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Thursday, July 18, 2002

Crowe lights cigarette and legal battle

SYDNEY, Australia -- A cigarette that Russell Crowe smoked on Australian television has sparked a legal battle.

The Nine Network on Wednesday began a challenge in Sydney's Federal Court against a ruling by Australia's broadcasting watchdog that it had breached a law banning the advertising of cigarettes.

The Australian Broadcasting Authority said an interview on the station's "60 Minutes" program in October 2000, which showed the Oscar-winning actor lighting up and shielding his cigarette with the packet, breached the Tobacco Advertisement Prohibition Act.

Part of the interview was replayed the following week after viewers criticized Crowe -- who was nominated for an Oscar for playing a tobacco industry whistleblower in "The Insider" -- for his smoking habit.

The authority may fine media organizations that breach the act, but chose not to in this case, and instead recorded the incident in a report.

However, Nine Network lawyer John Griffiths told Federal Court judge Arthur Emmett on Wednesday that the original finding was "perverse and irrational" and the authority should be ordered to reconsider its ruling.

Nine had discouraged rather than encouraged smoking when it referred in the interview to the movie star's habit as "weakness to the demon weed," Griffiths said. The judge was scheduled to make a ruling Thursday.

'Panic' singer tells fans he has terminal cancer

ATHENS, Ga. -- Widespread Panic guitarist and singer Michael "Mikey" Houser has announced that he has terminal cancer in a message to fans posted on the band's Web site.

"I want to assure all of you that all that can be done has been done, and I want to thank all of you who have contributed information, medicine, and so on," the 40-year-old wrote.

"I have hopes of playing again soon, although I can't say for sure when or where, and I hope to see you all there."

Speculation about Houser's health had been circulating since spring, when he missed some scheduled appearances with the Athens-based jam band. He also has missed much of the group's summer tour, which began June 21 in Tennessee.

The band's publicist, Paula Donner, declined to release further information.

Houser was one of the founders of the group, which formed in 1985 and has been nominated for studio album of the year at the Jammys, which honor jam bands and musicians.

ON THE NET:

  • Widespread Panic Web site: www.widespreadpanic.com

    Nimoy Fund benefits artists and museum

    LOS ANGELES -- Leonard Nimoy and his wife have donated $1 million to the Museum of Contemporary Art.

    The Nimoy Fund for Emerging Artists will showcase new artistic talent, officials said Tuesday.

    "We are appreciative of the generosity of the Nimoys," said Bob Tuttle, museum chairman. "Their support continues MOCA's invaluable role in advancing contemporary art and ensures stable resources to fund exhibitions and projects by emerging artists."

    The fund will help support a variety of projects, including painting and sculpture, artist books and publications and performance and video works, said museum director Jeremy Strick.

    "This flexibility will allow MOCA to keep pace with artists for generations to come," Strick said.

    The large gift is the second in recent months by the Nimoys, who donated $1 million to the Griffith Observatory renovation effort. When the Los Angeles landmark reopens in 2005, the 71-year-old actor who's best known as Mr. Spock on "Star Trek" will have a 200-seat theater named in his honor.-- From wire reports

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    LOS ANGELES -- "The Price Is Right" host Bob Barker is back in Los Angeles, nearly a week after undergoing prostate surgery in Washington, D.C.

    The 78-year-old, who returned on Tuesday, will rest at home until Aug. 19, when taping resumes on the CBS game show that he has hosted for 30 years, said his publicist, Henri Bollinger.

    Barker underwent surgery on July 10 to ease discomfort from an enlarged prostate. Doctors expect him to make a full recovery, Bollinger said.

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    MOUNT AIRY, N.C. -- Andy Griffith will have a portion of U.S. 52 named in his honor.

    The 76-year-old actor starred in the popular '60s TV sitcom "The Andy Griffith Show." The series was set in the fictional town of Mayberry, widely believed to be based on Mount Airy.

    The state Transportation Board approved the highway naming last week.

    "We now have a 'go' from the governor and the secretary of transportation," Transportation Board member Sam Erby said Monday. "And, barring some kind of illness, Andy Griffith and his wife, Cindy, are planning to attend the ceremony."

