TALK ABOUT A SONG 'GOING COMMERCIAL'
When Target asked Stevie Wonder to record the "Christmas Song," it likely didn't think the CD would be up for a Grammy. But, that is what has happened. Target's invitation to Wonder to re-record the beloved Yuletide chestnut -- made famous by the late Mel Tormé -- was not the first time that the merchandiser had offered a mini-recording contract for a special project to an established star. But it's the first time that such a project has gotten the tremendous reaction that this one got. Variety is reporting that when Target tapped Wonder to do the recording, ostensibly for a series of TV ads (with the intention of releasing it to consumers), the company wasn't even thinking "Grammy." But what has transpired is the first "commercial" song to ever be nominated for that prestigious award. To show you how much advanced planning went into the project to put it together, all was not ready until last July; at that time the recording and video taping took place, well in advance of the Christmas holiday season.
MR. AND MRS. DOUGLAS GRACE U.K. COURT
Hundreds in a London court were surprised this week when Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones suddenly appeared. The reason that the couple was in court was to testify in a case involving the use of their wedding pictures. According to published reports, the couple went to court to try to get damages from a magazine called Hello! that reportedly made unauthorized use of several photos of the Douglas/Zeta-Jones wedding, a lavish event that took place in 2000. Originally the couple had sold the exclusive rights to the photographs to a publication called OK!, which is a rival of Hello! in international celebrity publishing. The contract with OK! reportedly was in the $1.6 million price range. The couple is expected to be back in court later this month when formal proceedings get under way.
FAITH HILL SAYS 'YES' TO AWARDS SHOW SPOT
Add Faith Hill to the list of high-profile entertainers who will perform at the upcoming CMT Flameworthy Video Music Awards. Producers tell us that Hill recently said "yes" to an invitation. Shortly before, Kenny Chesney (one of country music's quickly rising stars) and mega "crossover" star Shania Twain accepted invitations to perform. The Flameworthy awards are the only fan-voted awards show for country stars and, unlike the Grammys or Oscars, the audience is made up of fans who scramble to get tickets. The event, set for April 7, is expected to draw a TV audience of more than 6 million viewers.
MEDIA GIANTS TO BE HONORED BY AIDS GROUP
The group American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) is about to honor television producer Lorne Michaels and publisher Anna Wintour. Michaels is, of course, the creator and producer of "Saturday Night Live." Wintour has, for years, been the driving force behind Vogue magazine. The group tells United Press International that both are being honored because of their past media work in support of AIDS research and programs. The amfAR group was first started in the mid-1980s. Over the years, it has been able to invest more than $207 million in supporting worldwide research into AIDS and related diseases. Nearly 2,000 research teams are working on the issue around the globe. The honorary chairpersons for the event are Bill and Sen. Hillary Clinton. The soiree will take place on Feb. 3, in Manhattan.
SURGERY AHEAD FOR SINGER HEIDI NEWFIELD
One of the group Trick Pony, Heidi Newfield, is headed for a Nashville hospital for throat surgery. According to country.com, Newfield has simply "over-sung" in the past few years, pushing her voice to the limits -- particularly in venues with bad sound systems. In addition, she's been doing many dates were she had to perform several sets in one evening. The surgery, on her vocal cords, will be done by noted throat surgeon Dr. Robert Ossoff. He's director of a medical clinic that is likely unknown to most people who are outside of Nashville, the Vanderbilt Voice Clinic. The facility was established to help singers, such as Newfield, who strained their vocal cords during hours and hours of rehearsals and live performances. Because of Newfield's planned surgery, her group has had to reschedule some of its tour dates. She tells the news provider that she'll be "out there singing better and stronger than ever."
CHEF SERVES UP $50 BURGER
A New York City chef has come up with Manhattan's most-expensive burger, a $50 concoction -- and people are buying it. According to the New York Post, chef Daniel Boulud created the burger to eclipse the previous record, a $41 Kobe Beef Burger, just introduced last week at an eatery called the Old Homestead. The half-hundred-dollar burger is being cooked up by Boulud at a place called the DB Bistro Moderne. By the way, Boulud set records some time ago when his $29 burger was the most expensive in the Big Apple. When the Old Homestead raised the ante, the chef swung into action. In case you wonder what differentiates the $50 burger from any run-of-the-mill burger, here are the ingredients: Layers of freshly shaved black truffles mixed with a combination of ground sirloin and ground chuck, with fois gras and braised short ribs. The entire gastronomic gut-buster is topped with horseradish mayonnaise and tomato and served on a freshly baked parmesan bun. Instead of pedestrian fries, the burger comes with what are being called "potato puffs." Now let's see, based on a ratio provided by most fast food chains, the accompanying soft drink would be priced at about $37.50. Anyone have change for a $100 bill?
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 504
The price for the $50 burger in NYC isn't surprising. I remember visiting the Big Apple while in high school to attend a convention of Key Club, a high school offshoot of Kiwanis. I went into a lunchroom and ordered two burgers and a milk shake. When the bill arrived, I actually asked the waiter if several other people had added their bill to mine. "This is New York," he retorted. "You must not be from here!" Luckily, a friend entered just in time to lend me the money to pay for the lunch, which was five times what it would have been in Indiana. So, today's question: "Have any memories of ending up paying an outlandish price for a meal?" Put OVERCHARGE in the subject line and send to firstname.lastname@example.org via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 499 (MISSING)
Well, in this wonderful world of computers strange things can happen. That's apparently what happened last week when a glitch prevented many from seeing Thursday's column. So, today we're saving ink. See you tomorrow. GBA.