By PAT NASON and DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  Oct. 2, 2002 at 6:40 PM
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The National Italian American Foundation has announced that it will induct Robert De Niro and Sophia Loren into its Italian-American Hall of Fame in ceremonies on Sunday in Washington. An all-star line-up will be on hand for the festivities -- including Tony Bennett, Connie Francis, Jerry Lewis and Bobby Rydell. Sports stars expected to attend include U.S. World soccer coach Bruce Arena, baseball legends Yogi Berra and Tommy Lasorda, Olympic gold medallist Brian Boitano and Super Bowl-winning coach Joe Gibbs. The NIAF will also present Sony Music Entertainment chairman and CEO Tommy Mottola with an award for special achievement in the music industry. CNBC Anchor Ron Insana will serve as master of ceremonies. Lewis will be on hand to take part in the announcement of NIAF's new Dean Martin Scholarship in Music -- named for Lewis' one-time show business partner.


British pop star Robbie Williams has signed a new long-term deal with EMI calling for him to deliver at least six albums in return for wages estimated at anywhere between $78 million and $100 million. Williams has sold close to 20 million albums worldwide with the label, but he has yet to achieve major stardom in the United States. His new deal reportedly includes a commitment by EMI to push him hard in the U.S. market. EMI issued a statement to the London stock exchange Wednesday announcing the signing, and saying that it expected to profit from Williams' tours, publishing and other non-recording activities.


"Dr. Phil," the new talk show starring former "Oprah" regular Dr. Phil McGraw, is a ratings hit right out of the box in syndication. According to Nielsen, "Dr. Phil" beat all other syndicated shows in its premiere week -- except for "The Oprah Winfrey Show." The ratings news was not so good for other new TV talk shows. "The Caroline Rhea Show" and "The John Walsh Show" opened with substantially weaker numbers than "Dr. Phil." The new five-day-a-week daytime game shows "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and "Pyramid" did better. "Millionaire" had the best opening week numbers since "Hollywood Squares" premiered in syndication in September 1998.


Josh Lucas is turning into a big star, thanks to appearances in such movies as "A Beautiful Mind" and the new Reese Witherspoon hit "Sweet Home Alabama," but the Arkansas native is not so big yet that fans have learned to tell the difference between him and another southern heartthrob, Matthew McConaughey. "This guy came up to me on the street the other day and asked me for (McConaughey's) autograph," Lucas told USA Today. "I said, 'I'm not Matt.' He said, 'Yes you are.' I told him I wasn't, and he argued with me." Lucas said he later thought of a snappy comeback, to use when someone asks him if he is McConaughey. "I tell people once the naked bongo incident happened, I changed my name," said Lucas. The reference was to McConaughey's well-publicized brush with the law in 1999. The resemblance is remarkable, though. Lucas said when his own mother saw photos of McConaughey in Vanity Fair, she thought it was her son. Lucas' profile will probably get a little higher yet next year, when he co-stars with Erica Bana in director Ang Lee's movie version of the comic book classic "The Hulk." Lucas plays Major Glenn Talbot.


Today we're asking: "What was the longest time you were ever away from home?" Put HOME in the subject line and send to via the Internet.


Last week we asked about the accomplishments of which you are the most proud. From a quick dip into the inbox here is a sampling of your replies: Nearly all of the women who responded said that raising their children was their most important accomplishment. (I fully agree.) DavidK says that he was among the youngest ever to solo in an airplane. He was in early high school at the time. Eileen won her state's typing and shorthand championship three times while in high school. BettyRG says that she never missed a day in school from 1st grade through college. JohnG once held the California underwater breathing record. PhilS says that he, while in high school, managed to contact every nation on earth using ham radio. He was the youngest amateur ever to accomplish that. Me? I so pestered the folks at the Golden Gate Bridge that they allowed me to go to the top of the south tower and stay up there for half an hour. Of course, that was pre-9/11. TOMORROW: A look backward. GBA

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