- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Consigliere on Castro

Robert Duvall can be a mite ornery onscreen, but the Oscar winner flashes a rare display of unscripted venom tonight during a “60 Minutes II” interview.

Mr. Duvall spoke out to host Charlie Rose about director Steven Spielberg’s visit in November 2002 to Cuba.

“Spielberg went down there recently and said, ‘The best seven hours I ever spent was actually with Fidel Castro.’ Now, what I want to ask him [is,] ‘Would you consider building a little annex on the Holocaust Museum or at least across the street to honor the dead Cubans that Castro killed?’ That’s very presumptuous of him to go there.”

Rose: “Will you tell him that?”

Duvall: “You bet, I’ll tell him that. I’ll never work at DreamWorks again, but I don’t care about working there, anyway.”

According to the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Mr. Spielberg called his “all-night session” with the Cuban dictator “the eight most important hours of my life,” later lashing out at the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba during a visit to promote his films in the communist country.

A spokesman for Mr. Spielberg at DreamWorks SKG told The Washington Times that the quote was botched: “Unfortunately, the statement that Robert Duvall attributes to Steven Spielberg is totally false. He never said it, or anything like it. … His trip to Cuba was authorized as a cultural exchange by the U.S. government.”

“60 Minutes II” airs at 8 tonight on CBS.

Christian Toto

Hef still frisky

Now that Britney Spears has annulled her 55-hour-long Vegas marriage, she’s back on the market and available, technically, to the likes of Hugh Hefner.

Not that the 77-year-old Playboy founder and permanent bachelor is interested in marriage or anything. “Britney would make a great girlfriend,” Mr. Hefner told Us Weekly magazine in its Jan. 19 issue.

“Picasso had his ‘pink period’ and his ‘blue period,’” he added. “I am in my blond period right now,” he said. “I think it’s related to those early movies that had such a great influence on me when I was a kid.”

(Um, when has Hugh Hefner not been in a blond period?) Acknowledging the dark-haired beauties in our midst, the frisky pornographer mentioned Catherine Zeta-Jones along with Miss Spears as dream Playmates.

“They really epitomize the type of beauty that we like in the magazine,” he said.

Camel jockeys

We could think of better ways to celebrate 50th birthdays, but Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, the birthday gal, having spent the New Year holiday in New Delhi, are now trekking across the Indian desert on camels.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “They are plodding across the sands of the Indian desert state of Rajasthan, feasting on local delicacies cooked on an open fire and sleeping under the stars at night.”

Apparently, Sting takes that “Desert Rose” thing seriously.

Bucking time

R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck says his now legendary band could call it quits next year — or maybe never. Mr. Buck told Associated Press Radio that it depends on the day: Sometimes he thinks the end is imminent, and sometimes he thinks he’ll be rocking into his 70s.

“Right now, I’m thinking it could last for a while,” he said. “But I also sometimes wake up at 4 in the morning in a hotel, and I can’t sleep and I haven’t seen my family in a couple of weeks, and I just think, ‘You know, I could go home right now and be OK.’”

R.E.M. stopped in the Washington area last fall, touring behind a greatest-hits compilation; a studio album is due early this year.

Compiled by Scott Galupo from staff, wire and Web reports.

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