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ARTIST NEWS: One-Millionth Fan Buys Celine Dion Las Vegas Ticket & Trump To Donate College Speaking Fee (more news)

LAS VEGAS (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — A very lucky Celine Dion fan literally has become "one in a million" by purchasing the one-millionth ticket to "A New Day…," featuring Celine Dion, created by DRAGONE and presented by Chrysler at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas.

To celebrate this milestone, the one-millionth ticket buyer will be awarded with a Caesars Palace VIP prize package and private meeting with Dion. The ticket was purchased by Amanda Gulbransen of Minneapolis, MN, who bought two tickets for herself and a friend for a weekend getaway to Las Vegas. During her September visit, Dion will personally welcome her to "A New Day…" and award her with a commemorative plaque.

In addition to a private meet and greet with Dion at the show, Gulbransen and her guest will receive a spectacular VIP stay at Caesars Palace. Dubbed "Live Like a Millionaire," this luxurious package will include three nights suite accommodations, unlimited limousine transportation, use of spa and fitness center services at The Spa at Caesars Palace, complimentary meals at Caesars Palace restaurants, a $1,000 shopping spree at the Celine Dion Boutique, upgraded front-row tickets to "A New Day…," and $5,000 in Caesars Palace promotional gaming chips.

"I am so excited to meet and welcome Amanda to ‘A New Day…,'" said Dion. "Knowing that we have had the support of a million fans is unbelievable. I feel fortunate to be part of a show that has provided the opportunity to intimately connect with so many people." –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

Trump To Donate College Speaking Fee

AMHERST, N.Y. (AP) — Donald Trump's $200,000 speaking fee raised eyebrows when it was revealed by the University at Buffalo, which had never before shelled out as much for a guest.

But the billionaire said that's not why he intends to give it away to charity. He said he does it all the time.

"I give it all away," Trump told The Buffalo News. "Every time I make a speech, I give it away. That's one of the reasons I make speeches. I like giving away money to worthy charities. I get a lot of money, and it is not hard for me to speak, and it works out well."

In fact, he said, the university is getting a bargain. "I actually get $300,000 to speak," he said.

Trump, star of NBC's "The Apprentice," was scheduled to speak at the university Thursday as part of its "Distinguished Speakers" series.

Tim McGraw Has Booth Named After Him

CLINTON, Iowa (AP) — Tim McGraw now has a booth named after him at Rose's Cafe. McGraw drove a motorcycle from Moline, Ill., to Clinton on Saturday, before his concert that night at the Mark of The Quad Cities.

No one inside the restaurant recognized the country music star as he sat at a corner table with his manager and another man, eating a cheeseburger, fries, onion rings and a soda, said Rose Aden, the diner's owner.

By the time she realized who he was, McGraw was out the door, she said.

"We didn't go chasing him," Aden said. "We were just running around like a bunch of crazy women in here."

McGraw must have been impressed with the diner because his manager called later and invited Aden and three friends to a pre-concert party with the singer and free tickets to the show.

"I'm still like on Cloud 10 here, it's like, `Oh, my gosh!'" Aden said Tuesday. "We're still in shock."

Beyonce Tears Leg Muscle While Dancing

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Beyonce tore a leg muscle rehearsing dance moves with Destiny's Child and her injury could delay some of the group's plan, a record company spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The singer tore her right hamstring, one of the muscles at the back of the knee, while practicing Tuesday in Los Angeles for an upcoming TV special.

"She overdid it," said Columbia Records spokeswoman Yvette Noel-Schure.

"We're all keeping our fingers crossed that, because she's young and healthy, it heals fast. There are a lot of things in place that we may have to shift. Not the album, which is finished, but side (appearances). We'll know more after a week," Noel-Schure said.

The new album from the trio, which also includes Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, is titled "Destiny Fulfilled" and set for release Nov. 16.

The performer was treated by a private sports-injury specialist. She is able to walk, but was advised to steer clear of dancing and other strenuous physical activity for about a week.

