- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2005

Sides of Steve

Oscar-winning songwriter Randy Newman says Mark Twain Prize winner Steve Martin isn’t so funny behind the scenes.

“He’s pretty serious usually. He’s not ‘on’ all the time,” Mr. Newman told The Washington Times Sunday before Mr. Martin picked up his award at the Kennedy Center.

The honoree also took his image seriously following his 1979 breakout hit, “The Jerk.”

“He wanted to get away from ‘The Jerk,’ too eagerly, maybe, but it wasn’t a mistake,” Mr. Newman said of Mr. Martin’s next work, “Pennies From Heaven,” a 1981 musical that flopped commercially. “It has great merit … he did the right thing.”

Mr. Newman honored his friend onstage Sunday night by singing “I Love to See You Smile” from Mr. Martin’s 1989 feature “Parenthood.”

All his lovin’

Ben Okuly was ready to propose to his girlfriend, but he needed a little help from a friend — Paul McCartney.

According to a report in the Detroit News, Mr. Okuly was attending one of the former Beatle’s concerts in suburban Detroit when he held up a sign that caught Mr. McCartney’s eye: “CAN BEN ASK MELISSA TO MARRY HIM?”

“Well, go on, get down on your knees and ask her, Ben,” Mr. McCartney commanded.

Mr. Okuly obeyed, and she said yes.

“Well, that’s a first for me,” Mr. McCartney said of the in-concert engagement, “and I hope it’s a last for you, Ben.”

Knight of Newark

Philip Roth was honored Sunday in his hometown of Newark, N.J., the setting for many of his 26 books.

Mayor Sharpe James helped Mr. Roth unveil a plaque on his childhood home and a street sign renaming the road Philip Roth Plaza.

“Today, Newark is my Stockholm, and that plaque is my prize,” the 72-year-old writer told the crowd at the Weequahic Branch Library in comments reported by the Star-Ledger of Newark.

Mr. Roth was referring to the Nobel Prize awarded every year in Sweden. He was considered a front-runner for this year’s Nobel but lost out to British playwright Harold Pinter.

Britney’s boys

Justin Timberlake, who once told ex-girlfriend Britney Spears to “Cry Me a River,” is coming to her defense.

Photos of Miss Spears, her husband, Kevin Federline, and the couple’s infant son were published online late last week but were taken down within hours after her record label, Jive Records, issued a statement threatening legal action.

“When a person like her, who’s obviously a sweet person, is having their first child, it’s like, ‘leave the girl alone,’” Mr. Timberlake told “Access Hollywood” in an interview that aired last night.

“I do think that’s crossing the line,” the 24-year-old singer said. “That’s her baby, and those are her baby pictures.”

Big budget blues

He had the backing of one of Hollywood’s biggest studios and a budget he called “colossal,” but British director Mike Newell still felt he was working with peanuts on “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

“I very clearly remember that within a couple of months of starting work I was intensely angered by the lack of money, that there wasn’t enough money to make the film properly, and that really [upset] me,” Mr. Newell told Reuters news agency.

Compiled by Scott Galupo and Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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