    The ceremony tentatively is scheduled for Oct. 16.

    Griffith last was honored in his hometown on June 1, 1957, on Andy Griffith Day. He'd returned from his Broadway triumph, "No Time for Sergeants," and was honored with a parade and a key to the town.

    Griffith and his wife live in Manteo, along the North Carolina coast.

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    HAVANA -- Cuban folk singer Silvio Rodriguez opened the first academic conference ever held on the history of a ballad style known as Cuban trova, one of the island's most important musical genres.

    "We are excited by two things: first that these gatherings serve as an homage to the forgotten troubadours of all time, and second by the desire to learn," Rodriguez said as the conference opened Monday at the University of Havana.

    Noted Cuban musicians Pablo Milanes, Cesar Portillo de la Luz and Compay Segundo, the nonagenarian of Buena Vista Social Club fame, were among those scheduled to discuss the development of the Cuban trova style.

    The style has its roots in the ballads that traveling singers -- troubadours -- composed during the island's wars of independence.

    Modern Cuban trovas recall American protest songs of the 1960s and 1970s that focused attention on social problems through musical storytelling.

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    NEW YORK -- Phish's Trey Anastasio, Oysterhead and Medeski Martin & Wood are among the acts nominated for the third annual Jammys, which honor jam bands and musicians.

    Anastasio, who released his self-titled album earlier this year, is up for studio album of the year, along with Medeski Martin & Wood's "Uninvisible," Widespread Panic's "Don't Tell the Band," Gov't Mule's "The Deep End, Vol. 1," Keller Williams' "Laugh" and The Word's album, also self-titled.

    The Grateful Dead, considered the ultimate jam band by many, will receive a lifetime achievement award.

    Other Jammy nominees, announced Tuesday, include Phil Lesh & Friends, String Cheese Incident and Oysterhead, which Anastasio headed. Fans can vote for their picks online and by paper ballot in Relix magazine.

    The ceremony is scheduled for Oct. 2 at the Roseland Ballroom.


    On the Net:

    Jammys Web site: http://www.jammys.com


    OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Former NBA player Wayman Tisdale said becoming a jazz musician was the best move he ever made.

    "It's just been a great, great time for me," the 38-year-old Tisdale said at the recent Omaha Jazz & Blues Festival. "I think I was born to entertain."

    Tisdale, a 12-year NBA veteran who played for the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns, released his first CD, "Power Forward," in 1995. It went to No. 4 on Billboard's contemporary jazz chart.

    Another album and several years later, he decided to devote himself full-time to music. His other albums include "In the Zone," "Decisions" and "Face to Face."

    "I've worked really hard at this craft," he said. "My goal is to win Grammy Awards and be noted as one of the greatest bassists ever."


    LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Former Los Angeles Lakers star Earvin "Magic" Johnson has joined a new team: the anti-secession squad led by Mayor James Hahn.

    Johnson, who has his own chain of movie theaters, said Tuesday that he'll play a major role in the campaign against secession movements in Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley.

    "I'm going to be involved 100 percent," Johnson said. "I want to educate the people, especially minorities, about secession as well as to get them to support my position."

    Johnson had been at odds with Hahn over former Police Chief Bernard Parks, who was denied a second five-year term earlier this year. Hahn, who relied on the black community for votes during last year's mayoral election, opposed rehiring Parks because he thought the black chief was slow on police reforms. Parks resigned in April and will run for a City Council seat.

    Hahn welcomed Johnson to his team Tuesday and believes the former NBA guard will bring more allies to the anti-secession movement.

    "We think it's great to have Earvin Johnson aboard because he's someone who has demonstrated his commitment to Los Angeles," Hahn said. "He's willing to put his time and, more importantly, his money into making this city better."

    Voters will be asked to decide Nov. 5 whether to allow Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley to create their own cities.

    If approved by a majority of all Los Angeles voters, a new valley city of 1.3 million would come into being July 1, 2003. It would rival Phoenix as the nation's sixth-largest city, while Los Angeles would fall behind Chicago to become the nation's third-largest.

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