- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Stars gather

Radio One Inc., the seventh-largest radio broadcasting company in the United States, plans to celebrate its 25th anniversary tonight at the J.W. Marriott hotel with a star-studded guest list including Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Janet Jackson, Russell Simmons, P. Diddy, Jay Z, Ruben Studdard, Dick Gregory, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep.Maxine Waters. The event is the finale of a yearlong celebration for the corporation, founded 25 years ago by local radio diva Cathy Hughes. Her empire has grown to boast 14 million weekly listeners on 71 radio stations in 22 urban markets, including Washington, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas, Atlanta and Detroit.

Radio One, in collaboration with the Comcast Corp., recently began TV One, a lifestyle and entertainment network tailored for a black audience.

Anti-AIDS crusader

Richard Gere has told a Toronto AIDS conference that the media — from the chief executives of TV networks to the cultural icons of Hollywood and Bollywood — must fight the disease by using their enormous reach into people’s hearts and homes.

Mr. Gere, a longtime AIDS activist and founder and director of Healing the Divide and the Heroes Project in India, joined media giants from India, the Caribbean, South Africa and Russia on Monday to promote the use of AIDS awareness campaigns in TV programming.

The 56-year-old actor said he was inspired by Rock Hudson, who died of AIDS in 1985, and Mr. Hudson’s good friend Elizabeth Taylor, one of the first Hollywood stars to become actively involved in anti-AIDS campaigns.

Mr. Gere, a follower and friend of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has made many trips to India. Two years ago, he helped start the Heroes Project with grants from his own foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

The group worked with TV executives in India to produce public service announcements using cultural icons such as Bollywood’s Amitabh Bachchan as well as soap operas with HIV-positive characters, documentaries and talk shows.

Mr. Gere worked closely with Peter Mukerjea, chief executive of the Star Group in India, whose TV stations have reached an estimated 70 million viewers with AIDS public service announcements.

Mr. Mukerjea announced Monday that Star was making another five-year commitment of $23.16 million to extend the Heroes Project AIDS campaign.

Divine intervention

Luciano Pavarotti says he is getting a hand from God in his battle against pancreatic cancer.

“Now I only need God’s help, and it really seems to me that He is giving it to me,” Mr. Pavarotti was quoted as telling Corriere della Sera in an interview published Tuesday.

The interview, at the 70-year-old tenor’s villa near the Adriatic Sea resort town of Pesaro, was conducted by Ettore Mo, a veteran correspondent of the Milan daily and a friend of Mr. Pavarotti’s for about 40 years. Mr. Pavarotti sat in a wheelchair.

Mr. Mo wrote that some of Mr. Pavarotti’s replies disturbed him, including one in which the singer said, without explanation, that he doesn’t want to listen to his own recordings anymore.

After reminiscing fondly about his performances alongside Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras as the Three Tenors, Mr. Pavarotti added: “It was a great, beautiful season that we had. But I don’t listen to myself [singing] anymore.

“I don’t want to hear myself. If you invite me to dinner, and to please me, you put on one of my own recordings, I would walk out on you,” he was quoted as saying. “If you want me to stay, make me hear Placido’s voice.”

Mr. Pavarotti was preparing to leave New York last month to resume a farewell tour when doctors discovered a malignant pancreatic mass. He had surgery, and all his remaining 2006 concerts were canceled. Mr. Pavarotti retired from staged opera in 2004.

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from wire reports.

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