By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  May 6, 2002 at 4:31 PM
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The Hollywood director who dazzled movie audiences with an array of sparkling musicals has died. Popular George Sidney died over the weekend at his home in Las Vegas. The Review-Journal newspaper in that city says he died of lymphoma. Sidney started his career as a child actor, finally rising to the status of director for such memorable musical movies as "Annie Get Your Gun," the 1951 remake of "Showboat," and "Kiss Me Kate." He was also the driving force behind "Anchors Aweigh," "Ziegfeld Follies," "The Eddy Duchin Story" and "Bye Bye Birdie." Additionally, during the 1960s he was the head of the Screen Directors Guild -- now merged with the Radio and Television Directors Guild to form the powerful Directors Guild of America. Outgoing, funny, a good host and a great guest, friend to many in Hollywood and in his adopted Nevada home ... George Sidney was 85.


Sadly deteriorating and losing his ability to communicate, one of the great thinkers of all time, Stephen Hawking, has a great new book out that's selling like the proverbial hotcakes. The New York Post says that "The Theory of Everything" was written by Hawking in a unique style that makes some of the most complex theories of the universe accessible to the common man and woman. And, like many people who have used their mind to go where few others have gone before, he answers "yes" to the question: "Is there a God?" Hawking responds by saying that you "cannot understand the glories of the universe without believing there is some Supreme Power behind it." Hawking, who turned 60 in January, has what is commonly called Lou Gehrig's Disease, or ALS, which slowly destroys all muscle tone. Hawking was first hit with the ailment while in college at Oxford. For more information on Hawking, his work, and ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) check out on the Internet.


Beginning in the 1940s station KWKH in Shreveport, La., broadcast a weekly radio program called "The Louisiana Hayride." In many ways, it was a real rival to the "Grand Ole Opry," though there are many who have never heard of it. Over the weekend, a ton of country stars converged on Shreveport to help the city remember the old show and recreate its magic. Country Music Times says the event took place in the broadcast's old home, the city's Municipal Auditorium. The re-creation was the culmination of a four-day country event called the Southern American Music Conference. Among those on the play list, the Cox Family (featured on "O Brother, Where Art Thou?") as well as Kenny Wayne Shepherd, members of Stevie Ray Vaughan's original band and many "regulars" from the old days, including Doug Kershaw and Merle Kilgore. The show lasted for four hours. The original "Hayride" was heard from 1948 until the early 1980s in one form or another. One of its most famous alumni is Elvis, who was a regular in the second half of 1954, before the rest of the world discovered him. Also making broadcast debuts on the show were Hank Williams Sr. and Kitty Wells.


If you're a teenager and down on your looks check out the latest edition of People magazine, in paper and on line. Included is a photo essay on actress Nicole Kidman. And, boy has she "evolved," from a smiling, rosy-cheeked, shaggy-haired teenager to one of the world's most beautiful women. People includes a full layout of "transformational" photos of Kidman as she matured into the in-demand actress she is today. Now, at age 34, she's light years away from the gawky, awkward teen of the past. She tells the publication that when in her "formative" years it was her sister Antonia who got the stares, not she.


One of the most famous of American monetary experts used a stockholders' meeting in Omaha, Neb., over the weekend, to issue a rather doom-and-gloom prediction. Warren Buffett told the group from Berkshire Hathaway, where he is chief executive officer, that he thinks a major American city will be nuked sometime in the future. Buffett also noted that companies, such as the one he was addressing, lost tons of money in insurance claims and related costs in the wake of Sept. 11. By the way, the non-optimistic Buffett didn't say when he thinks a terrorist will pull the pin on the "big one." But, according to Buffett's "big bang theory," the horrible act could happen as long as 50 years from now. If the attack does come in 50 years, the billionaire investor -- thought to be the second-richest man in the world -- will be his early 130s.


When Dennis Tito bought a chance to join a Russian spaceflight, he was already a well-known California millionaire. Another would-be spaceflier, Mark Shuttleworth, is a wealthy South African. Lance Bass, a singer with N'Sync, wants to go into space, but he's also famous already. Now an unknown, otherwise-average Virginia housewife has put in a request to "break the surly bonds of earth." Published reports indicate that 40-year-old aerobics instructor Lori Garver fashions herself as "AstroMom." But before the energetic Garver will be accepted she'll have to come up with the $20 million fare. She's been seeking funding from corporate sponsors who want the publicity. She says it will be good for space exploration if an "Everywoman" makes a successful flight.


Every day life offers us something new and exciting. Even though I lived in Washington for 20 years and Los Angeles for four, and now Las Vegas for more than a year and a half -- and even though I've owned a car since 1963 -- I never had a car stolen until over the weekend. But, the police found it. Ironically it was one of half-a-dozen 1996 red Plymouth Neons stolen and recovered from what is being called "The Night of the Red Neons." Only damage was to the ignition switch and steering column. Now I start the car with a spoon handle. So ... you guessed it ... today's question: "Ever had your car stolen? What happened?" Put STOLEN in the subject line and send to via the Internet.


Last week we asked about the commercials you hate the most. Don't tell the folks at Verizon Wireless this, but the spot in which the question "Can you hear me?" is repeatedly asked was sent in by more than a third of respondents. I've not seen it, but it must be really irritating. A quick sampling of others: Any spot with Carrot Top in it. All the recent Dell commercials. Gateway is getting "old," one suggested. Bow Flex scored badly, as did any local car dealership. TOMORROW: Your feelings about Canada. GBA.

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