By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  April 15, 2003 at 4:45 PM
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Popular rhythm and blues singer Toni Braxton has agreed to join the cast of the Broadway musical "Aida." She will play the title role. The musical, written by Sir Elton John and Tim Rice, will showcase Braxton beginning June 30. Billboard magazine says there had been reports that Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child was to take the part. Braxton's initial stint with the musical is set for four months at New York's Palace Theatre. The role in "Aida" is actually a return to the Great White Way for Braxton. She appeared in "Beauty and the Beast" some time ago, ironically on the same stage. Braxton tells the publication that she is very excited about the new assignment. Meanwhile, her latest CD is doing well and she has another one in the works that will hit store shelves this coming fall.


Nearly a dozen cities are now on the list for what megastar Aretha Franklin calls her "final" tour. Her official Web site says that this will definitely be the last major tour for the internationally recognized R&B and gospel singer. The tour will begin in Toronto on June 1. Stops are then planned in the Washington area, in New England, Atlanta, Cleveland and Worcester, Mass. The final stop will be in late August at the New Melody Fair in North Tonawanda, N.Y. The tour is slated to end just days before the release of her next album. The CD will be Franklin's first studio recording in over five years. In preparation for the tour, Franklin is holding open auditions for backup dancers in the coming weeks.


The war in Iraq will certainly mean that this year's White House Correspondents Dinner will be less lighthearted. The New York Post suggests that the annual soirée, famous for its impressive lineup of reporters and correspondents and attempts by presidents to be comedians, will be a rather somber affair this time around. Instead of having a TV personality to host the event -- such as Jay Leno, Sinbad or Ray Romano, as in past years -- this year's dinner will feature only a musical performance. President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush are slated to attend the event, to be held on April 26. One other interesting aspect of the dinner has been the guests invited by the reporters to the formal-attire affair. Last year Fox's Greta Van Susteren invited Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. Some, though, tell the Post they assumed that the event would be canceled. It hasn't been.


A just-out biography looks at one of Hollywood's most-honored people, designer Edith Head. During her more than 40 years in Hollywood, Head won Oscar after Oscar for her creations. Her winning streak even prompted a running gag at a yearly Los Angeles Oscar party. Whenever the presenter is about to name the winner in a category, regardless of the category, someone at the party yells "Edith Head!" Columnist Liz Smith says that David Chierichetti has written a "gossipy bio" of the great designer. The book blasts away some of the myths surrounding Head, famous for her black dresses and huge glasses. Foremost among them was that Head was not a lesbian. Chierichetti speaks from solid ground. He was an assistant to Head and her confidant for years. The book contains over 180 photographs of some of the great stars whose careers were enhanced by Head's creations, including Ginger Rogers, Barbara Stanwyck, Grace Kelly and Joan Crawford. By the way, Head was an extremely generous woman. She left a ton of money to the rural home and hospital where many former Tinseltown stars and technicians go to live out their final days.


Veteran studio musician-turned record producer Tony Brown has suffered what doctors are calling a "serious fall." According to, Brown, a senior partner in Universal South, fell while visiting Los Angeles. He sustained a major head injury. Brown was taken to the UCLA Medical Center and transferred to the hospital's neurological department. He has been listed in critical condition. Few other details were released. The family is asking for prayers from the music community. Brown once was a backup musician for Elvis. He then went on to produce records, working behind the scenes with stars such as George Strait and Trisha Yearwood. At one time he was president of MCA Nashville records.


For many April 15 is "tax day," but for historians and experts on the 20th century it will always be remembered as the day FDR was buried. He had died at the "Little White House" in Warm Springs, Ga., where he often went. He initially went there to bathe in the waters that flowed at 90 degrees out of the rocks. Before he was president he had spent months at a time there, sometimes acting as an instructor. He often drove in the Georgia countryside. It was on these excursions that FDR, born into the opulence of New York upper-crust gentility, first talked with sharecroppers, farmers without electricity, people with little hope and less of a future. Historian David Grubin says that it was FDR's times at Warm Springs that brought him a sense of America and made it possible to push his programs for the common man. FDR's health had waned in the winter of 1944-45. He had congestive heart problems, though he never discussed it and the press did not know. The radio announcement of his death by CBS reporter John Charles Daly remains one of the most vivid in broadcast history: "We interrupt this program to bring you this bulletin from CBS News. A press association reports that President Roosevelt is dead. He died in Warm Springs, in Georgia, of a cerebral hemorrhage." The next year his old friend Winston Churchill would visit FDR's grave, in the garden of his family's mansion in Hyde Park, N.Y., where he had played as a child. Churchill remarked: "Meeting FDR was like opening your first bottle of champagne."


Today's question was suggested by one of our readers: "What is your favorite 'rule of thumb' or wise saying?" Put UPI-WISE in the subject line and send to via the Internet.


Last week we asked: "For what movie, for which there has been no sequel made, would you like to see a follow-up film produced?" Our usual random dip into the e-mail inbox revealed the following: "How Green Was My Valley," "An Affair to Remember," "The Bridges of Madison County," "The Greatest Show on Earth," "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Ghandi." (We're not sure where the plot of a followup to "Ghandi" would go, since the main character died at the end of the first movie. Maybe a prequel?)

TOMORROW: More from the mountain. GBA.

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