By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  Dec. 5, 2002 at 5:42 PM
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The TV show "Politically Incorrect" was one of those programs that you either loved or hated. The main reason for the bipolar feelings about the show had to be its host, comedian Bill Maher. Controversial as he was on the show, he demonstrated for millions of viewers that he's one funnyman who is no dummy. Now, months after the long-running late-night show went dark, Maher has emerged with a new book, one that CNN says is a call for renewed patriotism in this country. The book is called "When You Ride Alone You Ride With bin Laden." During a recent visit to the network's "TalkBack Live" show, Maher was visibly angered when he answered a question from a college-age student in the audience. He noted that some people think that making a sacrifice is un-American. The comedian noted that the American attitude should not be one of "anything goes." That's not true freedom. It was not that way during World War II, he noted. He also said that the country should not apologize about its flaws and weaknesses. Maher's new book is published by New Millennium.


Historians talk a lot about the first men on the moon -- Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin. But what about the astronauts who made this country's final mission to our nearest neighbor in space? Now, according to the publicist for a planned event, those astronauts and several other space and flight heroes will be honored Friday night at a special banquet commemorating the 30th anniversary of the flight of Apollo 17. The event will be held high in the Hollywood Hills at a posh estate, overlooking Beverly Hills. The hosts will be philanthropists-businessmen Lorsch and Bradley O'Leary. Both have been longtime supporters of NASA and space-related educational programs. Astronauts Aldrin, Eugene Cernan, James Lovell, Harrison Schmitt and Bill Shepherd will be on hand. Additionally, 37-year-old Erik Lindbergh -- grandson of Charles Lindbergh and recent 75th anniversary re-creator of his grandfather's historic flight -- has also been invited. The modern-day Lindbergh is vice president of a company offering a $10 million prize to the first "private" group to go into space. Several other previous members of NASA and space program management have been invited. This week's event will benefit the Astronaut Scholarship Fund. By the way, it was Schmitt and Cernan who took the lunar module to the surface of the moon in the final mission. Schmitt holds the distinction of being the only trained geologist to visit the moon. Cernan, who entered the module last prior to lift-off, still holds the distinction of being the "last man to set foot on the moon."


The Manhattan division of the Recording Academy has released the names of its special honorees for this year. Marc Anthony, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Clive Davis, Beverly Sills and Dionne Warwick are being given the group's "2002 Heroes" awards. The organization tells United Press International that the presentations are now in their seventh year. They were designed to honor outstanding individuals "whose creative talents and accomplishments cross all musical boundaries ..." In making the announcement, the group further noted that "each of the special artists has created his or her own unique legacy in the music industry, and each has contributed significantly both to the music community and the community at large." The proceeds from the VIP event will be used for community outreach programs being run by the local New York City chapter. In past years the honorees have included Carol King, Tony Bennett, Bernadette Peters and Diana Ross.


During the many years I was with the old UPI Radio Network, one of my most labor-intensive duties was to put together and then anchor the "year in review" broadcast. Even though it was a massive effort that entailed looking through thousands of scripts and logs and listening to hours and hours of tapes, it was very exciting. Even a major news event that is only months old can sometime re-emerge as a fun reminder of the year past. Yahoo! is doing the same this year on the Internet. Michelle Andersen tells us that, in addition to providing recaps in major news areas, including general news, music and sports, the online provider is asking readers to vote for the "person of the year." To participate, go to on the Internet.


How much of a negative impact on the life and career of actress Nicole Kidman was her recent breakup with actor Tom Cruise? That's what some are asking. Kidman is set to talk about the issue on this coming weekend's "60 Minutes," with CBS reporter Lesley Stahl. She admits during the interview -- according to columnist Liz Smith, who got an advance peek -- that Kidman thinks that her marriage to Cruise slowed her own career. Far too many people began to think of her as "Mrs. Tom Cruise." Additionally, she seems to be struggling with the fact that she has now embraced the Church of Scientology -- as have many Hollywood stars -- even though she was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition. But Kidman is getting busy again. She's involved in the shooting of a Civil War-themed epic called "Cold Mountain." And she's agreed to be a part of the remake of "The Stepford Wives."


There are indications that actor Ben Affleck may have found a new diversion ... shopping. The New York Post says that the actor, engaged now to entertainer Jennifer Lopez, spent over a half a million dollars over the just-passed Thanksgiving weekend on a mega-shopping spree in Las Vegas. (He and I must go to different stores; I didn't see him.) But Las Vegas has always been a temptation for Affleck. It was after a long weekend of gambling in Sin City that he had himself checked into a rehab center a year ago. One of the major purchases on the spree was apparently a Mercedes that he bought for his future mother-in-law. The price tag: $150,000.


Here is today's question: "How many holiday cards are you planning on mailing out this year? Will you do any e-cards?" Put CARDS in the subject line and send to via the Internet.


Last week we asked what star or personality seemed to be a genuinely nice person. From a random dip into the e-mailbox, here are the results:

A whopping 65 percent said ... Jimmy Stewart.

Another 15 percent mentioned ... Walt Disney.

Another 5 percent said ... Tom Hanks.

Also-rans were Alan Ladd, Dwight Eisenhower, Robert Preston and Carol Burnett and Walter Cronkite.


We're asking you to nominate local heroes to be honored during our Twelve Days of Christmas columns. Put HONOR in the subject line and send to via the Internet. We can't include the person's name unless you provide a contact number for them. We will, though, print stories without the hero's name if you wish. TOMORROW: Looking at the stars. GBA.

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