By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  April 29, 2003 at 6:00 PM
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Composer Burt Bacharach is back at work in Los Angeles after recovering from surgery for complications following a dental abscess. A source close to Bacharach told United Press International the 74-year-old Oscar- and Grammy-winning composer will travel to New York for Sunday's opening of "The Look of Love," featuring songs he wrote with lyricist Hal David. Bacharach was scheduled to write and record in a Los Angeles studio for two days this week, before a planned Wednesday reunion with contestants on the Fox TV show "American Idol" -- when he is expected to make his third appearance on the show, performing "What the World Needs Now Is Love." Bacharach has recorded the song with 10 "American Idol" contestants. Proceeds from the record project will benefit the American Red Cross. After his "American Idol" gig, Bacharach plans to go to Providence, R.I., for a May 3 concert performance with the Rhode Island Philharmonic.

(Thanks to UPI's Pat Nason)


RCA recording star Sara Evans is at home in Nashville recuperating following surgery to remove a small blister from her vocal cords. Her publicist tells United Press International Evans' condition could have been brought about by hormonal changes during her recent pregnancy. After consulting her doctors, she elected to have the surgery as a precaution. Evans has a very busy slate of concert appearances for this year, so the surgery likely was a good idea. She is scheduled to host the Sizzlin' Country Cystic Fibrosis Benefit in Las Vegas in about three weeks. It will take place at the House of Blues. She also has been tapped to attend the annual Nashville Fan Fair and to participate in this year's Academy of Country Music Awards. The first single from her new album, "Backseat of a Greyhound Bus," is rising on the music charts.


Four well-known divas have been approached by the cable video channel VH1 as part of its "Divas Duets" series. The four are Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Beyonce Knowles and Lisa Marie Presley. They will participate in the VH1 benefit concert on May 22. Hostess for the event will be Queen Latifah. In addition to performances by Dion, Houston, Knowles and Presley, organizers also have asked Jewel, Chaka Khan and Mary J. Blige to participate. VH1 says it will announce more additions in a few days. The concert is part of a fundraising effort for the network's Save the Music Foundation. It's donated more than $25 million worth of musical instruments to public schools in just the past few years. The event will be staged at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and will be broadcast live.


Representatives for singer-songwriter Luther Vandross say medical procedures will not prevent him from regaining his singing voice. Vandross got pneumonia following a stroke recently and had to undergo a tracheotomy. Reports now indicate the tracheotomy, sometimes a throat-damaging operation, did not injure his vocal cords. The procedure involves the insertion of a breathing tube through a hole made in a person's throat. Vandross suffered the stroke on April 16 and his condition went undiscovered for some time because he was alone when it happened. He may have to undergo a long recuperation.


A New York woman bored with her job has emerged as an accomplished cook after one year of following Julia Child's orders. Julie Powell works for the group in charge of rebuilding on the site of the World Trade Center. You would think that was an exciting assignment, but a year ago Powell decided she needed a diversion. She tells the Christian Science Monitor she decided to get a copy of Julia Child's classic book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Using the $40 tome she decided the best way for her to clear her head was to immerse herself in the book, so she spent a year, night after night, working on recipes until she has become quite a cook. The 35-year-old Powell had few cooking skills prior to her self-assigned training year using the Child book. What makes all of this even more interesting is that during the year she kept a detailed log of her experiences. She put them on the Internet in a form that's become increasingly popular, the "blog" -- a personal log splayed into cyberspace for all to read. "I chose Child's book," she tells the publication, "because I enjoy her writing and attitude ... (because) she's a populist who believes that you can eat well without spending a lot of money." By the way, the Child book, considered one of the greatest cookbooks of all time -- and updated several times -- was first published in 1961.


Once "second banana" to flamboyant bandleader Louis Prima, singer Keely Smith is still going strong and packing them in. Her latest gig, according to the New York Post, is at the Regency in Manhattan, where she will perform through May 17. Smith's set is a tribute to the music of the late Count Basie. Her Basie gig at the Regency is part of her recent interest in the music of the great pianist-bandleader. She also has a new CD out on the Concord record label, "Keely Swings Basie Style." During her years with Prima, Smith became a unique figure in music. She often stood at the side of the band, assisting in the singing of novelty songs, but usually stood in one place, never cracking a smile, looking stone-faced through much of the evening. It was when she went to the front to sing with husband Louis that her "joy of life" true persona came through. By the way, Keely Smith is now 71.


The man who represents the spirit of the small college in much of the Midwest, Jack Magruder, is calling it quits. During his years as president of Truman State University in Missouri, the ebullient Magruder has taken the small school from the status of nearly unknown to an often-cited example of what is right with schools that concentrate on liberal arts. At a time when many small schools diversified to survive, seeking specialized instruction in esoteric endeavors, Magruder took his college -- in the north-central region of the Show-Me state -- to a respected position nationally. U.S. News & World Report has called the school the "top master's-level public university in the Midwest" for the past six years. A consummate bicycle rider, the 67-year-old Magruder has been with the Kirksville, Mo., school for 22 years. The Kansas City Star writes he also is one heck of a storyteller, with enough stories to captivate an audience for days. His tenure ends June 30.


Today's question is: "What was the longest bus or train trip you've ever taken? Got any interesting stories about it?" Put UPI-TRIP in the subject line and send to via the Internet.


Last week we asked: "When you were of pre-school age, how many grandparents were there in your life?" From a random dip into the e-mail inbox, here is what we found:

-45 percent said that all four grandparents were around when they were kids.

-25 percent noted that only three were alive or present.

-15 percent had only two grandparents around.

-10 percent had a single grandparent around.

-5 percent had no grandparent in their life as a child.

TOMORROW: A near miss. GBA

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