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From Neil Patrick Harris Wants to Keep the Oscars ‘Classy’

Neil Patrick Harris has no shortage of things to do: He stars in the box office hit Gone Girlrecently finished a 20-week run as the title character in Broadway’s Hedwig and the Angry Inchjust released his first book, and will be hosting this year’s Oscars. But one opportunity he missed? Starring on American Horror Story.

Long before Twisty the Clown made his debut on this season of the FX show, American Horror Story showrunner Ryan Murphy asked Harris and his husband, David Burtka, to play a couple in the show’s first season, Murder House. But the two had just played a dysfunctional “couple” in A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas, and Harris didn’t want a repeat—so the roles went to Zachary Quinto and Teddy Sears instead. The show’s now in its fourth season.

Harris, who was apple-picking with his twins’ pre-school class before news that he’d be hosting the Oscars broke Wednesday, stopped by EW Radio Thursday to talk with EW editor Matt Bean about what he doesn’t want the Oscars to look like, who his celebrity crush is, and why exactly he skipped out on that Horror Story role. Here’s the rest of what Harris revealed.

He wants to keep the Oscars “classy.” “I don’t want them to be super derivative of other shows that I’ve done. I don’t want it to seem like I’m doing the same award hosting gig that I did on the Tonys, just now on a different stage. And I think they don’t want that, either … It’s the biggest sandbox in the world. If you say, “I think that I should do a thing with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.” Because it’s the Oscars, do they say yes? Because they would say no for the Tonys … I want to also just make sure that it’s a classy event. I’ve always loved the Oscars and have great respect for its history, and the gowns, and the classiness of it. And I loved Johnny Carson and Billy Crystal and honoring the gravity of it without getting heavy and boring. And I have no idea how to balance that, but that’s going to be the task ahead.”

His dream duet partners are varied. “Snow White. [Laughs] Too soon? GaGa. But again, then you have to think, is that movies? Adele. That would be cool. Pink. We could do circus things.”

He turned down American Horror Story. “Relatively recently, David and I had both been in the third Harold and Kumar movie. Harold and Kumar Go to Christmas Town—that’s not the title—and in it, he plays sort of my drug dealer and I really am straight and we’re pretending like we’re gay, it’s a very sort of meta. We have a terrible relationship, and we’re shouting at each other and it’s awful. Right after that, we were asked to be in season one of this great new show called American Horror Story. And the idea was that we would be a gay couple, that, as it turns out, were murdered in this house and then their ghosts are around. It seemed cool. Loved Ryan [Murphy], loved the idea of a horror anthology show. Knew nothing about it, but we had just played ourselves as a couple, not getting along, and I thought, it just seems weird to do that twice, like as individual actors, to play a couple that hates each other twice. It just felt weird. So I said no, that we shouldn’t do it. And David wanted to. I said, ‘I just don’t want people to know us as the couple that don’t like each other. That seems weird.’ And then wouldn’t you know, American Horror Story is a big success and super awesome.”

On what was hardest to keep in his new book. “Probably like the sex stuff. Like the first time I had sex with a guy. I just didn’t want to feel like I was being salacious in telling that. I didn’t want it to seem porn-y. But I wanted it to be enticing, and I wanted to sort of be able to explain what was going on in my head while it was happening, but only speaking for myself and not trying to speak in a larger way.”

He didn’t find out How I Met Your Mother’s ending until the final holiday party. “I knew that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas [HIMYM creators] get really drunk at the holiday party, and so I had some drinks myself, and I said, ‘I need to talk to you! You two, over here!’ I took them into a hallway, and I said, ‘All right, tell me everything. I need to know everything. This is our final holiday party, tell me everything, tell me how it ends.’ And they looked around, and said, ‘All right, we’ll tell you’. And I loved it. I thought it was sweet.”

