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Taking Names: Whitney Houston’s dress to be auctioned in March

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A black velvet dress that belonged to Whitney Houston and a pair of earrings she wore in "The Bodyguard" will be sold to the highest bidder next month, the Associated Press reports.

Celebrity auctioneer Darren Julien said Sunday the pieces and other Houston items became available after the singer's unexpected death on Feb. 11 and will be included among a long-planned sale of Hollywood memorabilia such as Charlie Chaplin's cane, Clark Gable's jacket from "Gone With the Wind" and Charlton Heston's staff from "The Ten Commandments."

Mr. Julien said celebrity collectibles often become available after their owners die.

"It proves a point that these items, they're an investment," Mr. Julien said. "You buy items just like a stock. Buy at the right time and sell at the right time, and they just increase in value."

The singer's floor-length black dress is valued at $1,000 but likely will collect much more. Same goes for the vest she wore in "The Bodyguard," listed at $400, and the faux-pearl earrings, which start at $600.

Houston fans and other collectors can bid online, by phone or in person during the Hollywood Legends auction on March 31 and April 1. Lots will be shown during a free public exhibition beginning March 19 at Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Writers Guild honors 'Midnight,' 'Descendants'

Woody Allen's romantic fantasy "Midnight in Paris" and Alexander Payne's family drama "The Descendants" have won top screenplay honors from the Writers Guild of America, the Associated Press reports.

With his biggest hit in decades, Mr. Allen, the film's writer-director, earned the guild's prize Sunday for original screenplay on "Midnight in Paris." The film stars Owen Wilson as a modern Hollywood writer who gets a chance to hang with his literary idols in the 1920s Paris of Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

Director Payne shared the adapted-screenplay honor with co-writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, "The Descendants" stars George Clooney as a Hawaiian dad struggling to tend to his two daughters after a boating accident puts his wife in a coma.

The wins boost the prospects for both films to earn the same prizes at next Sunday's Academy Awards, where both movies also are in the running for best picture.

Obama sends message for Ali birthday gala

President Obama lauded Muhammad Ali Saturday as he joined some of the country's most famous people in offering birthday wishes to the boxer known simply as "the Greatest."

"Happy birthday, champ," Mr. Obama told Mr. Ali through a video message, saying he wished he could have attended a swanky dinner gala in Las Vegas featuring some of the biggest names in sports, film, television and music.

"As a fighter, you were something spectacular," Mr. Obama told Mr. Ali, who turned 70 last month. "You shocked the world, and you inspired it, too. And even after all the titles and legendary bouts, you're still doing it."

The gala's 2,000 attendees were there to celebrate Mr. Ali's life and generate millions of dollars for brain research, a mission Mr. Ali's family says is important to him in part because of his nearly 30-year battle with Parkinson's disease.

A set of gloves Mr. Ali used to defeat Floyd Patterson in 1965 in Las Vegas - the first heavyweight title fight in Sin City - sold for $1.1 million. The gloves came with one of the original posters used to promote the fight, which had Muhammad Ali's chosen name as a subscript to Cassius Clay, the name he was given at birth. When Mr. Ali converted to Islam, many people resisted calling him by his new name.

Lorenzo Fertitta, a casino owner and Ultimate Fighting Championship owner, won the gloves, which organizers earlier had said they hoped would fetch $500,000.

Guests arriving on the red carpet included football great Franco Harris, supermodel Cindy Crawford, actor Samuel L. Jackson, Mr. Ali's children and grandchildren and Chuck Wepner, who fought Mr. Ali in 1975 for the heavyweight title and lost.

The gala — with tickets starting at $1,500 per plate — was held at the MGM Grand, the site of most of boxing's major fights the past two decades. Famous faces converged on the 160 tables adjacent to two rings and a stage — Terrence Howard, Anthony Hopkins, Manny Pacquiao and Lenny Kravitz, among others. They spoke and performed in tribute to a fighter who went 56-5 in the ring with 37 knockouts and became perhaps the most famous athlete ever because of his personality and willingness to stand up publicly for his beliefs.

Stevie Wonder, who performed earlier in the day at Whitney Houston's funeral, performed "Keep Our Love Alive" and "Superstition." Mr. Ali's daughter Rasheda Ali said Mr. Wonder was the performer her father was most looking forward to seeing.

Mr. Wonder wasn't the only performer.

Snoop Dogg sang a medley of his hits; John Legend, Mr. Kravitz, Slash, Kelly Rowland and Cee Lo Green all performed. LL Cool J rapped "Mama Said Knock You Out" as DJ Z-Trip span a remixed version of the song that included Ali audio, including his famous "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" quote.

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.

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