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Near-Death Experience Changed Brooke Burns

It's been four-and-a-half years since Brooke Burns broke her neck in a diving accident — and miraculously made a full recovery. Looking back, she says the event changed her life.

"I think it's impossible to go through something like that and not be changed. You kind of take an inventory of who is in your life and what you're doing with your life, where you're spending your time. You place more importance on relationships, and you don't take other things so seriously," says the actress, who has a 10-year-old daughter with former husband Julian McMahon.

The beauty, who rose to fame on "Baywatch," has been involved in spinal cord research and support charities since her recovery. "I have a bit of survivor's guilt," she admits. She will serve as co-chairman of this year's gala fundraiser for the now-merged Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation/Life Rolls On in Beverly Hills this October.

"Once you've faced a life-or-death moment, you don't sweat the small stuff," she adds. "You learn to be flexible. You learn to laugh more."

Speaking of learning to laugh, both her latest projects offer opportunities. She hosts Oxygen's Aug. 10-debuting "Hair Battle Spectacular" and has the "Titanic 2" spoof movie coming our way on DVD next month.

The new TV reality competition showcases fantasy hair stylists — people who create hair looks that might incorporate, say, three-foot guitars or toys with moving parts. Seriously. "I loved the idea of bringing this tiny underground subculture into the public eye," says Burns. "These battles go on all over the country." The stylists' personalities are "radical and outrageous," she says, and remind her of her modeling days in Milan, Berlin and Paris. "There's the visual appeal, the 'Oh, my God!' It's all bigger than life — very Oxygen, very live out loud."

As far as "Titanic 2," Burns would like to correct the media misconception that "I'm playing the Kate Winslet role" in the forthcoming comedy. "It's not like that at all," she says, noting that "Titanic 2" takes place 100 years after the infamous sinking. "My character is working for the environment, living on a glacier and studying atmospheric changes. I'm not in the love story.

"It's hilarious," she adds. "I was really looking forward to working with Bruce Davison, who's also in it. I'm such an admirer of his."

A CHANGE OF PACE: Hutch Dano, best known as the first half of "Zeke and Luther" on Disney XD, says he got a real kick out of playing a not-so-nice guy for a change in his "Den Brother" Disney Channel Original Movie, coming up Aug. 13. In it, he's a self-absorbed high school hockey player who winds up posing as the den mother — complete with old lady gear — of his little sister's Bumble Bee troupe. He then takes advantage of the situation and uses the little girls as his personal servants. "I read the script and thought, 'This guy is the worst big brother ever,'" notes Dano, who has a little sister himself.

He is much nicer in real life, of course, and also as Henry Huggins — the children's literature character he plays in "Ramona and Beezus," opening today (7/23). Dano admits he didn't know Huggins until prepping for the part.

"I was trying to figure him out, to get as many layers as possible. Not so much that he's complex, but I had to find that gentle balance of his fun side and his shy side, and his wanting to be with Beezus," he says, referring to Selena Gomez's character in the 20th Century Fox adaptation of the beloved Beverly Cleary book.

"One of the best things about working with Selena is she's a very giving actor," he observes. "She'll help other actors with scenes. I've seen her ask, 'Would you like me to read this a different way?' It's really nice."

With Season 2 of "Zeke and Luther" airing, Dano is awaiting word on Season 3. "I've heard a lot of rumors that it's happening," he says of the series, which has performed well with the male kid and tween audience at which it's aimed. "But I try not to get too excited about anything until it's confirmed. I love doing the show."

INDUSTRY BITS: Can you envision "Foster Home" — the reality show? Forces on the project have been casting for a celebrity host for the pilot presentation. What's wanted is someone African-American, male or female, 20-45, and they'd love to find someone who has ties to the foster care system. Let us hope it is not exploitative and invasive of the privacy of already beleaguered children.

Over at DreamWorks, casting is under way for the remake of Tom Holland's 1985 "Fright Night," about a high school senior who finds himself living next door to a handsome vampire.

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


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