Don’t ask him to give advice to child actors. “I feel like it’s just so individual. Everyone has their own family dynamic, and that can be complicated, and so the reason that they’re acting is to escape a childhood they don’t like. Or they can be on set, and the set dynamic is awful, and their mind’s being twisted and they’re working with stars who are awful and then they act on something else, and they’re behaving awful because that’s all they know. You have to have a lot more infromation before you dole out any wisdom about it. But Mr. Bochco (Doogie Howser, M.D. co-creator) was very forthcoming that the Doogie Howser chapter was going to be very intense and hopefully successful, but that it would end. It was finite.”

Out of all the characters he’s played, the one he most identifies with is… “I’d probably say Barry Stinson, which is a weird answer because he was like, so overtly kind of alpha-male guy. I’m not necessarily that. But I really loved his striving for adventure and his willingness to have stories that don’t necessarily have good endings have morals. To live a life where lots of excitement happens and to buy the next round of drinks. That’s kind of a fun way to be.”

Nick Jonas is his celebrity crush. “I can’t say anything without David Burtka feeling slighted. But I did love those Nick Jonas pics. Channeling everyone’s inner Marky Mark. [Sighs].”

Harris’ book, Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiographyis out now.

From Neil Patrick Harris Wants to Keep the Oscars Classy
Source: From Neil Patrick Harris Wants to Keep the Oscars ‘Classy’

Kathy Russell Gives Sick Kids a Home Away from Home

When Kathy Russell was a young hospital administrator, she saw something she didn’t like.

“Every day I’d come up on the elevator and I’d walk through radiology and I’d see all these kids in metal cribs with their parents lined up to go through whatever test they had in the morning,” she tells PEOPLE.

“It really dawned on me that the whole business of people queuing up to go through radiology was really kind of ridiculous.”

So Russell, with the help of a group of congressional spouses and some of her hospital colleagues, co-founded the Children’s Inn, a residential facility at the National Institutes of Health for children battling life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer, blood disorders and HIV infection.

Kathy Russell Gives Sick Kids a Home Away from Home

The Children’s Inn at NIH

But the Children’s Inn, a rustic lodge located in Bethesda, Maryland, is more than just a place to stay. With plenty of natural light from the many windows and skylights, as well as newly-remodeled kitchens so families can make their children’s favorite comfort foods, it’s a home away from home, a place where kids can have fun and be themselves.

“I learned how hard it is to have a kid with a life-threatening illness and not be in your own community and not have the people you would call on in terms of support,” Russell, 58, who lives in Montgomery County and serves as the Inn’s CEO, recalls of those early days as a hospital administrator.

“It just became clear to me that there were a lot of things that we could do if we had the right resources,” she says.

At the Children’s Inn, there’s always plenty to do. Whether it’s field trips to Washington Nationals baseball games or playing with the Inn’s resident therapy dog, Viola, Russell and her team of dedicated staff and volunteers make sure the kids are having fun every night.

One of the Inn’s most popular activities? Bingo.

“We have a police officer who comes in and calls Bingo on Tuesday nights,” Russell, says.

“He’ll get off his shift and come in here,” she says, “and be standing there in his uniform with a goofy hat on and making the kids laugh.”

But it’s Viola, the Inn’s resident therapy dog, who’s the most visible member of the team. (She’s even got her own mailbox at the Inn.) A former seeing-eye dog who lost her job for being too friendly, Viola now works full-time at the Inn, keeping the kids company with her sweet, calm demeanor.

Kathy Russell Gives Sick Kids a Home Away from Home

Viola, the Inn’s resident therapy dog

Jennifer Rosenberg

It’s not all fun and games, though.

By allowing their illnesses to be studied at NIH, these kids are helping to find a cure for some truly terrible diseases.

“They’re pioneers in that they’re looking for their own opportunity to be well, but if they can’t, they’re contributing to the body of medical knowledge that will hopefully be helpful to some other child in the future,” says Russell.

“So unlike a Ronald McDonald house, we’re in a position to bring our resources to bear to empower and engage the research in a way that to helps develop new therapies,” she explains.

Robert Vogel, whose 24-year-old son, Scott, has been staying at the Children’s Inn on and off since 1999 while being treated for chronic granulomatous disease, says the Inn was a godsend.

