Johnny Carson donates money to skateboarders

Saturday, March 9, 2002

CORNING, Iowa -- Skateboarders in a small southwest Iowa town will have Johnny Carson to thank when their new park is built.

The former talk show host responded to a request for a small donation to help build the skate park in his hometown with a check for $75,000 -- enough to pay for nearly the whole project.

Lori Goldsmith, who's organizing efforts to raise money for the park, wrote to Carson several weeks ago seeking a small contribution.

Goldsmith said she was shocked when she opened an express mail package from Carson and found the check. The project will cost about $90,000.

Carson, who was born in Corning in 1925, donated $15,000 to an elementary playground a few years ago. He hosted "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" on NBC from 1962-92.

Lesbian Rosie fights for gay parents

NEW YORK -- A gay foster couple in Florida helped inspire Rosie O'Donnell's decision to talk about her own homosexuality.

Steve Lofton and Roger Croteau are challenging a state law that bans gays from adopting children. O'Donnell, who has a home near Miami and briefly was a foster parent to a Florida toddler, is helping in their fight, People magazine reports in its March 18 issue. She's expected to take part in an American Civil Liberties Union campaign this month.

O'Donnell, 39, has three adopted children: Parker, 6; Chelsea, 4; and Blake, 2. She's raising them with her longtime girlfriend, 34-year-old Kelli Carpenter, in Nyack, N.Y.

Although it's long been known that O'Donnell is a lesbian, the comedian and talk show host is expected to discuss her homosexuality for the first time publicly in an interview with Diane Sawyer, scheduled to air on ABC's "Primetime Thursday" on March 14.

Australian gumshoe defames Versace

SYDNEY, Australia -- A court ruled Friday that an Australian private investigator defamed international fashion house Versace and its directors Santo and Donatella Versace in a book claiming they were involved in their brother's murder.

Sydney private eye Frank Monte implied in his memoirs "The Spying Game" that Versace family members were involved in organized crime and money laundering.

Monte also claimed Versace boss Gianni was slain by the Mafia, working with Donatella and her other brother, Santo.

Gianni Versace was shot to death outside his Miami home in July 1997. The gunman, Andrew Cunanan, who also was wanted for four other murders, killed himself soon afterward.

Monte had claimed Versace had employed him as a private investigator.

But giving his verdict, Federal Court judge Brian Tamberlin said he was convinced that Monte never had "any relationship, contact or communication of any type with Gianni Versace."

"I have found that each of Frank Monte's statements complained of lacks any credibility whatsoever," he said.

Daughter of Lucy, Desi plans bigger museum

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. -- Lucie Arnaz, daughter of the late comedian Lucille Ball and actor Desi Arnaz, is planning a bigger museum dedicated to her parents.

Arnaz said Thursday she plans to leave their memorabilia in Jamestown, 58 miles south of Buffalo. She said a new not-for-profit group headed by her and her brother, Desi Arnaz Jr., will take over operation of the Lucy-Desi Museum, with plans to open a larger museum in the next few years, possibly with a theater attached.

The storefront museum opened in 1996.

Clash singer says lawmakers out of touch

LONDON -- Rock singer Billy Bragg hiked up his sweater to show off a T-shirt featuring the punk band the Clash as he testified in Parliament, telling legislators they were out of touch with the British people.

"I look at you here in your suits and ties and me sitting here in my Clash T-shirt, and I don't really see myself represented here," he told the House of Commons Public Administration Committee Thursday. "The majority of us don't see ourselves."

Asked to speak about how public appointments are made, Bragg blamed Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor party government for making young people cynical by failing to live up to its promises.

He rebuffed a 44-year-old Welsh legislator who pointed out that he and the 44-year-old Bragg were from the same generation and both grew up on punk rock.

"You should see my audience," the musician told lawmaker Kevin Brennan. "They are all the same age as us, and they don't look like you."

Bragg, whose music has a leftist political message, said it was important to convince young people that they could have an impact on government.

-- From wire reports

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