Former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali was back in his hometown of Louisville, Ky. this week. He helped turn the first shovel of earth to begin construction of what will become the $41 million Muhammad Ali Center. Ali, the former Cassius Clay, joked with the audience and dignitaries. At one point he even did a magic trick, making a silk handkerchief disappear. To the delight of the crowd he did it a second time, explaining how the trick works. The initial phase of construction will see a huge parking facility built. The new structure, which may be finished by next summer, will accommodate about 450 vehicles. It will be a much-needed addition to the city's Riverfront sector. The garage will then form the "basement" for the Ali center. That building will not be opened until 2004. It will become the centerpiece for urban renewal in that part of Ali's hometown. The champ is now 60 and continuing to show the effects of Parkinson's disease.
LYNN, SPACEK MAKE SURPRISE JOINT APPEARANCE
When country singer Chely Wright was performing at Nashville's Wildhorse Saloon this week, the most she expected was to raise some money for her favorite charity, Reading, Writing and Rhythm. She co-founded the organization to raise funds to help improve young people's reading ability. But she got more than she bargained for. In the middle of a set mega-star Loretta Lynn walked onto the stage and started belting out her signature song "Coal Miner's Daughter." Wright was visibly shaken. Then, Hollywood star Sissy Spacek joined the two of them and the three linked arms and finished the song. Spacek, as you remember, won an Oscar for her portrayal of Lynn in the biopic named for Lynn's song. Wright told the audience: "I can die now. I can absolutely die." Before leaving the stage, Lynn complimented Wright's singing style, noting that she does the kind of songs that made the older singer famous. By the way, the photogenic Wright is among the most active in Nashville when it comes to charity work.
DANCER ANN MILLER TO HONOR CLASSIC FILMS
This coming weekend marks the start of a month-long celebration in New York City's Bryant Park, honoring Hollywood. The event, the Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, sponsored by HBO, will be the tenth time that classic movies have been shown and stars invited to share their memories. The first movie, the 1949 musical "On The Town," will be the first movie shown. One of its stars, the irrepressible dancer Ann Miller (fastest feet in the world, you know), will be in attendance. She'll be discussing the award-winning film (which also starred Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Jules Munshin) and talking about her other Hollywood experiences. "On the Town" is a film about three sailors with a 24-hour pass; they try to see "all the sights in just one day." It's a Technicolor travelogue of sorts of New York just after World War Two. Other classics to be shown include: "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "The Grapes of Wrath," "Lost Horizon," "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and "A Summer Place."
STATIONS ASKED TO PLAY CHARLES CLASSIC
If the head of Los Angeles-based Crossover Records get his wish, every radio station in America will play Ray Charles' classic recording of "America the Beautiful" at the same time ... on the stroke of midnight on the Fourth of July. Carolyn Baker, the company's chief executive officer, tells United Press International that she would like to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the release of the record and, of course, observe the holiday in what is a very trying time, by having every station in America air the record during the first seconds of the holiday. The record was a slow seller when it was initially released in 1972. Then, in 1976 (the Bicentennial year) it was played at the Winter Olympics while American skaters did their thing. Since that time it's been played at more and more events. It's been re-released. Ray was invited to sing it "in person" before the start of the Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran fight in Las Vegas. By the way, Sugar Ray Leonard's proper name is Ray Charles Leonard. His mother was a big Charles fan. Additionally, Ray had his first national hit in 1957. We'll keep you posted.
KENNY ROGERS' NEW ROLE: PHOTOGRAPHER
Whether you know it or not, singer Kenny Rogers is also an accomplished photographer. Some years ago he published a book of his work. Now, according to Country Music Times, he's about to print a follow-up book, "This is My Country." And, in conjunction with the release of the compilation, Rogers has lent more than a dozen of his black-and-white photographs of prominent country artists to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville for a special exhibit. It will be included in the price of admission to the facility and will be left up through the end of the year. Rogers notes that some of the photos are not what fans might expect. He says there are many ways to photograph people and many moods to capture. The public may see things they have not seen before, he told media at the opening of the show.
GIULIANI TO HONOR MIDWEST VOLUNTEERS
The folks in Indianapolis say they are thrilled with the announcement that the man dubbed "Mr. Mayor," former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani will make a major address in this city. The speech is scheduled just one week before the world commemorates the first anniversary of the events of Sept. 11. The city executive remembered for his "get your hands dirty" work in the aftermath of the terror attacks in his city is to deliver an address at the Murat Theater, recognizing the volunteer work of the many Hoosiers who went to New York in the days following the attacks. The Indianapolis Star says that Giuliani's appearance will serve as a fundraiser to help a local nonprofit family counseling center. Tickets are priced at $95. More than 60 members of the a group called the Indiana Task Force One went to NYC in the wake of Sept. 11. They will get free tickets and will share the stage with Giuliani.
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 354
Here's another one of those patented "non-controversial" questions we love to ask here: "What is your favorite hobby? How much time a month do you devote to it? Is it a costly one?" Put HOBBY in the subject line and send to firstname.lastname@example.org via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 349 (SLEEP)
Last week we wondered what ritual you followed to try to get some sleep. Here is a sampling of replies from the inbox: Constant contributor keke says that "a banana and a calcium supplement put me into the deepest sleep. Occasionally, I take a Melatonin supplement." For Rose, whom we haven't heard from for a while, "contemplation" is the key. She writes, "I visualize being a very cool green blade of grass in an empty meadow, gazing up at 100-foot-tall poplar trees on a spring day. Sometimes I hear gurgling nearby." Wow, Rose, I nearly dozed off typing this. Donna is among many who noted that they fell asleep on the couch and then relocated to the bedroom in the wee small hours. PS says that she washes her face and then tries to relax. But, on the other side of the coin is poor Brenda. She never can fall asleep easily and asks for suggestions. Well, Brenda, old Benjamin Franklin once commented that the best thing to do is to take a cold shower, then walk around in the nude briskly getting really chilled. Then dry off and hop under the covers. I haven't tried it, but it may be worth a try. TOMORROW: Your thoughts on Fred Rogers. GBA.