“Words can’t describe how competent she is and how wonderful she is,” says Vogel, 62, who is also a member of the Inn’s Board of Directors.

“I’ve walked in after a long day at the hospital with my son and you always get such a warm feeling from everyone,” he says.

Tammy Koch, whose daughter Karly, 20, is staying at the Inn following a bone marrow transplant, credits Russell with making her family feel comfortable in this trying time.

“Even at a recent event we had where Kathy needed to schmooze with board members and donors, she took the time to come and talk to us,” recalls 53-year-old Koch, who works part-time as a dental hygienist. “When I’ve asked for things, she never forgets and always follows through.”

Koch, of Muncie, Indiana, is also especially grateful for the Inn for making the holidays extra special. “How do you replicate the holidays when you are away from home?” Koch says. “The Inn totally made that happen with stockings and gifts that were donated by generous donors and volunteers.”

“The kids got to make Santa’s cookies and leave them at the fireplace – just like at home,” Koch says. “Being able to keep up some of the holiday traditions with the help has meant so much and Kathy Russell has created that kind of a place.”

Adds Vogel: “I’ve seen her run down the hall chasing kids who are hysterically laughing. She has it all. She is an amazing person.”

With reporting by RENNIE DYBALL

Know a hero? Send suggestions to For more inspiring stories, read the latest issue of PEOPLE magazine

Kathy Russell Gives Sick Kids a Home Away from Home
Source: Kathy Russell Gives Sick Kids a Home Away from Home

The Real Amal Clooney: Funny, Warm and ‘Supremely Self-Confident’

The Real Amal Clooney: Funny, Warm and Supremely Self Confident

Amal Clooney arrives in Athens, Greece

Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty

10/16/2014 AT 02:20 PM EDT

Amal Clooney is many things: a high-powered attorney, a budding fashion icon and George’s wife.

But beyond the formidable intellect, impressive career and killer style, she is known among her inner circle for her warmth and wit.

“She has a devastating sense of humor,” a close family member tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.

The younger daughter of Ramzi Alamuddin, a retired businessman, and Baria, an editor at Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat, she is also a loving aunt to her sister Tala’s children, including niece Mia, 12, and 6-year-old twin nephews Jad and Sari.

“She’s a doting, pampering aunt,” says the family member. “She has a loving heart.”

When it comes to her career, however, she is anything but soft.

“She’s supremely self-confident,” says William Schabas, a law professor at Middlesex University in London, who knows Amal professionally.

Currently inciting media mania in Greece, where she has been working on a case involving one of the world’s longest-standing cultural property disputes, those who know her say she will harness the spotlight to focus on issues that matter to her.

The case, which centers on a collection of Greek masterpieces known as the Elgin Marbles or the Parthenon Marbles, “is very difficult and shows that she is not shying away from controversy,” a legal source says.

Adds a colleague: “She is picking up where the honeymoon temporarily left off. She is back with a vengeance.”


For much more on Amal, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

The Real Amal Clooney: Funny, Warm and Supremely Self Confident
Source: The Real Amal Clooney: Funny, Warm and ‘Supremely Self-Confident’

Joan Rivers Died of Low Blood Oxygen, Medical Examiner Says

10/16/2014 AT 02:05 PM EDT

The New York City medical examiner says Joan Rivers died from low blood oxygen during a medical procedure.

The comedian, who was 81, died Sept. 4. She had been hospitalized since Aug. 28 when she went into cardiac arrest during a routine medical procedure at a doctor’s office to check out voice changes and reflux.

Medical examiner spokeswoman Julie Bolcer said Thursday that the cause was brain damage due to lack of oxygen. It is classified as a therapeutic complication, meaning that the death resulted from a predictable complication of surgery.

The New York state health department is investigating the circumstances.

Her daughter Melissa Rivers said in a statement that the family continues to be saddened by the tragic loss.

Joan Rivers Died of Low Blood Oxygen, Medical Examiner Says
Source: Joan Rivers Died of Low Blood Oxygen, Medical Examiner Says