- - Sunday, November 25, 2012

Imagine having William Shatner supply your outgoing voice-mail message. Or maybe you’d prefer Morgan Freeman coolly telling callers to wait for the beep. Or perhaps having Betty White joke around is more your speed.

All it takes is $299 and some luck.

The advocacy group Autism Speaks is offering custom-recorded messages from those celebrities as well as Will Ferrell, Carrie Fisher, Tom Hanks, Derek Jeter, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart and Ed Asner.

From Dec. 3 through 9, a limited number of 20-second-long MP3 messages will be recorded by each celebrity on a first-come, first-served basis for fans to do with as they wish. All requests must be of the PG variety.

Mr. Asner, the curmudgeonly Emmy Award winner of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Lou Grant,” dreamed up the unusual fundraiser with his son Matt, who works for Autism Speaks.

Bryce Courtenay, author of “The Power Of One,” died Thursday. “It’s been ... more >

“I think people will get a charge out of it,” said Mr. Asner, who is currently on Broadway in the play “Grace.” “I’ll probably say, ‘What are you wearing?’ Or, ‘Take it off.’ Something like that.”

All proceeds will support autism research and advocacy efforts.

If he could get a message from one of the other stars participating, which would Mr. Asner want?

“I’m awfully stuck on Will Ferrell, having been subjected to him in ‘Elf,’ ” Mr. Asner said. “But they’re all such standouts — Patrick Stewart, Leonard Nimoy, Shatner. The list doesn’t stop.”

‘The Power of One’ author dies of cancer at age 79

One of Australia’s best-selling and most popular authors, Bryce Courtenay, who shot to prominence with his first book “The Power of One,” has died at age 79, his family said Friday.

The South African-born Mr. Courtenay, who moved to Australia in the 1950s and sold more than 20 million books, had been suffering from stomach cancer and died at his Canberra home on Thursday.

“We’d like to thank all of Bryce’s family and friends and all of his fans around the world for their love and support for me and his family as he wrote the final chapter of his extraordinary life,” his wife, Christine, said on Facebook.

Mr. Courtenay’s biggest success was “The Power of One,” about a young English boy raised during the apartheid era in South Africa.

It was made into a successful movie starring Stephen Dorff, John Gielgud and Morgan Freeman, with James Bond star Daniel Craig appearing in his first major film role.

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