Mountain Heart Narrowly Avoids Major Bus Accident

NASHVILLE, TN (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Turbo-charged bluegrass group Mountain Heart narrowly avoided a major bus accident while en route from their performance at the FastGrass Bluegrass Festival in Concord, NC, to Nashville for their showcase performance during the Americana Music Conference.

As the band drove along Highway 74 in the wee hours of the morning on September 24, the canister containing the air for the bus’s air brake system was ruptured. This rendered the brakes useless, as the bus careened onto an exit ramp at 60 mph. The group’s bus driver, an experienced former truck driver, managed to bring the bus to a safe stop. In less capable hands, the bus likely would have overturned. The group spent the rest of the night and early morning hours making repairs so they could arrive in Nashville on time for their performance during the Americana Music Conference.

Mountain Heart has five nominations for the upcoming International Bluegrass Music Awards—Entertainer of the Year, Vocal Group of the Year, Instrumental Group of the Year, Mandolin Player of the Year (Adam Steffey) and Bass Player of the Year (Jason Moore). Their current CD, Force of Nature, was released on Skaggs Family Records this summer.

Barenaked Ladies To Do Variety Show

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fox Broadcasting Co. has ordered a pilot for a variety show starring the Barenaked Ladies that will feature the playful rock group performing music and comedy skits along with guest actors.

The Canadian band, known for writing upbeat songs with quirky lyrics and engaging their audiences with onstage banter, will have plenty of leeway to ad-lib on the show, tentatively titled, "The Barenaked Ladies Variety Show."

All of the band members — Steven Page, Jim Creeggan, Ed Robertson, Kevin Hearn and Tyler Stewart — will perform.

"This is a natural expansion to their live experience," said co-executive producer John Ziffren. "We are trying to capture that energy and make it into a TV show."

All-Time Voter Registration Record Set On Dave Matthews Band Tour

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Volunteers registered a total of 14,656 voters at Dave Matthews Band concerts this summer, setting an all-time record for a single concert tour. Roughly half of the voters HeadCount registered were age 18 to 24, a population segment that typically has the lowest voter participation rate of any age group.

The voter registration efforts were led by a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization called, which was formed only in February of this year. With the help of a $15,000 contribution from Dave Matthews Band’s charitable foundation Bama Works, HeadCount sent volunteers on the road this summer to register voters at every single Dave Matthews Band concert.

The tour kicked off in St. Louis, MO on June 17 and finished up on September 12 at a free concert in San Francisco, and included 48 shows in all.

“The Dave Matthews Band tour let us to reach thousands of young voters, who otherwise might not have registered,” said Andy Bernstein, HeadCount’s co-chair. “Sometimes, you have to take the message and the opportunity right to the people, and being on the road with Dave Matthews Band allowed us to do that.”

Matthews is also is appearing in a public service announcement produced by HeadCount, currently airing on TNT, TBS among other television networks. The PSA can be viewed at

Also present at nine Dave Matthews Band shows was Rock The Vote, which accounted for 2,053 of the nearly 15,000 total. –Bob Grosseweiner and Jane Cohen

Opera Star To Receive Honorary Degree

BRADFORD, Pa. (AP) — Opera star Marilyn Horne will return to her hometown to receive an honorary degree from the University of Pittsburgh-Bradford.

The 70-year-old diva was born and raised in Bradford and on Friday will become the first person to receive an honorary degree from the satellite campus.

Horne served as honorary chairwoman of a $3.4 million fund-raising drive for Blaisdell Hall, the school's new fine arts and communication arts building.

She'll receive her degree as part of the dedication ceremony for the new building, at which a sculpture of Horne by local artist David Hodges will be unveiled.

