PAT NASON and DENNIS DAILY, United Press International


According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, Oprah Winfrey turned down a request by the Bush administration to be part of an official U.S. delegation to tour Afghanistan's schools and celebrate the return of young girls to the classroom following the fall of the Taliban regime. "Given her responsibility to the show, she isn't adding anything to her calendar," said a representative of Winfrey's production company. "She was invited, but she respectfully declined." The paper said that, after Winfrey's turndown, the White House postponed the trip -- which was also supposed to feature some of the top women serving in the administration. The Tribune reported that Bush's political advisers think that including Winfrey in the tour would have been good for the president's standing with women voters. Polls showed Bush's stock as a candidate for president rose after his appearance on Winfrey's top-rated daytime talk show.



Jim Brown will miss the West Coast premiere of Spike Lee's HBO documentary, "Jim Brown: All American." He's in a Ventura County, Calif., jail cell, serving a six-month sentence in connection with his 1999 conviction for vandalizing his wife's car. His wife, Monique, however, plans to be there for the premiere, according to Hollywood columnist Marilyn Beck. Brown has fasted since beginning his jail term two weeks ago, but sheriff's spokesman Eric Nishimoto told the Los Angeles Times the fast is not meant as a protest. "I know Mr. Brown has been very vocal about his incarceration, but he gave us assurances that his fasting had nothing to do with any kind of protest," Nishimoto said. "He communicated to us that he knows his limits. He's not out to kill himself. He communicated that it's a personal thing he does to cleanse himself and that it's something he's done before, outside of custody." Lee told the paper that Brown phoned him two days into his sentence to tell him that he was fasting. "Gandhi fasted," said Lee. "Dr. King fasted. Reverend Al Sharpton fasted. People do that. It shows that it's mind over matter, it's about becoming stronger and in tune spiritually." Lee said the idea behind prison is to "break you down and take your soul and will. And they've been trying to break Jim Brown for a long time -- law enforcement, Hollywood, take your pick." Brown, a member of the football Hall of Fame and a professional actor since his retirement from the NFL, has been charged with domestic violence five times, but the 1999 case was his only conviction. He could have avoided jail by paying a fine, contributing to a battered women's shelter and seeking counseling. He refused, arguing that although he damaged the car, he did not harm his wife.



According to a report in the New York Daily News, Darryl Strawberry's wife, Charisse Strawberry, is dating -- a sign that the former baseball superstar may have been right recently when he said: "I've destroyed my marriage, and I've destroyed my relationship with my wife." The paper said Charisse has been hanging with several friends who play in the NBA -- and that she has grown "close" to one of them. The former Mets and Yankees slugger was kicked out of an Ocala, Fla., rehab center March 12, after he was caught having sex with another resident there. He was sent to Hillsborough County Jail, and faces a court date in Tampa Monday. Strawberry faces up to 18 months in prison for breaking the rules at the rehab center. Long before the dalliance at the rehab center, Strawberry was testing his wife's patience. He was arrested in 1999 for soliciting an undercover cop posing as a hooker. Last year, he admitted to smoking crack with a woman when he went missing in violation of his probation. Charisse -- who works as a reporter on a Tampa cable channel -- wrote in her 1998 book, "Recovering Life," that her husband would lose everything if he didn't straighten out. "Darryl knows that if he loses his sobriety and goes back to his old ways, he loses everything else," she wrote. "No more baseball. No more family."



Liza Minnelli has fired back at soap actress Ruth Warrick, who recently told the Globe that Minnelli's new husband, David Gest, is something less than a true ladies' man. Warrick -- who appears on "All My Children" -- had been quoted as saying that Gest had been "secretly into men, not women, for the entire 25 years I've known him." Warrick was interviewed by a Globe reporter at the star-studded Minnelli-Gest wedding reception. She now denies making some of the remarks attributed to her in the Globe -- but admits to having regrets for some of the things she did say -- including that Gest had asked her to marry him five years ago. "It's all a big mistake," she said. "I never should have said it. I feel very badly about it. I guess I was a little giddy. I feel terrible to rain on their parade." Warrick denies she ever said Gest is homosexual. In a statement given to the New York Post, Minnelli said she is satisfied with Gest's sexual bona fides. "I know many of my husband's ex-girlfriends who will agree that if every man was as good in bed as David, there would be a lot of happy women in the world," the Post quoted Minnelli. Gest more or less skirted the issue when he and Minnelli showed up on "Larry King Live" on CNN. "I know who I am," he said. "That's the important thing. She knows who she is, and we're so in love we've got our own world."



Hip-hop superstar Mos Def is taking his acting chops to Broadway, as one of the stars of the new play "Top Dog/Underdog" by Suzan-Lori Parks. The play is about two brothers -- one named after President Lincoln, the other named after his assassin, John Wilkes Booth -- and their struggle with issues of class, poverty and identity. Mos Def -- variously known as Dante Terrell Smith, Dante Beze, Smith Dante -- will play Booth. Oscar-nominated actor Don Cheadle played the role when the show ran off-Broadway. Mos Def has appeared in such feature films as "Bamboozled" and "Monster's Ball." This will be his first time on Broadway. The show, now in previews, is scheduled to open April 7.


Well, it's been quite a week in the world of entertainment ... the Oscars, the deaths of Dudley Moore, Milton Berle and Billy Wilder. So question No. 300 is in that vein: "What specific movie, TV or radio show or stage play or other performance either moved you the most or looms largest in your mind?" Put PERFORMANCE in the subject line and sent to via the Internet.



Last week we asked your predictions about this year's Oscar awards. We, of course, only counted those replies that were sent in BEFORE the broadcast. My congratulations to those who responded. With one exception your predictions were right on the mark. The exception was the best actor award. Most thought that Russell Crowe would win for his starring role in "A Beautiful Mind." But the academy picked Denzel Washington for "Training Day." Some say that most voters just didn't want to sit through another Crowe acceptance speech! Thanks to all who voted and yes, the Washington award surprised a lot of us. GBA.

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