- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2007

Back to school

Emma Roberts, niece of Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts and star of the upcoming “Nancy Drew” film, will join first lady Laura Bush today to stress to local students the importance of reading.

The two will visit the Washington Middle School for Girls (WMSG) in Anacostia, a school that provides a caring and safe environment for young girls who are at risk of leaving school prematurely.

Mrs. Bush and the 16-year-old actress will join the student body for a discussion and excerpt readings from the classic Nancy Drew book “The Secret of the Old Clock.”

Miss Roberts will play teen sleuth Nancy Drew — first introduced to American readers in 1930 — in the upcoming film that also stars Josh Flitter, Max Thieriot, Rachael Leigh Cook and Tate Donovan.

Babs bows out

Barbra Streisandcanceled her concert in Rome next month — a move that followed protests by Italian consumer groups angered by what they said were excessively high ticket prices.

Concert organizers indicated the decision was not connected to the outcry, saying that production delays had forced them to scrap the June 15 concert in the capital’s Stadio Flaminio, what would have been the singer’s first concert in Italy and the start of her European tour.

“We met with unexpected production delays,” said a statement by tour promoter Michael Cohl posted on the Web site of Milano Concerti, the Italian organizer of the event.

“We deeply apologize to the fans in Rome,” Mr. Cohl said in the statement, adding that ticket holders would get a refund and the opportunity to book a spot for one of Miss Streisand’s other European concerts.

Last week, consumer groups protested as “absurd and shameful” ticket prices ranging from just under $200 to more than $1,200, calling on authorities to deny Miss Streisand use of the 24,000-seat stadium.

The stadium “is public property and cannot be used for immoral deals that are shameful to a civilized country,” the groups said in a statement.

Instead of the Rome concert, Miss Streisand’s Web site listed a new date — a June 18 concert in Zurich — as the kickoff for the star’s tour, which also has concerts scheduled in Austria, France, Ireland and Britain.

Jackson auction

More than 1,100 lots of Jackson family memorabilia are expected to fetch millions of dollars from bidders around the globe tomorrow and Thursday at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas..

There’s a Bill Whitten-designed militaristic red coat with gold rope that belonged to Michael Jackson, and a 1987 contract detailing his $30 million purchase of the California ranch that became the infamous Neverland. There’s also a frilly pink “Mae West” dress worn by Janet Jackson at age 8 during family performances in Las Vegas in 1974.

In a worn telegram from July 6, 1984, Marlon Brando encourages Michael Jackson before a show: “Please try not to make an [expletive] of yourself and please for God’s sake don’t fall in the orchestra pit.”

The items are to go on sale following a protracted court battle that ended two weeks ago when Mr. Jackson’s lawyers reached a confidential settlement and dropped an effort to block the auction.

Richard Altomare, chief executive of Universal Express Inc., the Boca Raton, Fla., luggage transportation company that owns the items, said Mr. Jackson’s lawyers settled when they were convinced they had no legal claim to the goods.

Mr. Jackson, 48, has been living in Las Vegas planning his comeback after his 2005 acquittal in California on child molestation charges.

The collection’s former owner, New Jersey businessman Henry Vaccaro, took possession of the memorabilia in 2002 after a failed business venture wound up in bankruptcy court.

Universal bought the items from Mr. Vaccaro for $5 million and spent more than $2 million transporting them from New Jersey to Las Vegas, Mr. Altomare said.

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from wire reports.

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