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Whitney Houston: Friends Protecting Her

Whitney Houston | Idi Amin | Ann Richards

Whitney: Friends Protecting Her

The news that Whitney Houston has filed for divorce from Bobby Brown isn’t so simple, of course. Her friends and family are in battle mode now, prepared to protect her, they tell me, during this fragile time.

Houston has filed for a separation using a Southern California address — and that’s key to what’s going on here. She really lives in both Georgia and New Jersey, where she owns expensive homes.

But her divorce filing indicates that she’s lived in California since April. The state requires six-month residency for a divorce, so Whitney will file for the permanent parting next month.

Sources tell me that she has indeed been in California since April, undergoing a total rehab for all her vices and illnesses.

“It’s not a regular treatment facility,” says a source who cautions that everyone is concerned about Whitney suddenly being overwhelmed by media.

Still, eagle-eyed readers who’ve examined the divorce filing can see that Houston lists Laguna Hills, Calif., as her address. There are only a couple of facilities that could handle her situation.

But in that spirit, all that this column can do is beg paparazzi and tabloid snoops to stay away. It’s in their best interests anyway: a healthy, long-living Whitney will only provide much future fodder for you. It will be much more exciting to tell the tale of Whitney Houston’s comeback than her demise.

Houston’s insiders are mostly worried that Brown will interfere with her plans or her progress. It’s a reasonable fear.

And then there’s Houston’s choice of divorce venue. Georgia might actually be a better state for her, since there are 13 different ways to claim a divorce.

California, on the other hand, is simply a no-fault state, so Houston won’t be able to accuse Brown of any number of infelicities.

The good news: sources tell me that the couple signed a pre-nup years ago, so the state of filing may not matter at all.

Idi Amin Is Back

Maybe you remember Idi Amin. He was the psychopathic dictator who ruled Uganda in the 1970s and '80s. He got a bad rap for possibly being a cannibal, and for torturing and killing 300,000 Ugandans.

Now Forest Whitaker gets to play the role of Amin, and he’s so good in Kevin MacDonald’s movie “The Last King of Scotland” that he will be nominated for several major awards and win quite a few, too.

His co-star in the film, James McAvoy, is destined to follow him in supporting categories. The two of them are phenomenal. The movie opens at the end of this month.

Last night, a nice bunch of New Yorkers turned out to fete the filmmakers with a screening at the Tribeca Grand and dinner at 66, Jean George’s Chinese restaurant on Church St.

Among the guests, and in no particular order: 60 Minutes’ Morley Safer; writers Calvin Trillin, Stanley Crouch, Daphne Merkin, Sebastian Junger and Jonathan Franzen; ABC News’ Bob Jamieson and Lynn Sherr; Court TV’s Catherine Crier; actress Michele Lee; movie producer Deb Schindler; Calvin Klein, Claudia Cohen and Sandy Gallin; "Good Morning America"’s beloved Joel Siegel; and the equally beloved British critic and movie devotee Freddie Hancock — her niece is one of the producers.

The verdict was unanimous: “Last King” is tough stuff, with a fairly graphic scene toward the end. But it’s also a beautifully realized adaptation of Giles Foden’s novel, which imagines a young Scottish doctor befriending Amin.

Some real history is thrown in — principally the raid on Entebbe — but a lot of it is conjured up for dramatic purposes.

Kerry Washington soars as one of Amin’s many wives, and Simon McBurney is spot on (as usual) as a CIA insider who might help McAvoy to safety.

But really, it’s all about Whitaker. He’s a real renaissance man, you know, having directed memorable films ("Waiting to Exhale") and starred in them ("The Crying Game"). With “The Last King,” though, his ship has really come in.

Ann Richards Remembered; Africa Sings

Readers of this column may recall a documentary I wrote about last year called "Ithuteng," about Mama Jackey’s school in South Africa. HBO has now scheduled it for Dec. 2.

And here’s some news: you will see a young girl in the movie named "Lebo," who subsequently died of AIDS. She told producer Charlie Ebersol she dreamt of hearing her voice on CD. It didn’t happen while she was alive, but there is a happy ending more or less.

Lebo’s best friend, Archie Khambula — one of seven kids featured in "Ithuteng" — has come to America and helped fashion a song out of Lebo’s only short recording.

Now the song — with the help of Archie, Canadian superstar Chantal and producer Raine Maida — will appear in the doc.

There’s more news about Khambala, too: he got work in "Evan Almighty," starring Steve Carell. He also ghost-wrote songs in the Oscar-winning movie “Tsotsi”; and he's got a song coming out on a “WarChild” charity CD. Not bad. Welcome to America, Archie! ...

I didn’t know former Texas Gov. Ann Richards well, but the many times we talked at various parties I found her to be incredibly smart, charming and of course, very funny. Set free from the grind of public duty, she was a frequent and welcome visitor to New York. Ann Richards was one of the good guys, and she will be missed …

Ben Affleck didn’t let a little thing like winning the Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival stop him from partying this week. He and Matt Damon both headed to Las Vegas to celebrate the launch of “Feast,” the Dimension horror movie that won Project Greenlight this year. They tossed a small bash at the Palms Hotel followed by dinner at Little Buddha …

And it looks like Anne Heche has a hit with “Men in Trees” on ABC. There are two showings tonight, at 8 and 9 p.m. Don’t miss them. But some of us knew about Anne some 17 years ago, when she won an Emmy for her work on “Another World.”

You can catch repeats of that right now on SoapNet, and boy, oh boy, there was never such a talented actress at the age of 18, holding her own with a lot of famous scene-chewers.

It’s been a long, public adventure from then ‘til now, but I predict Heche will be walking off with an Emmy next fall! ...

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