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Barbara Mandrell Restores Some Shine To Her Image

Jack Hurst Tribune Media Services

A major effort to rehabilitate the career of former country superstar Barbara Mandrell appears to be gaining pace.

Ten years after the bloody Nashville car crash that stopped her touring for a couple of years and resulted in a lawsuit she describes as “devastating” to her image, the diminutive stage dynamo has begun to be seen on the national horizon again. Last spring she brought down the house on the Academy of Country Music awards show in Los Angeles on NBC, and on Aug. 16 she will be examined in depth on The Nashville Network’s interview series, “Ralph Emery on the Record.”

In the Emery show, she discloses that a movie based on her 1990 autobiographical best seller, “Get to the Heart,” is “a real possibility” and that she affiliated with a prominent Los Angeles agency, Creative Artists, largely because of its powerful movie and TV department.

“It really matters to me how people feel about me,” Mandrell tells old friend Emery in an hour devoted in substantial part to a recapitulation of the accident that broke a bone in one of her legs, fractured one of her ankles in four places, injured a kneecap, broke toes and ribs, gave her a serious head injury that temporarily altered her personality and, most importantly, killed the other driver and her formerly beloved image.

“It’s still detrimental to me,” she adds, mentioning that just recently her housekeeper was at a Little League baseball game with her children and was told by another mother that she would never work for such a person as Mandrell. She said a male friend recently got a similar reaction from some golfing partners.

The problem was that under Tennessee law Mandrell had to go through the formality of filing a lawsuit against survivors of the dead driver who had caused the accident, 19-year-old college student Mark White, to collect from her own insurance company.

She says she instructed her attorneys to call White’s family and tell them she wanted no money from them and was only doing what she had to do to get her own insurance company to pay for her medical costs, but most fans never knew about that or about Tennessee’s convoluted insurance law. They saw only the headlines about the lawsuit against the family who had lost a son. Before the case went to trial, she adds, her insurance company filed for bankruptcy. Her record and ticket sales fell off “in a big way,” Mandrell says.

“I’m not blaming the public,” she tells Emery, adding that given the information most of them got through the media, “I would have felt the way they felt.”

The hour contains a lengthy testimonial from conservative TV commentator Rush Limbaugh, who is a Mandrell friend, as well as interesting film from Mandrell’s preteen career in California, her NBC television series circa 1980, and a groggy appearance from her home during the 1984 Country Music Association awards show less than three weeks after the accident.

During the CMA appearance she was reading cue cards, she discloses, because at that time her head injury caused her to stutter if she tried to talk off the cuff. When Emery asks about reports that she virtually became another person for a while as a result of the head injury, she says, “I’m told I cussed like crazy. They say even ministers who suffer head injuries cuss really bad.”

In all, it is a highly interesting show that indicates the world can expect to see and hear more of Mandrell in the months to come.

McGraw a quick draw on CMT

In September, CMT will reflect on the popularity of Tim McGraw (who has sold 4.5 million records) by premiering a 30-minute “CMT Showcase” that will consist of four different weekly programs of interview clips and videos focusing on the featured artist.

McGraw is CMT’s September showcase artist.

It’s Gill again as CMA host

For the fourth year in a row, Vince Gill has been picked for hosting duties on the Country Music Association’s annual awards show.

On the 1995 show, a three-hour production scheduled for Oct. 4, Gill will repeat his 1994 stint as solo host. Before that, he co-hosted with Reba McEntire and Clint Black.

“In post-telecast research, viewers ranked Vince extremely favorably,” says Ed Benson, CMA executive director. “Thanks in part to his natural charm and abundant humor, the CMA Awards telecast has also topped the ratings for the past three years. In fact, last year’s telecast was the top-rated entertainment special on the CBS television network during the 1994-95 television season.”

“I am surprised that I still get to keep doing it,” Gill says.

Foxworthy gets sitcom

Georgia-born comedian Jeff (“You Might Be a Redneck If …”) Foxworthy, who has a new album titled “Games Rednecks Play,” has signed to star in his own sitcom on ABC, “The Jeff Foxworthy Show.” It is to debut this fall.

Keith in cushy spot

In July, Toby Keith took over the star-making middle slot on the big-drawing tour of Reba McEntire. Previous occupants of that position include Vince Gill and Brooks & Dunn.

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