- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 19, 2004

Martha’s year-end sale

Martha Stewart, the jailed founder of media company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., recently sold about $8 million worth of shares, according to a regulatory filing. Mrs. Stewart, who built a media empire on home decorating tips, sold nearly 300,000 shares of Class A common stock Tuesday, according to a form filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday.

Rock memorabilia

A classic Gibson guitar used by George Harrison on the Beatles’ “Revolver” album and byJohn Lennon on the “White Album” sold Friday to an anonymous bidder for $567,500, Christie’s auction house announced.

The cherry-red SG Standard guitar belonged to Mr. Harrison from 1966 through 1969. He used it in recording sessions and in several of the band’s increasingly rare public appearances, and loaned the guitar to Mr. Lennon during “White Album” sessions, according to Darren Julien, whose Julien Entertainment co-sponsored the auction.

Mr. Harrison presented the guitar to a friend, guitarist Pete Ham of the band Badfinger, as a gift in 1969. Mr. Ham committed suicide five years later, and the guitar passed to his brother John Ham, who stored it beneath a bed in his London home until he was contacted in 2002 by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame representatives putting together a Badfinger retrospective.

Barack’s book deal

U.S. Sen.-elect Barack Obama, whose 1995 book jumped onto best-seller lists after his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, has landed a three-book contract worth $1.9 million.

Crown Publishing Group and Random House Children’s Books, divisions of Random House Inc., announced Friday that Mr. Obama will write two books for adults and one for children.

He’ll be paid an $850,000 advance for each adult book and $200,000 for the children’s book, Mr. Obama’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, told Associated Press. Proceeds from the children’s book, which Mr. Obama will work on with his wife, Michelle, and their two young daughters, will go to charity, Mr. Gibbs said.

The contract, he added, is contingent on the approval of the Senate Ethics Committee.

Mr. Obama, 43, becomes the sole black U.S. senator — and only the fifth in history — when he is sworn in next month.

The first book, due out in spring 2006, will focus on his political convictions. The children’s book, also scheduled for 2006 under the Random House imprint Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, will rely on his experiences as a self-described “skinny young kid with big ears and the funny name” who grew up to be a U.S. senator.

Topic and publication date for the third book have not been determined.

Crown also published Mr. Obama’s first book, “Dreams From My Father.” Since its re-release in July, it has spent 14 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list for paperback nonfiction.

Ford’s Fallujah charge

Producers at Universal Pictures are developing what would be Hollywood’s first feature film about the war in Iraq, with actor Harrison Ford ready to portray a U.S. general in the movie, the studio said on Friday. The combat drama would be based on the upcoming book “No True Glory,” an account of the battle for Fallujah by Bing West, a Marine veteran and former U.S. assistant defense secretary now covering the war as a foreign correspondent, a studio spokesman told Reuters News Agency.

Labor of Love

Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio has never worked so hard on a movie, and doesn’t mind admitting that an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of American billionaire Howard Hughes in “The Aviator” would be welcome. In London to promote the Martin Scorsese-directed biopic, the 30-year-old described how he had read dozens of books and even spent time with a mentally ill man before taking on the role of Mr. Hughes, who was increasingly crippled by phobias.

Kids visit Neverland

Dozens of children visited Michael Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch on Friday at the invitation of the pop superstar who is awaiting trial on child molestation charges. Three buses containing mostly grade-school children and some parents as well as five minivans drove through the gates of Jackson’s sprawling estate in the foothills above Santa Barbara, California, Reuters photographers said.

Pink slips from Disney?

For brothers Harvey andBob Weinstein, these may be the best of times and the worst. Their Miramax Films is mounting what could be its strongest slate of Oscar contenders in years, led by “The Aviator,” yet the pair also could soon lose their jobs with Disney. The co-chief executives of Miramax, backer of Oscar-winning films like “Chicago,” are locked in contentious talks with corporate parent Walt Disney Co over a renewal of their employment contract which ends next September.

Compiled from staff and wire reports by Kevin Chaffee.

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