People talk 2/11/03

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Singer fires attorney; fire under investigation

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Aretha Franklin has fired the lawyer representing her in the investigation of an arson fire that destroyed her $1.8 million house.

Franklin's new attorney "has expressed an intent and desire to cooperate," Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca said.

Gorcyca would not reveal the lawyer's name, but previous lawyer Elbert Hatchett identified him as former Detroit U.S. Attorney Saul Green.

Gorcyca told The Oakland Press of Pontiac for Sunday's editions that the new lawyer "hopes to change the tenor of the discussion."

Franklin planned to file a substitution of attorney brief Monday, Gorcyca said. He said prosecutors would meet with the lawyer Monday and hoped to meet with Franklin by week's end.

Gorcyca has said Franklin isn't a suspect in the Oct. 25 fire that destroyed the 10,000-square-foot home, about 20 miles northwest of Detroit.

Hatchett said the split came because he'd advised his client not to speak to investigators.

In January, prosecutors subpoenaed the 60-year-old singer, her son, Edward Franklin, security guard Tyrone Jarrett Sr. and family friend Dr. George West.

Rolling Stones' road tour bound for China

BEIJING -- The Rolling Stones have a message for China: Let's spend the night together.

The British rockers tentatively plan to perform their first concerts ever in Beijing and Shanghai in early April, one of the event's promoters said Monday.

Dates and other details haven't been decided, and the Stones haven't signed a final contract, said a manager of a Beijing concert agency.

She asked not to be identified further.

Beijing newspapers trumpeted news of the event. The tabloid Beijing Star Daily devoted a full page to the Stones with color photos of them in concert and a headline that declared, "Rolling Stones finally 'rock' to China."

Taxi announcements due to be eliminated

NEW YORK -- The recorded celebrity announcements reminding taxicab passengers to buckle their seat belts will be eliminated in the next few months.

The messages, which were installed in city taxis in 1996, have featured the voices of several dozen celebrities, including Joan Rivers, Jackie Mason, Chris Rock, Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Elmo, the Sesame Street muppet.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission decided to do away with the announcements after a survey it conducted revealed that passengers largely disregard them, said Matthew Daus, the chairman of the agency.

Of about 4,000 respondents, 67 percent said they ignored the advisories, which also tell passengers to collect their belongings and ask for a receipt. Twelve percent of respondents said they deliberately refused to buckle their seat belts because they were so annoyed by the announcements.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in his radio address Friday that "everybody hates" the announcements and that they'd be "going away in the very near future."

Daus said the advisories would be pulled from all taxis this spring, at the earliest.

Kidman surprised she landed role of Woolf

BERLIN -- Nicole Kidman says she was surprised she was chosen to portray writer Virginia Woolf in "The Hours."

She thought co-star Meryl Streep would have been picked to play the lead.

Kidman says such insecurities are common.

"Normally a week before filming starts, I come up with a list of actresses who would be better in the role than me," the 35-year-old said Sunday at the Berlin Film Festival, where Stephen Daldry's "The Hours" screened in the competition for the Golden Bear.

The film, whose strong female cast also includes Julianne Moore, is seen as a favorite among the 22 films contending for the top prize. The festival began Feb. 6 and runs through Saturday.

Kidman plays Woolf, whose life and suicide echo across space and time, impacting the lives of the other women in this big-screen adaptation of Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

The film and Kidman's performance already have been honored with Golden Globe awards.

Freeman's blues roots come from Mississippi

RADNOR, Pa. -- Morgan Freeman's fond memories of the Mississippi juke joints where he hung out in his teens inspired him and two business partners to open their own.

His Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Miss., is one of the live-music clubs featured in the documentary "Last of the Mississippi Jukes," which airs Feb. 16 on the Black Starz cable network.

"I grew up in Mississippi, and this is homegrown music," Freeman says in the Feb. 15 issue of TV Guide. "I knew it, heard it, danced to it and loved it, and still do."

But the 65-year-old actor says his teenage memories weren't all so good.

"When I was 15 or 16, I got into a minor scrape with a guy," he says.

"He pulled a .45 out and pointed it right at me -- scared me to death. But I managed to walk away, and it was cool."

Country singer scheduled to entertain U.S. troops

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- Country star Faith Hill will perform for soldiers at Fort Bragg this week.

Hill's free concert at Fort Bragg, home to the 82nd Airborne Division and the Army Special Operations Command, will be broadcast by ABC's "Good Morning America" on Thursday morning.

The concert, in a stadium that holds about 8,000 people, will be open to fans showing military identification.

Hill has sold 25 million records and has had 10 No. 1 singles, including "This Kiss" and "Breathe."

-- From wire reports

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