By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International   |   March 14, 2003 at 2:00 PM
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Doctors say an experimental implant is giving some breathing power back to crippled actor Christopher Reeve. Reports say Reeve has received several electrodes that are enabling him to breathe, for a while, without the use of the ventilator he has had to rely on since his devastating accident in 1995. Doctors say during the past few years -- despite having his spinal cord severed -- cutting off communications between his brain and parts of his body below the waist -- Reeve has slowly regained sensation in some areas, including some of his fingers. He can even "walk" along the bottom of a swimming pool while floating. The new electrode implants trigger muscles in his diaphragm. It is hoped eventually they will strengthen and allow him to breathe on his own. His sense of smell also is returning because air is now going through his nose.


Plans to spend more than $7 million to renovate the current home of the Grand Ole Opry are being hailed by stars and country fans. Gaylord Entertainment tells United Press International it plans to invest $7.5 million into a redo of the building, including the addition of two new building wings. One will contain a 2,400-square-foot gift shop. The other will be a new 2,000-square-foot box office and new public restrooms. One veteran of the Opry, Steve Wariner, recently commented he has been around the "new" Opry building since its opening in 1974, the year early in his career when he played in Dottie West's aggregation. Additionally, the renovations will upgrade the building's recording, radio and TV capabilities.


Former President Bill Clinton has agreed to narrate a performance of Aaron Copeland's "Lincoln Portrait." Published reports say Clinton will appear with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in a performance of the much-loved work. The narration consists of portions of Lincoln's speeches interspersed with gut-wrenching Copeland patriotic music. The appearance by Clinton will mark the first time he has appeared with the symphony in Little Rock, despite the fact he spent much of his life in that city. The single performance will be a fundraising event for the orchestra. By the way, the orchestra says Clinton will not bring his saxophone.


One of the most endearing actors of our time, Burt Reynolds, soon will appear on a stage in Las Vegas. The Stardust Resort & Casino says Reynolds, star of some of the funniest TV episodes and movies of the past three decades, will appear at the Wayne Newton Theater in a revue specially prepared for Vegas. The entertainment complex says Reynolds has been booked in for a run from June 4-7. Ticket prices are in the moderate range, $39.95 per person. By the way, a familiar name has been added to Don Rickles' next run at the Stardust, May 29-June 1. Singer Lorna Luft now is on the bill.


Much-acclaimed conductor Andrew Litton will be the creative force behind this year's Sommerfest for the Minnesota Orchestra. The symphony says Litton will travel to the Twin Cities to help put together the famous summertime festival concerts. Meanwhile, he will remain as the music director of the Dallas Symphony. This year's Sommerfest runs from July 11 through the first week of August. For Litton -- a classically trained pianist and conductor -- it marks his return to Minneapolis. He was asked to be the piano soloist in the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2 during the festival last summer. For the third year in a row, the Marshall Field Co. will sponsor an around-the-clock series of performances.


It would appear actress Meg Ryan has decided to turn her life around, staging a major personal makeover. Gossip columnist Liz Smith writes the award-winning actress, in a recent magazine interview, notes she has "an internal bombshell." She says at age 40 she's ready to shuck her "fizzy romantic comedy" moorings and venture into new waters. In her next two films she turns in gritty and sexy performances. The movies are "Against the Ropes" and "In the Cut." In "Cut" she agreed to do a nude scene without using a body double.


Today we conclude our week-long series of questions about a cross-country bus trip. We are giving you a choice of whom you would rather sit with on a week-long trip. Today's choices are: Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts. Put BUS5 in the subject line and send to via the Internet.


Last week we asked what entertainer or group you would invite for a "command performance" at your home. From our usual dip in the Internet inbox, here is a listing of the top five choices:

-The rock group the Eagles was No. 1.

-Tony Bennett, No. 2.

-Harry Connick Jr., No. 3.

-Willie Nelson, No. 4.

-Garrison Keillor, No. 5.

NEXT: We begin our bus trip. GBA

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