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Weeki Wachee mermaids land two TV spots

What? What? It's a new year already? Hold on there. I'm not quite finished with 2004, and I still have 20 pounds to lose from 2003.

Of course, there's plenty on the arts and entertainment scene to keep my mind off the swiftly passing years. And excess adipose tissue.

The mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs will be featured on two upcoming television shows. Country Music Television (Bright House cable Channel 45) will feature them on CMT's Most Shocking at 8 p.m. Jan. 8.

I can't figure out how the mermaids could shock, but, nevertheless, they're part of a CMT series on unique jobs in the country.

On Jan. 16, the Travel Channel will return for a second look at the attraction and its stars for a show sometime in the future. For this one, general manager Robyn Anderson, a former mermaid and current mayor of the nine-person metropolis, will be interviewed.

Former Show Palace Dinner Theatre diva (and Floral City native) Kissy Simmons continues to wow them on Broadway.

She recently signed a one-year extension on her contract to play Nala in The Lion King at the New Amsterdam Theatre. The blockbuster show opened in late 1997, and Ms. Simmons joined the cast Aug. 26, 2003, after playing in the national tour for a year.

The tall, graceful singer-dancer must be planning to stay in New York City for a while. She's bought an apartment on Manhattan Island.

Another Show Palace favorite, Patti Eyler, is coming back to play in the upcoming musical Jerry's Girls (May 20 through June 26) at the Show Palace. Jerry's Girls is based on the music of Jerry Herman (La Cage aux Folles, Mame, Milk and Honey, Hello, Dolly!). Eyler will play the character that charmed local audiences three years ago, Dolly Levi of Hello, Dolly!

Dolly set an all-time attendance record, which it kept till January 2004, when Chicago set a record that will probably never be broken.

Interestingly, even though four hurricanes teased and skittered across Pasco County last year, forcing local theaters to cancel several shows, the Show Palace's attendance took the biggest jump in its six-year history, a whopping 26 percent. That was in large part because of the phenomenal Chicago, though Joe Camper's 50s and 60s Review and The Show Palace Christmas also broke attendance records in their time slots.

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The Angel Cabaret Theatre may have closed its doors, but frequent Angel star, Dee Etta Rowe, will be starring somewhere else come Jan. 18.

Rowe will play one of the four characters (Iowa Housewife) in Menopause, the Musical, at the New Denver Civic Theatre in Colorado. (The others characters are Power Woman, Soap Star and Earth Mother).

The women-of-a-certain-age musical had successful runs in Orlando and West Palm Beach before moving off-Broadway in New York and to other venues.

It's set at a Bloomingdale's lingerie sale, where the quartet meets to shop and dish, and is sparked by parodies of 26 popular 1960s songs. The Beach Boys' California Girls becomes Wish We Could All Be Sane and Normal Girls; My Guy becomes My Thighs; Help Me, Rhonda, becomes Thank You, Doctor (for mood-enhancing drugs).

Some critics have panned the show, but the mostly female audiences, including hordes of Red Hat Society members, give it raves.

And what the heck do critics know anyway?

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The always-innovative New Port Richey Library has been chosen as one of 300 libraries in the United States _ only five in Florida _ to participate in the Human Rights Video Project.

The project hopes to increase the public's awareness of human rights issues by showing a dozen documentary films from around the world on this topic.

The subject matter ranges from sweatshop workers in Saipan (a territory not subject to U.S. minimum wage regulations or work conditions) to the aftermath of the secret _ and illegal _ cluster-bombing of Laos by the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War.

Five-minute segments from each of the 12 films will be shown at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the library, 5939 Main St., New Port Richey.

It's a worthwhile project, and this area is fortunate to have it available.