By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  Nov. 19, 2001 at 5:21 PM
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Even though Warner Bros. executives were making extremely conservative estimates of the possible initial weekend box office take for "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," initial reports show that it has set a record -- pulling in an estimated $93.5 million. Fans of the Potter books have been awaiting the movie for some time. Reviewers who saw the film when it opened in England called it a "near perfect movie." Combine the interest in the books, the sterling reviews and the "cuter than a child ought to be" face of actor Daniel Radcliffe and "Potter" has turned out to be massive. Reviewer Rodney Ho, writing in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, says it's not likely that the total receipts from the movie's run will top "Titanic," but, showing in a record number 3,672 theaters (with some 8,000 prints mailed out), it has the potential of coming close.


In the months following the track accident that took the life of racing icon Dale Earnhardt, NASCAR has made many changes. Many are a direct result of the incredible Sherlock Holmes-esque detective work that has taken place since. Published reports show many changes have been enacted since Earnhardt died of massive head injuries: Mandatory use of head-and-neck restraints by all drivers; further investigation of the use of belts, with new designs to be introduced soon; more testing of energy-absorbing materials for cars; the hiring of a medical specialist to travel the circuit and the addition of a full-time accident investigator to the NASCAR staff. Ironically, even after three drivers died in crashes during the 2000 season, no changes in cars or procedures were enacted. It took the death of the much-loved Earnhardt to start the safety ball rolling.


During this past weekend President Bush yielded the floor of his usual Saturday radio address to allow his wife, Laura, to make a strong plea for equal rights for women, vis-a-vis the war against terrorism. First lady Bush used her time to again state that the Taliban has abused the teachings of Islam in its oppression of women. Many TV news organizations, including CNN, showed video footage of women in Afghanistan as an overlay to her audio remarks. She noted that with the liberation of much of that country people there are rejoicing. She listed many ways in which Afghan women have been abused and treated horribly under Taliban rule, including having their fingernails pulled out if they wore nail polish. Among other restrictions placed on women has been the shutting down of all schools of higher learning for women and no education for any girl over the age of eight; women may only work in the home; women may not appear in public alone and all must be covered from head to foot.


Country music star Travis Tritt says he is ecstatic about the success of his latest CD, "Down the Road I Go." The news provider reports that the disc has just gone platinum. It's the seventh Tritt venture to reach that sales level. Tritt admits that a couple of years ago he thought his career was on the wane and he might never get back into the top 10 in the country world. He made the remarks during a party late last week in Nashville, held at an area watering hole for friends and record promoters. Tritt is also about to expand his Web site to include more biographical information and photographs. For those who are not fans of country music and can't put a face with the name, try going to on the Internet.


Venerable actress Elaine Stritch has become the darling of New York theater society with her one-woman show, in which she talks about her personal life for nearly three hours. Gossip columnist Liz Smith says her performances have become so popular that the show will soon be moving to a larger theater to accommodate more patrons. The show is currently running at the Public Theater. It's called "Elaine Stritch at Liberty." A more uptown location will be announced soon. Stritch has had a long career. She created the role of Joanne in the musical "Company." In addition to myriad roles on Broadway, she's been in nearly 40 movies and made countless TV guest appearances. You may remember her as Aunt Polly in 1973's "Pollyanna." She was also Mrs. DeGroot for a time on "The Edge of Night." Stritch will be 77 next February.


It's difficult to believe that one of Hollywood's most beautiful actresses, Gwyneth Paltrow, used to be an ugly duckling. But that's what she tells the latest issue of YM magazine. Paltrow, who just turned 29, tells the publication that she was skinny and clumsy and wore braces. She even notes that she had a bad haircut. While attending Spence, an exclusive girls school, she says she was "gawky and boys didn't like me." She even says that a more popular classmate used to call her with fictitious accounts of how certain boys wanted to date her. "It was all a lie," she says. Winner of the Oscar for her role in 1998's "Shakespeare in Love," she has the theater in her blood. She's the daughter of director Bruce Paltrow and Tony award-winning actress Blythe Danner. And, in spite of the popular perception, the Los Angeles-born Gwyneth is not British.


Here's a question that might not make sense to younger readers, but to baby boomers it will. On the country's highways, for decades Burma Shave put up sets of signs that displayed four-line poems on five spaced-out placards with the last one saying, "Burma Shave." Today you'll occasionally see the gimmick used by highway departments with phrases such as, placed just ahead of passing zones: "If you can wait/another mile/You'll find you'll have/ a happy smile." So, anyone seen any Burma Shave-esque signs lately, or have memories of the old ones?" What's your favorite one? Put SIGNS in the subject line and send to via the Internet.


Last week we asked you to send your comments in an open forum. We got tons of answers, many about the holidays. Here is a sampling of replies: Anne, writing about this week's feast and celebration, notes that she "tries to make everyone happy on Thanksgiving. Between the in-laws and my parents ... I try to split the time between both. It is very hard." Liz shares a neat thought about putting our life's priorities into perspective. She says that "the easiest way to determine the important of something is to compare it to the many stars in the sky. Once you look up to the skies, it is easier to determine the magnitude of importance in relation to everything else ... one star versus a zillion stars." Karen wonders if anyone else has as cluttered a lifestyle as her. She says, "I am a family childcare provider and am battling to streamline my home, my workload and my LIFE!" She notes she bought a computer to aid in doing this, only to find that she spent time on line playing games. It backfired! GBA.

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