By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  Dec. 31, 2002 at 4:23 PM
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Judge Judy Sheindlin has proven that being a judge is one way to make a mint. New figures show that Judge Judy will reportedly be paid about $25 million per year during the recently worked out four-year extension of her TV syndication contract. One television critic tells the publication that good ratings are "like gold." Judy's ratings are the highest in most cities. And the New York Post says that the judge must have known that the new contract was a whopper and she would eventually sign. Sheindlin, well in advance of news of the new contract, purchased a multi-million-dollar country estate in Connecticut. It has its own tennis courts, putting green, guest house and, as you might expect, armed guards. The gregarious former "real" judge flew all 11 of her children and grandchildren to her home in southern Florida for the holidays.


The past year will be remembered as one of the most successful in the history of country music. At a time when mainstream music has been, for the most part, in the doldrums, several country stars have attained true "cross-over" status, dominating both charts. But, as the news provider reports, even though it was the relatively new faces who were raking in the big bucks, the venerable "work horses of country" were still trodding the boards and packing 'em in. Take Dolly Parton as an example. Her career was re-started with a new album and highly successful tour this year. Willie Nelson also got new fans. A wealth of "overnight stars" was created through the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Elvis was reborn during his 25th death anniversary ... and even returned to the charts again as part of an international remix. And, by the way, a reassessment of Kenny Chesney here might be in order. Now that we've seen him in better lighting with his hat hiding less of his face, it might be mentioned that "cherubic" might not have been the best adjective to use when describing him. He's a new-wave George Jones, and there's no question why People put him on its "sexiest men" list recently.


Knighthoods are in the wings for Ridley Scott and Alan Bates, and Jean Simmons will get a "female knighthood." Britain is about to honor more of its own. The BBC says that director Ridley Scott -- famous for "Gladiator" (12 Oscar nominations, "best picture" winner) and "Hannibal" -- will soon be made Sir Ridley Scott by the queen. Additionally, Scott produced "Black Hawk Down," "Blade Runner" and "Thelma and Louise." Actor Alan Bates will be made Sir Alan at the same time. He's been a major box office draw for more than 60 years. Additionally, beautiful and exotic Jean Simmons will receive the female version of knighthood, receiving the Order of the British Empire (OBE). She became one of Hollywood's most glamorous leading ladies in the 1950s and '60s. Who can forget her through-the-prison-bars conversations with Richard Burton (both in their early 20s) in "The Robe," the first Cinemascope movie? And it's hard to believe that Simmons is now 73.


Flamboyant television producer Chuck Barris says he once worked as a spy. In his autobiography, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," the colorful Barris claimed that he was a CIA agent at one time. Although he would not give a CNN interviewer a straight answer to some recent questions about his time with the CIA, Barris did not deny that he was working, sometimes overseas, for the spy agency, while also working on his many TV productions. In the book Barris charges that he was "crucified by the television critics" for his attempts to simply entertain people. He says that the citations he received for his covert spy operations were largely kept a secret. Barris is in the spotlight again because of the movie version of the book. By the way, George Clooney directs the biopic.


It would appear that actor Keanu Reeves is not only handsome and wealthy, but also very nice. Columnist Richard Johnson says the award-winning Reeves recently left the set where filming for the next "Matrix" movie was taking place to arrange to be with his family for the holidays. He left the crew to make arrangements to fly his sister to the post Hana-Maui Resort in Hawaii to "spend her final days." It seems that Reeves' sister, Kim, is dying of leukemia. She's only 35. Keanu wanted her nearby so he could spend as much time with her as her condition deteriorates. The heartwarming story is similar to the one involving Bono when he repeatedly left a U-2 tour to fly to Belfast to be with his dying father this past year.


Country's Kenny Chesney says he had a good reason for naming his latest tour "Senoritas and Margaritas." CMT is reporting that Chesney explained to the network that he got the idea while riding in a golf cart. The singer says that he and members of his band were riding in the carts, carrying pitchers of margaritas in their hands, in order to sneak up on a tailgate party and surprise the attendees. He says that the concept very much describes the demographic of his main fan base. He adds that he can relate to tailgaters and others who sit on the grass while watching country and other musical events. "That's where I sat so many times and saw Jimmy Buffett and Van Halen and so many other people," he noted. He also told CMT that he was "the guy in the parking lot drinking a margarita before going in and sitting in the lawn seats." Chesney is hosting a huge New Year's Eve show and party in Nashville and gave the comments between rehearsals.


Well, here's the final question for 2002. We gave this one a lot of thought. After all, the final question should close out the year with a bang. Most everyone seems to think that this past year just flew past. But you might not think so ... so: "Just how many days did it feel as if 2002 had? 365? More? Fewer?" Put DAYS in the subject line and give us your thoughts and the number of days your calendar seemed to have. Send to on the Internet. See your answers next year.


Last week we asked about your New Year's resolutions. In a random dip into the e-mail inbox we found that many related to computers. So, here's the gist. Quite a few people noted that they did not want to make the same mistake in the coming year that they did in the last one when it came to their computer. They are hoping to:

1 ... Clean out their computer more often, eliminating all the junk that arrives on a daily basis in e-mail and through visits to Web sites

2 ... Find a good anti-virus program and install it; 2003 could pose big threats

3 ... Invest in DSL or a higher-speed connection when possible

4 ... Organize the mail protocol and dump old names and addresses

5 ... See what programs in the computer are obsolete or not needed

6 ... Buy a Web cam to talk with friends and relatives in distant cities.

NEXT: Happy New Year and more promises for the future.


In this column we continue to use the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas to honor the people you have suggested through your e-mail. In a short note from GregD he remembers a story he heard about his late grandmother. "I never knew her," he writes. "She died while my mom was still in high school. A few years ago I finally got my mom to sit down and talk about her. I asked about her most amazing characteristic. I was told that the family was not aware of her good works until her unexpected death. For nearly three months after she died there would be knocks on the door. The visitors were mainly homeless men, hobos, most of them black. You see, the railroad ran behind our house. We were unaware that for years mom had been leaving food out back for 'men of the rails' during the depression. Finding that out was a revelation for my mom and her siblings." Finding out about his grandma from his mom was a real revelation for Greg, apparently. GBA.

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