Originally created 04/16/04

People in the News



NEW YORK -- An organization Tom Cruise co-founded has raised $1.2 million to expand a treatment program for rescue workers exposed to potentially hazardous materials after the collapse of the World Trade Center.

The New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project said it has treated more than 200 workers who say they've suffered effects from breathing the air filled with smoke, dust and debris after the Sept. 11, 2001, destruction of the trade center.

The money Cruise and others raised would expand the project to treat twice as many people, said Keith Miller, the project's director. The treatment is provided at no cost.

Cruise said during a fund-raiser for the project last week that seeing images of the plume of smoke billowing from the trade center rubble on Sept. 11 prompted him to act.

"Shortly thereafter I visited ground zero and knew immediately that not only would people be getting ill, very ill, but that it would be sooner rather than later," he said in a statement Wednesday.

The project's program consists of a medically monitored regimen of exercise, sauna sweat-out, vitamins and minerals to help rescue workers cleanse their bodies of toxic residues. It was developed by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, of which Cruise is a member.

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LOS ANGELES -- Spanish-language singer Paulina Rubio is being sued for allegedly skipping out on a contract for a gig at last year's Los Angeles Auto Show.

Rubio claimed she was sick but actually extended a vacation in Acapulco, Mexico, when she missed a planned "attention-grabbing" performance at the unveiling of a new Mercedes-Benz model, according to a lawsuit filed in April 2003 by Pacific Communications Group.

A jury for the civil lawsuit in Superior Court was selected Wednesday, with opening statements set for Thursday.

Pacific Communications is asking for more than $1 million in compensatory damages from the Mexican pop star, whose latest album is "Paulatina."

Rubio's lawyers filed court documents saying she was a victim of a "series of misrepresentations and false promises ... intended to induce Rubio to appear at the LA Auto Show for a fraction of her ordinary appearance fee."

Attorneys involved in the case did not return calls after business hours Wednesday.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It's a good thing Eric Clapton invited Vince Gill to perform at his Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas this June, because Gill would have a hard time staying away.

"It sounds like something I'd like to go to anyway even if I wasn't invited, just to hear," Gill said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

The festival, to run June 4-6 at Fair Park, will include performances by Clapton, Buddy Guy, J.J. Cale, Robert Cray, B.B. King, Carlos Santana, Joe Walsh and many others.

But Gill and Union Station members Dan Tyminski and Jerry Douglas are the only Nashville pickers on the list.

"I was flattered beyond words that I got included," Gill said. "I listened to all of those guys. Probably as a guitar player, I tried to find more from the rock world than I ever did from the country world early on."

Known mostly for his singing and songwriting, the 47-year-old also is an accomplished guitarist whose playing reflects a variety of styles, from country and bluegrass to blues and rock.

Before his success as a solo artist, he was lead guitarist for the country-pop group Pure Prairie League and alt-country band the Cherry Bombs. He once turned down an invitation by singer-guitarist Mark Knopfler to join the English rock band Dire Straits.

"I think most people think of me as a singer, and they're kind of surprised that I can play loud," he said. "Not necessarily good, but loud."

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HONOLULU -- Bethany Hamilton, the 14-year-old surfer from Kauai who lost her left arm in a shark attack last October, is now an honorary member of the U.S. Triathlon Team.

USA Triathlon presented Hamilton with an official uniform and bicycle Wednesday.

"You embody the spirit that everybody across the nation admires," said U.S. triathlete and 1996 Olympic swimming gold medalist Sheila Taormina. "I just want you to know that you left such an impression with your determination and with your positive attitude."

The athletes urged Hamilton to try a triathlon, which combines distance swimming, bicycling and running.

Hamilton thanked the athletes and welcomed them to Hawaii.

"I just wanted to say welcome to all the athletes and good luck this weekend," Hamilton said.