Green Day Album Debuts At Number One Around Globe

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — "American Idiot," the long-awaited new album from Green Day on Reprise Records, debuted on September 29 in the United States at Number 1 on Billboard Magazine's Album Charts scanning over 250,000 units. This marks the highest debut for the band in their 15-year career, and the first time they have reached the Number One position. The album also debuted at the top of the charts in the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and Australia.

Since its release, "American Idiot" has also shot to Number One on the Modern Rock Chart and Top 10 on the Rock Chart in the US and continues to receive heavy airplay in territories spanning the globe. It has been deemed Buzzworthy by MTV; Artist of the Month on Launch, the music destination of Yahoo!. The band has also received extensive media attention in both the alternative and mainstream press, gracing the covers of magazines such as Alternative Press, Spin, Kerrang, Guitar World, Bass Player and Drum. The band performed "American Idiot" on the "Late Show with David Letterman" on September 20th with special guest, Senator John Kerry, and recorded Sessions@AOL, to also be aired later this month on Fuse.

These chart positions around the globe mark the first time the band has debuted at Number One in the UK, Australia and Japan. To date the album has sold in excess of 1,000,000 units worldwide and climbing. In one short week, "American Idiot" has been certified Ppatinum in Canada and Japan and gold in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Indonesia.

Green Day will kick off the US leg of their world tour on October 19 in Ft. Worth, TX at the Convention Center and will tour Europe, Australia and Asia in 2005. –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

Members Of Green Day Lambast Bush

TORONTO (AP) — One of the biggest role models from the "I don't care" era has done a complete 180-degree turn.

Using their famous three-chord melodies, the spiky-haired trio Green Day have been lambasting President George W. Bush.

"It was a little hipper to be apathetic (back then)," says singer-guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong. "Right now, it's more about facing danger. That's what growing up is all about."

However, their new album, "American Idiot," isn't all about politics. It was written with a narrative, making it a "punk opera" of sorts. The central character is a rebellious teen named Jesus of Suburbia.

"It's about a kid that is trying to find his beliefs and his ethics, coming from a broken home, being fed up with his hometown and his local 7-11," said Armstrong, who still circles his eyes with black eyeliner.

All three members of Green Day say writing their new album was the toughest project they've faced in 15 years together.

"We were up to the challenge. We're probably the best Green Day-type band there is out there," said bassist Mike Dirnt, referring to the dozens of neo-punksters who have mimicked the band's signature sound.

Armstrong said the album's cultural criticism was spawned from channel-surfing these last few years.

"Reality television meets news and war … tanks going into Baghdad with splashes of Viagra commercials in between. I was just so confused about what was going on. It comes from that standpoint," he said.

But why the sudden interest in politics?

"It's unavoidable. Being in the United States right now, what's been going on the past couple of years …" Armstrong said with a shrug.

Drummer Tre Cool added that it's important for those in the public eye to make their opinions known.

However, band members don't want to be labeled as activists. Instead, Armstrong said, Green Day is just continuing a long tradition of teaching through music.

"I've gotten most of my education through music whether it's the Dead Kennedys or Clash records or just something like the Replacements," he said. "Music can make a difference in people's lives. It's not just there for entertainment."


On the Net:

Singer Ray Price Recovering From Surgery

HOUSTON, TX (AP) — Country singer Ray Price was recovering in a Houston hospital after heart surgery on Friday.

Price, 78, was suffering from chest pain when he was flown Thursday to Houston from his home in Mount Pleasant, publicist Kirt Webster said in a statement. Tests showed Price had a blockage in his main artery, Webster said.

The surgery caused Price to miss a Friday appearance in Alabama at the Cullman County Fair.

Price's 1970 hit "For the Good Times" helped polish the image of country music.

Other hits in a career that has spanned five decades include "Release Me," "Heartaches by the Number," "Crazy Arms," "City Lights" and "Too Young to Die."

O'Brien To Take Over For Leno In 5 Years

NEW YORK (AP) — Jay Leno's takeover as host of NBC's "Tonight" show in 1992 was fraught with drama and bad feelings, but he's assured the next transition will be as smooth as his nightly sign-off: "Stay tuned for Conan."

