Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Triple threat

Call it the two-altos-and-a-soprano tour.

Natalie Cole says she’ll perform this summer with Whitney Houston and Dionne Warwick.

“Yes, Whitney, Dionne Warwick and myself,” the singer told “Access Hollywood.”

“It starts in Germany in July. We’re going to have…a great, great time.”

Miss Cole said one reason she decided to do the tour is her close relationship with Miss Houston, who is undergoing treatment for drug abuse.

“I said yes because that’s my buddy,” she said. “I’ve always thought of Whitney as my little sister. I’ve known her since she was 19, and…I feel really good that when they asked who she would want to be on the show with her, she said me.”

Miss Cole said Miss Houston’s rehabilitation is going well.

“She’s doing really great. She’s a strong woman, and she has a great desire to really get healthy and get well, so I’m just really happy for her.”

On the road

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, with Grammy Award-winning singer and banjo player Ralph Stanley at his side, signed legislation Wednesday designating 224 miles on several mountain highways “Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail: The Crooked Road.”

About 100 people clustered under umbrellas as Mr. Warner signed the bill on the steps of a house in Clintwood’s business district that will become a museum dedicated to Mr. Stanley’s music, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Warner said the designation of U.S. Routes 221, 58 and 23 and state Routes 83 and 40 through the craggy terrain of Virginia’s coal fields could bring in millions of additional dollars from tourism.

“By creating this trail, people will not only see the Ralph Stanley Museum in Clintwood, but all these venues throughout Southwest Virginia,” he said.

Other attractions on the music trail include the Floyd Country Store, the Old Fiddlers Convention and Rex Theater in Galax, Grayson County’s Blue Ridge Music Center, and the hometown of country music’s legendary Carter family in Hiltons.

Hot tip

At Monday’s Peabody Awards Luncheon at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, NBC News’ Tom Brokaw collected one of the coveted journalism prizes, but not before passing on some important Triple Crown handicapping advice.

“Thank you all very much,” Mr. Brokaw said in his acceptance remarks. “I’ve been at this a long time, but this moment never grows old. To win a Peabody is a great thrill.”

However, he continued, “I do feel I ought to make a couple of announcements. For those of you wondering what to do with your 10-minute phone card, here is my recommendation: As long as you are in New York, call OTB and get down a big bet on Smarty Jones for the Belmont, which is coming up the first weekend in June.”

Mr. Brokaw won a Peabody for a report on the controversy surrounding the University of Michigan’s affirmative-action policy.

Philadelphia freedom

U2 frontman Bono and a few hundred friends rallied in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia last Sunday to kick off the One Campaign, a new effort to get Americans involved in fighting global AIDS and poverty.

Activists there included Dikembe Mutombo of the New York Knicks and Grammy-winning Christian musician Michael W. Smith. They touted a petition at to pressure lawmakers to combat AIDS in Africa.

Mr. Smith said he has chatted about the problem with his pal President Bush.

“We talked about the issue on several occasions,” he said. “He just needs to continue to keep the promise. We have the $15 billion [proposed by the Bush administration for AIDS relief], but to get it appropriated…is another thing.

“It’s amazing,” Mr. Smith continued, “how many people live their lives and don’t think about 6,500 [Africans] dying a day. It’s astonishing.”

Jen Waters

Compiled by Scott Galupo from staff and wire reports.

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