By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  Feb. 27, 2002 at 5:40 PM
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One of the biggest stars of country music, Faith Hill, has been asked to perform on the 74th annual Oscar show on March 24. Her publicist says that Hill will sing "There You'll Be." The song was written by Diane Warren for the soundtrack of "Pearl Harbor." It's nominated for best original song. The ballad made a major splash on the country charts, peaking at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks listing last summer. Hill tells CMT that she is "honored to have been asked to perform Diane's song on the Oscars." This will be her second performance on "movies' major night." She was asked at the last minute to fill in for Whitney Houston two years ago. As you know, this year's Oscar-fest marks the first time the awards will originate from their new permanent home, the Kodak Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. The glitzy, horribly expensive digs are just yards from where the first presentations were handed out at a dinner nearly three-quarters of a century ago.


Few high visibility stars have been as active in the fight for a cure for AIDS as has Elizabeth Taylor. Now, according to reports, she has used the occasion of her 70th birthday as a rallying cry for those with the disease to "hang in there." A star since her pre-teens, the gracefully aging actress -- beset by a slew of health problems over the years -- is no stranger to hospitals and medications. She told friends at a Tuesday party that she still feels 45 and "I don't look bad for my age." The living legend of Hollywood first arrived in Tinseltown at age 12, stunning studio executives at MGM with her adult-like beauty, intense nature and electric violet eyes. She says that for the rest of her life she will continue to stage benefits for AIDS research.


One of the superstars of modern-day entertainment, Garth Brooks -- only recently emerged from a self-imposed exile from the stage -- will participate in a major program aimed at getting kids to read. The National Education Association's "Read Across America" project confirms that Brooks will make a tour of national appearances starting this week to promote the cause. His first was a visit with the folks at "Good Morning America." During the broadcast, he talked about his plans to read to elementary school students in various cities across the country, while raising the awareness level of the problems of a society that "watches" rather than "reads." Among the cities on his tour: Los Angeles, Nashville, Tucson, Tulsa and Clarksdale, Miss. At several stops along the way, he will be joined by other country stars, including Steve Wariner, at the Nashville stopover.


It was only half a decade ago that Josh Hartnett was a total unknown ... at least outside of his hometown in rural Minnesota. Sidelined by an injury, he gave up plans to play football for a career in acting. And, clichés notwithstanding, the rest is history. Now People magazine has printed a major layout on the photogenic "hunk," showing his meteoric rise from the cornfields of his native state in the Midwest to the rank of major star. And, he's still only 23. The photos are amazing. Some, taken only a few years ago, show a still-cutesy clean-cut boy with a baby face and baby fat. Ah, but maturation can be a wonderful thing and Hartnett now ranks among the most sought-after stars in Hollywood. According to other media reports, though, he is not a brat or a camera hog. Showing up for interviews about as conservatively dressed and demeanored as you can get, he comes off as a genuinely likable guy, so far not tainted with his success. Let's hope he stays that way. He could be the next Jimmy Stewart. By the way, the latest issue of the New York Post has columnist Richard Johnson referring to Russell Crowe in opposite terms: "Behaving like an insecure punk."


When former Texas Gov. Ann Richards appeared this week at the New York Drama League gala, it appears that she could not completely shirk her penchant for political name-calling. Famous for her remark about the current president's dad, saying that he was "born with a silver foot in his mouth," some of her remarks at the combination tribute and "roast" rubbed some in the audience the wrong way. Published reports indicate that there was some booing from the ranks of those in attendance when she criticized the current Bush administration, mentioning the botched vote count in Florida and the White House's association with Enron. At one point, as the booing increased, she told the crowd that she was unaware she had so many friends on the GOP side of the aisle. The event was held to honor longtime gossip maven Liz Smith.


Britney Spears is now the queen of the arcade games. American-based game-maker THQ has completed engineering its latest game in which Spears -- still waiting for the calendar to catch up with her accelerated hormonal clock -- appears in a leather cat suit and tries to succeed in a virtual world. Additionally, "Britney's Dance Beat" will allow users to dance and sing along with their idol. The game was developed with the singer's full cooperation and her personal touches are evident in each gyration.


If you are as disorganized as I am, you need a lot of "crutches" around to help you meet your commitments. For example, remember the question from some months ago about the number of clocks you have? Well, here's a follow up: "How many calendars do you have in your possession -- including home, office, electronic ... all of them?" Put CALENDAR in the subject line and send to via the Internet.


Last week I mentioned that my car was due for some long-awaited body work, after a pickup truck backed over my hood, then the driver claimed I rear-ended him. Too bad none of you were around as a witness. I asked your experiences with car repairs. Here are some of the replies: Pat writes to say that she hates mechanical things and they hate her. She says she twice she's had major damage, in the $350 dollar range. Each time her deductible was $300. Sounds like my $500 deductible. Barbara says her '78 Ford T-Bird "has been hit 10 times in the past 25 years. Every time the body shop has been able to put it back together with no problem. And since the T-Bird is so well put together she once found Subaru parts all over the street when her car sustained only minor damage. Len in 'Vegas says he's had too many bad experiences with the body shop where he takes his car and can't wait to get another brand and another body shop. Cards reports that her son returned to campus from a trip only to find that his Jimmy had been jimmied and lots of dashboard stuff taken. That car also had a $500 deductible. She says the minor stuff goes unfixed because of a high out-of-pocket share and wishes she were a mechanic. Elizabeth says she once hit a car which came from out of nowhere. She had no choice other than to slam on the brakes and brace herself. When both cars came to a stop, the driver who caused the accident emerged from his car and started yelling at the top of his voice: "It's her fault. She hit me." Suddenly Elizabeth's guardian angel emerged from a crowd of people and gave a true account of what happened. That guardian angel turned out to be a state trooper. Finally, Jane's son says his mom's car sustained major damage from hail. She got a $3,000 check to cover the damage. "You know," she told her son, "that car doesn't look that bad ... and the check looks even better. TOMORROW: Keeping up with old classmates and Friday a look at indigestion. GBA.

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