By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International   |   March 25, 2003 at 2:00 PM
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In 1966 Andy Williams was the featured performer when the Caesars Palace Hotel opened; now he's back to help a friend. At the opening of this week's show that brought Celine Dion to the gaming capital, the venerable recording artist will be in the audience as Caesars begins a new era in entertainment. Dion's show in residence is a multi-million-dollar spectacle with full concert-size orchestra and a large ensemble of singers and dancers. Williams, by the way, was to perform in Hong Kong but canceled the trip because of that quickly spreading flu in Asia. In recent years he's taken up residence in Branson, Mo., where he does 200 shows a year at his Moon River Theater.


Directors of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra say the much-honored group is embarking on a daunting new season. The symphony tells United Press International Donald Runnicles will continue as principal guest conductor. Some 16 works will be played for the first time by the orchestra, which also plans to perform at Carnegie Hall for the first time in 16 years. The season is the 59th for the often-recorded Atlanta group. Among the works on this fall's and next spring's agendas are an all-Russian set with the works of Shostakovich and Prokofiev and a performance of Vaughn William's expansive "Sea Symphony." Robert Spano is music director.


The man who created the sound of Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler, has been badly hurt in a motorcycle accident. Published reports say the 53-year-old rocker broke his collar bone and six ribs. He was treated at a London hospital and released for what likely will be a long convalescence at home. Police records show Knopfler's Honda motorcycle was involved in a daytime accident with a sedan in a posh section of London, Belgravia. The driver of the car was not hurt. No word yet how the accident will affect the singer's European tour, set for next month.


One of music's hottest stars, Kenny Chesney, is celebrating a birthday Wednesday. Folks at Country Music Television have cleared an entire evening to celebrate the photogenic singer's 35th birthday. Chesney, who spent most of his childhood in Luttrell, Tenn., listening to country stars on the radio, has one of the most "down-home" personas among the younger crop of country artists. CMT says it will present a half-hour of Chesney videos, followed by a rebroadcast of a recent interview with the singer, then an hour of music from his recent "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems" tour. There also will be an hour of behind-the-scenes footage of Chesney's touring. Check listings for times in your zone.


Capitol Records is extolling the virtues of Radiohead's latest effort, "Hail to the Thief." Billboard magazine writes the new compilation boasts 14 tracks and has been one of the most anticipated albums of the year. North American fans, though, will have to wait until June 10 to buy it in stores. In late May one track will be released as a single. Producers hope "There There" will catch on. The band got help from a longtime collaborator Nigel Godrich on "Hail to the Thief." Advance information has it much of the music on the compilation has been heard before in different forms over the years, some in concerts or on Webcasts. The group's last two CDs sold a total of 1.8 million copies in this country. The group will begin a tour of small British venues in mid May.


Singer-songwriter Jo Dee Messina had promised her fans a brand-new CD, but Curb Records won't release it. That's what reports about her latest efforts. It seems her record label isn't pleased with the compilation put forth under the direction of her new producers, Bryon Gallimore and mega-star Tim McGraw. To meet some commitments, however, Curb will release a Messina CD soon, but with old songs -- a "best of" album. Now comes word Messina has switched producers and is now working under the tutelage of Mark Bright. Even after severing ties with Gallimore and McGraw, however, reports everyone is staying friends while they figure out what went wrong.


Due to the popularity of the cross-country bus trip questions, we decided to continue it this week, pairing more famous people. Today's question is: "If you had to spend a week sitting on a cross-country bus with a single seat-mate, which of these two would you chose -- Bugs Bunny or Elmer Fudd?" Put BUS7 in the subject line and send to via the Internet.


Last week we asked about your do-it-yourself car repairs. From a rather random dip into the e-mail inbox, here is some of what we learned: MikeH says he helped a friend replace his car's radiator. Just after the old radiator was removed the weather suddenly changed, the temperature dropped 15 degrees and a cold rain arrived. He put off the rest of the project until the next day -- when nothing was fresh in his mind. Although he says the fix appears to be a success, he had six bolts and three brackets left over. AmazingR says she tried to save $100 by trying to fix a starter problem and ended up doing $670 damage to her car's ignition system. Finally, RogerRN says he won't fix anything. "It takes a contortionist with the hands of 'Mr. Goodwrench' to fix any modern-day car," he writes.

TOMORROW: The stars speak out. GBA

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