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NEW YORK -- An 18th-century Italian-made violin reported missing earlier this week was found in an alley near the Manhattan bar where its owner had left it, police said.

Odin Rathnam, the first-chair violinist for the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, had been in New York for a meeting and left the violin, along with a borrowed viola, at Yogi's bar on the Upper West Side.

The violin, valued around $95,000, was made by Bartolomeo Calvaros of Bergamo, Italy, between 1750 and 1755; the viola belonged to a friend.

Rathnam said he was "the luckiest man alive."

"This is like a reunion," he told the New York Post for Thursday's editions. "When you finally learn (to play the violin) and find an instrument you're compatible with, it's a relationship. You feel like you lost a loved one when you lose it."

A patron at the bar, Noah Garden, told the Post he had "won" the violin in an impromptu fiddling contest at the bar. He said he pawned it for $600 but didn't remember where the pawn shop was, the Post said.

It was unclear how the instruments, which a maintenance worker found Wednesday night, wound up in the alley.

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BOSTON -- Babe Ruth's great-grandson and the star of the CBS military drama series "JAG" will both run the 108th Boston Marathon Monday.

Chris Herrlein, whose maternal grandmother was Babe Ruth's daughter, Dorothy, will run through the streets of Boston the same day the slugger's two former teams - the Red Sox and the rival New York Yankees - meet at Fenway Park.

Actor David James Elliott - who plays Harmon "Harm" Rabb Jr., an ace pilot turned Navy lawyer on "JAG" - also will run Monday.

Herrlein is a member of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team, whose runners each aim to raise at least $2,500 for cancer research.

Ruth died of cancer at 53 and Herrlein's father has prostate cancer.

Herrlein, who was raised in New York and moved to Massachusetts in 1996, said he learned about his famous great-grandfather from attending events and talking to his grandmother.

"She said he was truly larger than life," Herrlein said. "He was always the star of the show and she enjoyed being a part of that."

Elliott is running to benefit children's program in Massachusetts for the Salvation Army team.

"It's an honor to run the prestigious Boston Marathon," Elliott said. "This is made even more meaningful knowing that my participation will help raise awareness and funds for Salvation Army children's programs."

Elliott, a Los Angeles resident, is running his first Boston Marathon but his fourth marathon overall. His coach, Gary Kobat, has also trained actors Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell, who ran his first Boston Marathon last year.

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NEW YORK -- A warehouse worker has been charged with looting personal items that belonged to John F. Kennedy Jr., including a Father's Day card from 1963.

Patrick Gallagher, 50, of Queens, pleaded innocent Tuesday to grand larceny and possession of stolen property. He was released on $5,000 bail.

Authorities accused Gallagher of stealing nearly three dozen items that had been stored in a Sotheby's warehouse in upper Manhattan since Kennedy's death in 1999. The defendant sold the belongings for $5,000 to pay a debt to a bookie, prosecutors said.

A call to Gallagher's lawyer was not immediately returned.

Among the stolen items were rare copies of President Kennedy's inaugural address, a 1963 Father's Day card to the president from his son and a copy of the book "John Brown's Body." The book includes an inscription from Jacqueline Kennedy, dated Christmas 1964, telling her son that it was his father's favorite book.

Sotheby's vice president Diana Phillips said all the items had been recovered. Gallagher has been suspended pending the outcome of the case.

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SINGAPORE -- Singapore's censors have approved for screening a movie that makes fun of them, organizers of the city-state's film festival said Wednesday.

"Cut," a short film by Royston Tan, was being screened Thursday at the Singapore International Film Festival, organizing committee member Philip Chia said. The 12-minute comedy received a PG (parental guidance) rating.

The approval came despite criticism from Arts Minister Lee Boon Yang, who said he didn't find the film funny and labeled it part of "unbecoming attempts to undermine the standing of a public institution."

Singapore regularly censors movies it deems too racy or violent. It says the edits are necessary to preserve social order and maintain conservative Asian norms. However, the city-state has been trying to refashion itself into an arts and media center.

