room. I just don`t think it is going to give a lot of breathing room.

ANDERSON: Hopefully, they will get the space that they need to grieve. Ashleigh Banfield, Carlos Diaz, good to see you. Thanks.

All right. Switching gears now - Oprah`s brand new weight confessions. Oprah Winfrey speaking out about gaining weight, hiding her body, abusing food and whether depression played any role. This is something so many people can relate to. We`ve got Oprah`s remarkable weight confessions, coming up.

Plus, even Gwyneth Paltrow says she needs to lose a few pound after the holiday. Not sure if I`m buying that one. But hey, she has even come up with her own diet plan. I`ll tell you all about Gwyneth`s diet secrets, coming up.

Also, letters to Michelle Obama.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ordinary women wanted a chance to say something to Michelle Obama. And they saw this as an avenue.


ANDERSON: Remarkable project where black women from all over the world have written letters to Michelle Obama telling her what it means that she will be first lady. That is coming up.

And now the SHOWBIZ news ticker - more stories from the SHOWBIZ TONIGHT newsroom making news right now.

(CAPTION READS: Michael Phelps signs deal as a spokesperson for Mazda in China. Patricia Arquette files for divorce from Thomas Jane after two years of marriage.)

ANDERSON: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m Brooke Anderson in Hollywood. Tonight, brand-new revelations about Oprah`s weight battle in her own words. Oprah recently revealed that her weight has soared to 200 pounds.

And now, in a powerful hour on her own show, Oprah tells all and confronts the question about whether or not she is suffering from depression. Has Oprah been hiding a very personal secret that she is finally revealing to the entire world?

With me tonight in New York is Emme. She`s a model and founder of "" And with me in Hollywood tonight, is Roshumba Williams. She is also a model and author of "The Complete Idiot`s Guide to Being a Model."

Emme, Roshumba, always good to see you both.



ANDERSON: Of course, Oprah`s shocking weight confession, first came out a few weeks ago when the January issue of "O" magazine came out showing side- by-side pictures of Oprah in 2005, weighing 160 pounds and now weighing 200 pounds.

But Oprah didn`t stop there. On her first show of the New Year, a really emotional Oprah describes how she felt when she realized she had lost her battle with weight. Again, watch this.


OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": I am mad at myself. I am embarrassed. I can`t believe I am still talking about weight. I can`t believe that all the other things that I know how to do and all the other things that I am so great at and, you know all of the other accomplishments, I can`t believe I`m still talking about weight.


ANDERSON: Emme, can you even imagine how hard it must have been for Oprah to say all of this to herself in the mirror, much less on national TV?

EMME: Very, very difficult, Brooke. It concerns me that she is doing it in a way that is - body bashing herself. You know, really publicly flogging herself and saying that she is wrong and bad.

I almost want to hug her and say, "OK. We all go through this. You know, don`t do this so harshly on yourself. There are other things going on. You know, you`re handling so much."


ANDERSON: Go ahead -

WILLIAMS: You know, Brooke - you know, I agree with Emme. But I have to say I would love to hug Oprah, of course, and bow to her at the same time. But I think it is actually a good thing that she is actually taking this on. Because as we all know, with Oprah being such a public figure and such a bigger, larger than life figure - you know, excuse me by saying that - but everyone looks up to her. If she doesn`t take control of this issue herself, some one else will take it and run with it in a negative direction.

ANDERSON: Well, Let me ask you -

WILLIAMS: It`s good she is taking it on.

EMME: Let me -

ANDERSON: Go ahead, Emme.

EMME: There are two ways of doing this. I believe that Oprah is definitely - it`s very raw for her. But I think that she could say, "Yes, I have reached another 200 pounds. However, let`s just see how I can change this and turn this around," instead of body-bashing herself. We have gone through that already. We as a nation. Look, she`s our national treasure.

WILLIAMS: Yes. But it`s an honest feeling. It is an honest emotion. I mean, like a few years ago, I got married. I got comfortable. You know, I was cooking at home with my husband. And I gained like 10 pounds ...

EMME: Which is normal.

WILLIAMS: ... and I`m known as skinny-mini, and looked in the mirror. And I was freaked out. So I think by her showing the raw emotion and going through the process, it also allows her viewers, us, to look up to her and go, "You know what? Oprah is human. She is not superhuman."

EMME: Oh, without a doubt.

WILLIAMS: She is frustrated. She is hurt. She is embarrassed, and now, she`s dealing with it, and hopefully helping us deal with our own issues at the same time.

ANDERSON: You know -

EMME: I agree with you, but it needs to be more gentler.

ANDERSON: A lot of people can relate No matter how she does approach it. I will say that. And she does have so much going on in her life - her TV show, her magazine, a school in South Africa. She`s launching a new cable TV network.

She seems almost superhuman at times. But that`s exactly what she says caused her to gain weight. She says she got completely overwhelmed. Take a look.


WINFREY: Many a day, I didn`t want to come into work. I didn`t want to come into work because I`m so tired.

What`s the first thing I do?

Too much work. Not enough play. It`s about balance. So when I ask myself what am I hungry for, I`m hungry for balance. I`m hungry for balance. I`m hungry to do something other than work. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Emme, do you think, very quickly, a lot of people can identify with that hunger for balance?

EMME: Absolutely. I wrote a book earlier this year what are you hungry for, for children, three to five, to get those issues talked about that you need emotional nutrients and you need physical nutrients.

