By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  Sept. 25, 2002 at 4:50 PM
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Not long ago one of the biggest fans of 'NSync's Justin Timberlake was killed in an hit-and-run accident, likely caused by a drunken driver. Now, according to published reports, the 21-year-old photogenic singer is becoming the driving force behind a major nationwide public service campaign on behalf of Recording Artists, Actors and Athletes Against Drunk Driving (RADD). On the Sept. 9 one of his young fans, Anna White, was struck and killed by an assumed drunk driver while she was waiting in front of a southern California radio station, hoping to get a glimpse of Timberlake when he left the building. In a statement announcing the project, the singer noted that he wanted to raise the awareness of the dangers of driving after drinking ... even after just a few drinks.


The controversial writings of convict Robert Stroud -- immortalized as "The Birdman of Alcatraz" -- are going on the auction block. A former lawyer for Stroud tells media that the items will be announced later this year and go up for sale at an as-of-yet-unnamed auction site. Stroud became famous for his research into birds, much of it conducted while he was behind bars at Alcatraz. Many people don't realize that he also wrote a huge tome on his "growing up years" in rural Illinois, containing intimate details of his personal life. He also wrote a controversial five-volume work that detailed the history of the national prison system. Because of the muckraking nature of his treatise on prisons he was prevented by a court order from publishing his work during his lifetime. Stroud died in the early 1960s. Actor Burt Lancaster played Stroud in the 1962 film "The Birdman of Alcatraz," even though he looked nothing like the convict. One of the promotional lines from the ads for that movie read: "Inside the rock called Alcatraz they tried to chain a volcano they called 'The Bird Man.'" Ironically, Stroud never saw the film.


For years the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition has provided budding young pianists from around the world the chance to show what they can do, gain worldwide attention ... and earn some money. Now PBS says it will air a unique series of concerts, based on the playing of several of the contestants. The entire project, to be called "Concerto," will be under the baton of James Conlon. His publicist tells me that the series will be presented as six 30-minute broadcasts. During the series the piano music of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Beethoven and Prokofiev will be presented, as performed by the contestants in the international competition. Conlon is considered to be one of the world's finest directors and is a favorite among young musicians, many of whom he has sponsored and championed over the years. This is the 11th year for the Cliburn competition, named in honor of Texan Van Cliburn, who dazzled the world by winning an international piano competition in the Soviet Union in 1960 (at age 25). It was one of the first events to break some of the ice of the Cold War. For more information, check out on the Internet.


When singing star-actress Shirley Jones and her funnyman husband Marty Ingels discovered that a small parcel of land was up for sale in downtown Big Bear, Calif., they decided to buy the property. Many thought they might be going into the restaurant business. But the couple decided to build a park in honor of those who died on Sept. 11, 2001. Columnist Liz Smith says that Jones, "the original 'Oklahoma!' sweetheart," and her long-time hubby live in the mountain resort town of Big Bear. That's about two hours east of Los Angeles. They used their clout to obtain about three feet of debris from Ground Zero. That material will become part of the planned park and memorial. Good for Shirley and Marty.


Bill Clinton has become a wandering former president. His latest jaunt is taking him on an extensive trip through parts of Africa. The New York Post says that Mr. Clinton has been joined by Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey and "Rush Hour" star Chris Tucker on a trip that will take them through Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Mozambique and South Africa. The journey is being made in a private plane owned by "financial wizard" Jeffrey Epstein. By the way, Tucker is slated to portray this country's first black president in an upcoming project called "Mr. President." The film has apparently been in the works for several years. Not much else is known about the trip, nor how the three travelers connected and decided to go on the safari.


The Fox Broadcasting Co. says that rising young comedian Ron White has signed a deal with that company to star in a network comedy series that could get off the ground as early as the fall 2003 season. According to the Hollywood Reporter, White has been making the rounds with "down-home comic" Jeff Foxworthy and with Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy on what has been called the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. The highly successful tour has taken in more than $12 million and performances have been taped by Warner's for a concert-style feature film to be released next year. White has also been tapped to appear on Letterman next month.


Here's today's survey question: "What personal accomplishment you have done is the one event of which you are the most proud? Put PRIDE in the subject line and send to via the Internet.


Last week we asked about a special day in your life. From a random sampling of the incoming e-mail box, here are some replies: Nok says that "the nicest thing anybody has ever done for me that really made my day happened several years ago on my 18th birthday. A male school friend of mine -- who at the time had a crush on me -- sent me two dozen roses and various other colorful flowers in a beautiful vase with a huge red bow on it. I was not sure he knew my birthday. Now he is my boyfriend and makes my day everyday!" (Great story. Thanks, Nok). Laurie in Washington state says that the day she read the question in this column was the day someone made her day. "A good friend Heather asked me to be her maid of honor. I was surprised and honored. (I said YES!)" Several wrote to say the day they were told they were expecting baby No. 1 was the big day. Just a sampling. Wish we had space to print them all. TOMORROW: Going to the fair. GBA

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