Tan, 27, has said he was inspired to make "Cut" after the Board of Film Censors slashed about 10 minutes of his critically acclaimed film "15," about the life of five teenagers struggling with gangsterism and drugs in Singapore's high-rise public housing estates.

He said Wednesday that "Cut" was "a way for me to express myself, a comedy to laugh it off after the last movie." He said the film will screen at more than 50 film festivals, including in London and Vancouver.

Singapore's regulatory Media Development Authority confirmed that "Cut" had been approved for screening.

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PERTH, Australia -- He's got bling-bling, and he wants your vote.

Opposition Labor Party leader Mark Latham made a play for the youth vote in elections expected later this year by promising in a lighthearted interview to give young people more "bling-bling" - a rap music term for flashy jewelry, or glamour.

"Youth of Australia, Labor's policy is bling-bling," Latham said Wednesday on West Australian youth radio station Nova. "Bling-bling for everyone."

The station presented the Labor leader with a T-shirt emblazoned with the moniker, Lath-Daddy.

As part of the hip-hop makeover, Latham also received a baseball cap and a rap theme song: "Lath-Daddy's in the house. Which house? The Lower House."

Latham, 46, is being presented as a youthful alternative to 64-year-old John Howard, who's seeking a fourth term as prime minister in the elections.

His youth pitch appeared to pay off immediately. One listener, who called herself Adriana, called the radio station to say Latham had her vote.

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HONG KONG -- Andy Lau says he won't follow any of his contemporaries to Hollywood because he thinks the big studios don't respect Chinese filmmaking.

Lau, star of the hit Cantonese crime thriller "Infernal Affairs," said he's been approached with Hollywood scripts, but "nothing has moved me yet."

The 42-year-old actor-singer told The Associated Press Tuesday that he won't settle for small roles or stereotypical characters who only excel in kung fu.

Other Hong Kong actors who have enjoyed success in Hollywood are typically action stars, including Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Chow Yun-fat.

"I don't think the product I'm working on is inferior to theirs," Lau said.

He also defended the multitasking approach of Chinese stars. Unlike most top entertainers in the West, Lau and his fellow artists juggle acting and singing careers.

"In the Olympics, I respect the decathlon," he said.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Copenhagen's 18th-century Royal Theater is getting rhythmic.

Last month, the theater said R&B singer Alicia Keys would be the first pop star to perform on its main stage. Tickets for the June 16 show sold out in minutes.

Now, other contemporary musical stars will grace the Old Stage.

Michael Christiansen, manager of the playhouse known more for its classical drama, ballets, operas and concerts by philharmonic and chamber orchestras, said five jazz concerts will be held there during the annual Copenhagen Jazz Festival, which runs July 2-11.

A quartet featuring Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland and Brian Blade is scheduled to perform July 5. The next day, Danish vocalist Caecilie Norby will open for Dianne Reeves.

On the Net:

http://festival.jazz.dk/start.asp?l2

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ST. LOUIS -- Hardee's now has its own Big Mac.

Mark "Big Mac" McGwire signed with the St. Louis-based fast-food chain as a pitchman for Hardee's Thickburger.

The 30-second TV commercial, which debuted Wednesday, shows the beefy baseball player chomping into a big burger. The announcer tells viewers that "some guys don't like eating a half-pound of bread to get a half-pound of meat."

Introduced last year, the Thickburger is offered with one-third, one-half or two-thirds of a pound of beef, along with a low-carb cousin and versions featuring bacon or mushroom and Swiss cheese.

The spot marks the first major TV advertising campaign for McGwire since he retired in 2001, three seasons after hitting a then-record 70 home runs for the Cardinals. Big Mac hit 583 home runs, sixth on the career list.

"I think almost every time I had a hamburger before a game there was a home run," McGwire joked in a statement released Wednesday by Hardee's.