Midler: Low point for pop
SYDNEY, Australia -- Veteran diva Bette Midler labeled modern female pop singers characterless Wednesday in Sydney at the start of her first Australian tour in 26 years, and criticized them for lip-synching during supposedly live performances, reports Agence France-Presse. The 59-year-old singer and actress, whose career spans four decades, said she found it difficult to relate to recent rap-dominated chart music and expected many modern female pop stars to "fall by the wayside." "It's a strange time," she said. "I don't want to say it's the dark ages for music but a lot of people have put that forward and said it's not such a great time." "Certainly it's not a great time for rock and roll and for popular music in general -- it's kinda hard to tell the characters apart," she continued. "But then it's hard to tell the characters apart in everything -- maybe that's a function of age. It probably is." Midler, who performs her latest show "Kiss My Brass" with a full horn section onstage, said she would never lip-synch her way through performances like many younger stars. "I just can't do that ... I guess because I came up singing and dancing at the same time, to me it's not so frightening. For a lot of kids it is -- for the younger ones it's scary."
Swank's fruit leads to fine
AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- A court has slapped two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank with a $142 fine after she failed to declare she was carrying an apple and an orange during a January visit to the country, reports E! Online. Officials at Auckland International Airport found the hidden produce after the 30-year-old Swank flew in on a Jan. 15 flight from Los Angeles. The "Million Dollar Baby" star was subsequently notified that she had violated New Zealand's strict quarantine laws that require all international travelers to declare all food items, including fruits, to prevent exotic pests and diseases from potentially wreaking billions of dollars in damage to its agriculture and livestock industries. As a result, Swank was handed a fine, but instead of paying it as many do on the spot, she decided to go a few rounds with an appeals court.
O'Connor in Jamaica
KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Sinead O'Connor is in Jamaica recording a reggae album with some of the country's leading musicians. The Irish pop singer has been in Kingston since last week working on tracks for the album, co-producer Sly Dunbar said Wednesday. He said the album, set for release this summer by British-based Sanctuary Records, will include covers of some of reggae's most famous protest songs -- Bob Marley's "War," Peter Tosh's "Downpressor Man" and Burning Spear's "Marcus Garvey." Dunbar, a drummer, and Robbie Shakespeare, a bass player, are co-producing the album. They are believed to be one of the world's best rhythm sections. In 1980, they founded the Taxi record label, which has promoted the careers of stars such as Black Uhuru, Ini Kamoze, Beenie Man and Red Dragon. O'Connor, 38, is best known for her 1991 hit, "Nothing Compares 2 U."
Gill, Keith to headlineOklahoma City concert
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma natives Vince Gill and Toby Keith will headline an April 22 benefit concert to honor rescue workers, survivors and family members of victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. April 19 is the 10th anniversary of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing, which killed 168 people in downtown Oklahoma City. Other Oklahoma natives who will perform include Ty England, Jimmy Webb, Byron Berline and Katrina Elam. The concert is designed to honor those who died or suffered losses in the bombing and also to thank the first emergency responders, said Lee Allan Smith, chairman of the Oklahoma Centennial Projects and Events. "The concert is a way for the memorial to thank the people of Oklahoma who've worked so hard to support us with their generosity and giving spirit," said Kari Watkins, executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
Actor George Grizzard is 77. Actress Jane Powell is 77. Actress Grace Lee Whitney is 75. Actress Debbie Reynolds is 73. Country singer Jim Ed Brown is 71. Actor Don Hastings is 71. Blues singer Eddie King is 67. Actress Ali MacGraw is 67. R & amp;B singer Rudolph Isley is 66. Reggae singer Jimmy Cliff is 57. Jazz musician Gil Scott-Heron is 56. Rock musician Billy Currie (Ultravox) is 53. Movie director Barry Sonnenfeld is 52. Country singer Woody Lee is 37. Movie directors Albert and Allen Hughes are 33. Tennis player Magdalena Maleeva is 30. Singer Bijou Phillips is 25. Actor Sam Huntington is 23. Actor Josh Zuckerman is 20.