The comedian and NBC on Monday chose the 50th anniversary of the first "Tonight" show to set a special date for the 55th — when Leno will step down and Conan O'Brien becomes the fifth host of the television institution.

Announcing a transition in five years is odd for any business, let alone one that frequently plans from day-to-day, but NBC was anxious not to lose O'Brien. The 41-year-old "Late Night" host was considered likely to jump to another network without a promise of advancement.

Leno beat out David Letterman for the "Tonight" job, sparking a feud that lives on and was even the subject of a book and movie, "The Late Shift."

Leno recalled the animosity on his show Monday, saying "a lot of good friendships were permanently damaged."

"Quite frankly, I don't want to see anybody go through that again," he said.

Leno also offered a warm tribute Monday to his immediate predecessor, Johnny Carson, showing a lengthy clip package of Carson's funniest moments. Leno was criticized when he took over for overlooking Carson's 30-year legacy.

"Johnny set the standard for how this job should be done," Leno said. "He was such a gentleman. He always had impeccable timing. He was the comedian's comedian. Those of us who do this for a living, we all owe him a tremendous debt."

Oprah Winfrey visited Leno's Burbank set Monday to bring in a cake decorated with a Mount Rushmore picture of the four "Tonight" hosts: Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Carson and Leno.

O'Brien's show, which immediately follows Leno on NBC, was a rerun Monday.

Shortly after he signed his latest contract extension, Leno said NBC executives approached him, saying they didn't want to lose O'Brien. He endorsed the move and set his own 2009 exit date, when he'll be 59.

Leno's renowned workaholism also made the announcement surprising. He never missed a show until he had to, when NBC had him trade jobs for a day with Katie Couric in a promotional gimmick, and does live stand-up comedy dates when he's not working on TV.

"You can do these things until they carry you out on a stretcher or you can get out while you're still doing good," he said. "I'm not quitting show business, but I realized I'm not spending enough time with my cars."

Leno said he called his friend, Jerry Seinfeld, for advice on life after leaving the TV gig of a lifetime.

"Seinfeld has proven how you can move beyond TV and continue to be as big and as popular and as in demand as ever without having to punch the clock every night," said Aaron Barnhart, television columnist for the Kansas City Star who used to write a newsletter on late-night.

For his first few years at "Tonight," Leno trailed Letterman in ratings and critical respect. But Leno eclipsed Letterman's CBS show among viewers in the 1995-96 season and hasn't looked back.

In the season that concluded last week, "Tonight" averaged 5.8 million viewers, a 2 percent increase over the previous year. Letterman's "Late Show" on CBS averaged 4.2 million, up 8 percent from the year before.

A Letterman representative declined comment on Monday's announcement.

O'Brien's previous contract was expiring this year. The last time he was up for a renewal, Fox tried to lure him with an earlier show, but O'Brien turned it down at the last minute. ABC, Fox and even CBS — if Letterman has any plans to retire himself in the next few years — might have been interested if he were a free agent.

In interviews, O'Brien, has expressed a mixture of ambition and loyalty to NBC. He debuted in his current time slot in September 1993.

"There is the curiosity to take the show earlier," O'Brien told The New York Times last spring. "But if going to another network for more money still means being seen by fewer people, what are you doing? Then it's just an ego thing." O'Brien's show reaches 2.5 million viewers a night, dominating its 12:35 a.m. ET time slot. The former "Saturday Night Live" comedy writer's first few months on the air was a well-chronicled disaster, and he narrowly escaped firing.

But he found his stride, and his quick wit has made his show a critical and commercial success.

Now, a man who once lived on 13-week contract renewals has signed a contract with a promise that he will take over the most famous late-night show in television in five years. It's an enormous expression of faith by NBC, betting that the fickle nature of public taste won't change much in five years.

O'Brien was not available to speak to reporters.

No decision has been made on whether O'Brien, whose show is New York-based, will move to California for "Tonight," but that's considered likely because its Hollywood connections help in booking guests, particularly since competitor Letterman is in New York.

Queen Latifah Gets A Little Jazzier

DENVER (AP) — Queen Latifah is getting a little jazzier. Five albums and 15 years after her hard-hitting hip-hop debut "All Hail the Queen," Queen Latifah is poised to release the jazz-obsessed "The Dana Owens Album" in which she sings standards.

"This is definitely not a one-shot deal," the singer, whose real name is Dana Owens, told The Denver Post in Sunday's editions. "Hopefully, with the success of it, I'll be in it till I'm dead. I've always looked at singing as something I can do forever. I don't know if I can rap forever. I don't know that I can stay as hot as the hottest girl in the game."

It was her experience in the 1998 feature film "Living Out Loud," co-starring alongside Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito, that led to her new album. She played nightclub singer Liz Bailey and sang a couple of jazz standards.

"The Dana Owens Album" is released this week.

The new album, where she tackles songs by Al Green and The Mamas & the Papas, is something of a departure for an artist whose last record was "Order in the Court," one of 1998's better efforts at combining R&B and hip-hop.

But she said she has a fully formed and finished hip-hop album in her back pocket just waiting for the right label. "I figured I'd drop this album first," she said. Still, her long-term plans are obvious. "Don't be surprised if I'm 65 and playing Vegas."

Scholars Study King Of Pop's Life, Music

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Michael Jackson, frequently savaged in the tabloid press, was picked apart by more rarified critics as scholars gathered for a conference on the pop star at Yale University.

Eighteen scholars from U.S. universities discussed sexual, racial and artistic aspects of Jackson's life and music Thursday and Friday in the first academic meeting to study him.

Jackson "in many ways is the black male crossover artist of the 20th century," said Seth Clark Silberman, who teaches about race and gender at Yale. "He has grown up in front of us, so we have a great investment in him, even though some people today may find his image disturbing."

Other universities have hosted conferences about Madonna and other pop stars, Silberman said.

The conference avoided details of the child molestation case against Jackson in California, but it did look at how the media has reported on the case. Jackson pleaded not guilty in April to child molestation and conspiracy charges. His trial is scheduled for Jan. 31.

Still, panelists discussed how pedophilia allegations have fed into false stereotypes about gays. Although Jackson married twice and has children, he has long battled rumors that he is gay, said Silberman, who is writing a book about Jackson.

Since his days as a child star, Jackson has made his image increasingly strange and contrary to sexual and racial expectations, Silberman said. Panelists discussed Jackson's plastic surgery and his skin tone change from dark to light (which Jackson says is due to a condition called vitiligo).

Todd Gray, who was Jackson's personal photographer for four years, described how Jackson asked him to retouch photos to make him appear lighter-skinned.

Record executives wanted Jackson to appear masculine in photos, while Jackson preferred pictures of himself kissing animals or hugging the Mickey Mouse mascot at Disneyland, Gray said.

Jackson often explores racial issues in his music, noted another panelist, Nora Morrison, a graduate student from Harvard University. In the video for "Beat It," she said, Jackson breaks up a fight between a black gang and a white gang, whose members then join in his dance moves.

Megan Burns, who is pursing a master's degree in fine art, said she looks at Jackson as "a self-created piece of art."

"He's contributed to the national discussion of race and gender, and that is an invaluable topic for all of us to discuss," she said.

Elliott Smith CD Released Year After Death

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — It's been almost a year since singer-songwriter Elliott Smith committed suicide, and fans and friends will be looking for answers as the posthumous "From a Basement on the Hill" is released.

Smith, known for his dark, introspective songs about love, loss and addiction was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment last year, and several factors pointed to suicide, police said.

Some fans said the 34-year-old singer-songwriter had finally given up fighting his depression and drug abuse. Smith's friends and family said the musician was getting better by working on a new album.

"From a Basement," was based on studio recordings done before Smith's death. His family sought out Rob Schnapf, who co-produced two of Smith's albums, and Joanna Bolme, the musician's former girlfriend, to mix the album, which comes out Oct. 19.

"It'll definitely be a strange moment," said Sean Croghan, a close friend of Smith's. "It's going to be pretty melancholy, a sweet sadness."

Born in Omaha, Neb., Smith grew up near Dallas and moved to Portland at age 14. After graduating from Hampshire College in Massachusetts, Smith returned to Portland and founded the punk band Heatmiser. On the side, he recorded three solo albums on independent labels that recalled the lush pop of the Beatles and the ballads of Nick Drake.

The sadness of Smith's songs, often set in minor keys, sometimes masked his intelligence and goofy sense of humor, said Croghan, who shared a house with Smith in Portland.

"He loved taking a joke and running it into the ground. He would repeat it a thousand times," Croghan said. "Elliott was depressed. Everybody knows that…. I equally saw Elliott as totally joyful and having fun and enjoying life."

Smith's big break came when Portland movie director Gus Van Sant used several of his songs on the soundtrack to the 1997 hit "Good Will Hunting." The song "Miss Misery" was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On."

The movie brought Smith's music to a mainstream audience, and he signed with Dreamworks Records, which released his next two albums, "XO" (1998) and "Figure 8" (2000).

Smith had completed recording most of the tracks on "From a Basement" when he died on Oct. 21, 2003, said his publicist, Felice Ecker.

A Los Angeles County coroner later ruled that Smith died from two stab wounds to the chest that could have been inflicted by himself or someone else. Police called the death a suicide.

"It was horrible and sad and devastating," said Charlie Ramirez, 31, who has run Smith's official fan site since 1997. "It was probably one of the biggest losses I had ever dealt with."

"From a Basement" offers only enigmatic clues to what happened last October and why. The songs, which range from bare guitar to full indie-rock arrangements, reflect Smith's usual mix of hope, frustration and weary resignation to life's injustices.

"I can't prepare for death any more than I already have," Smith sings in "King's Crossing." "All you can do now is watch the shells. The game looks easy. That's why it sells."

Friends say "From a Basement" shows a new direction for Smith, toward more complex songs and a wider variety of styles.

"To me, it's a recovery record," said Alex Steiniger, who heads the independent Portland music label and magazine In Music We Trust. "He sees the end of the tunnel and he's going for it, which makes it all the more ironic and perplexing."

So far, Smith's family has been tightlipped about their decision to release the album. Co-producers Schnapf and Bolme granted two interviews within a 24-hour period in June, then declined to speak with anyone else.

Smith's family "really felt a sense of commitment to getting this out there quickly," said publicist Ecker. "Elliott really wanted this album out there."

Celia Cruz Removed From U.S. Blacklist

MIAMI (AP) — Salsa queen Celia Cruz was removed from a U.S. list of suspected communists in 1965 after she performed and raised money for groups trying to overthrow Cuban President Fidel Castro, according to newly released immigration documents.

U.S. officials suspected in the 1950s that Cruz, who died last year of a brain tumor, supported Castro's communist government. She was refused a visa at least twice starting in 1952 because U.S. law at the time forbade entry to foreigners affiliated with communists.

Documents obtained by The Miami Herald for a story Thursday show she was finally granted permission to stay permanently in the United States in 1965.

"The record indicates that in July 1960 she fled as a defector from the Communist regime of Cuba," according to an Oct. 28, 1965, immigration service memorandum. "Since that time she has actively cooperated with anti-Communist, anti-Castro organizations through artistic performances and by campaigning for funds for those organizations."

The same memo said, "She has presented statements from a number of responsible persons attesting to her active opposition to Communism for at least the past five years."

Cruz kept her blacklisting a secret, and her husband, trumpeter Pedro Knight, has said she never mentioned it to him.