WILLIAMS: But you also need love and self-acceptance, too. I think that`s one of the other issues that`s underneath this as well for Oprah, that there is a part of herself that she has not yet accepted.

ANDERSON: Yes, give yourself a break, Oprah. It is OK. And you know, she talked at length on her show about being out of balance in her life. But Bob Greene, Oprah`s long-time personal trainer says he doesn`t think Oprah`s problem is lack of balance. He thinks Oprah may be battling depression. Watch this.


WINFREY: It was about coming unglued, unhinged, from not having enough balance.

BOB GREENE, OPRAH WINFREY`S LONG-TIME PERSONAL TRAINER: I have a theory - I actually never even talked to her about this - that she didn`t really learn how to be happy. I think she learned more survival tools and not how to be happy. And I think that`s where Oprah has a lot of work to do.


ANDERSON: Bob went on to say that he thinks Oprah may be depressed. But she insists she is not. Roshumba, 10 seconds, do you think Bob is on to something here that Oprah needs to face much more than balance, to really get control of her weight?

WILLIAMS: I would think so, because I look at human beings as onions. We have layers that we have to peel through. And Oprah has been through a lot. As a little girl, you know, she was, basically - you know, she had like, sexual abuse. She was raised separately in different families. She had a lot put on her at a young age. And she has been achieving and achieving and achieving.

And at some point, she needs to really, really set time aside to accept Oprah and the way that, you know, comes out as to her weight.

Yes, not let all that pressure get to her. Emme, Roshumba Williams, we have to leave it there for now. Always good to see you both.

WILLIAMS: Thank you so much, Brooke.

ANDERSON: And we`ve been asking you to vote on our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day - "Oprah`s Weight Battle: Do you have sympathy for her?" Keep voting at E-mail us -

Well, it seems like everybody is thinking about their weight at this time of year. Even stick-thin Gwyneth Paltrow. In the newsletter for her Web site called "Goop," Gwyneth says that after the holidays, she needs to lose a few pounds and she`s sharing her diet secrets.

Now, I`ve got to warn you. It`s a pretty extreme seven-day detox diet. Here`s what in the diet plan -salad, fruit smoothie, chicken, soups, and water.

Here`s some of what you can`t have - dairy, meat, shellfish, potatoes, tomato, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine. Gwyneth says she likes to do fasts and detoxes a couple of times during the year.

All right. Coming up on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, letters to Michelle Obama.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ordinary women wanted a chance to say something to Michelle Obama, and they saw this as an avenue.


ANDERSON: It`s a remarkable project where black women from all over the world have written letters to Michelle Obama telling her what it means that she will be first lady. We`ve got that, straight ahead.


ANDERSON: It is time now for the "SHOWBIZ Obama Watch." As Michelle Obama prepares to make first lady history, a new book of letters from black women shows just how significant she has already become.

Here`s Jericka Duncan from CNN`s Buffalo affiliate WIVB for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


DR. PEGGY BROOKS-BERTRAM, UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO: When you move into the White House as the first African-American first lady, you will not be alone.

DR. BARBARA SEALS NEVERGOLD, UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO: I and the poor women of Niger have faith in you. We present this faith to you as a gift.

JERICKA DUNCAN, CORRESPONDENT, WIVB: Those are just a couple of excerpts from the book "Go Tell Michelle: African-American Women`s Letters to the New First Lady" by Dr. Barbara Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram.

BERTRAM: Ordinary women wanted a chance to say something to Michelle Obama and they saw this as an avenue.

DUNCAN: Two weeks after the presidential election, the University at Buffalo professor sent out E-mails, calling on black women to share their hopes and advice for Michelle. Within days, thousands responded from around the world. They took those responses and compiled 100 letters and poems into a book.

NEVERGOLD: It`s not just a message to Michelle but it`s a message that says, we have this history, and we want to share this history with you because we think, one, it shows our common bond. You know, it provides that connectiveness.

DUNCAN: That connectiveness is expressed in different ways. Bertram says many darker skinned black women wrote about how they personally identify with Michelle.

BERTRAM: They are not just saying you are culturally black, but you are unmistakably and recognizably black. That has a lot of meaning for African-Americans.

DUNCAN: With Michelle Obama headed to the White House later this month, Nevergold and Bertram say their goal is to get the book in Michelle`s hands on inauguration day.


ANDERSON: That was Jericka Duncan from CNN`s Buffalo affiliate, WIVB for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

And we would like you to know that SHOWBIZ TONIGHT will be right there in Washington for Barack Obama`s presidential inauguration. It is expected to be the most star-studded one ever. Tune in for "Showbiz at the Inauguration" right here on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

On Monday, we asked you to vote our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day. It was this - "Barack and Michelle Obama: Is it OK to call them celebrities?" Twenty-seven percent of you say yes, but 73 percent of you say no way.

Some of the emails. Lisa from Texas, "It`s a sign of disrespect. Their names are much more worthy than Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt."

Tony from Texas says, "The Merriam-Webster definition of `celebrity` is a famous or celebrated person. Barack and Michelle Obama could definitely be considered celebrities."

And that`s a wrap for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. Thanks for watching. I`m Brooke Anderson in Hollywood. You can catch SHOWBIZ TONIGHT on HLN on the 11:00s - 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, and in the morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern.