- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 24, 2006

Close to his roots

Maybe it was home-state spirit. The man whose rags-to-riches story is told in the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” spent its opening night speaking at a company party in Wisconsin.

Michael Riggs, the CEO of JHT Holdings Inc., in Kenosha, said he arranged through a talent agency for Chris Gardner to be the inspirational speaker at the company’s Christmas party on Dec. 15. But with all the recent attention on Mr. Gardner and the new film starring Will Smith, Mr. Riggs doubted Mr. Gardner would make it, because the movie was premiering the same night.

He was wrong.

“He said, ‘I could have been in Rome or with the world’s biggest star, Will Smith. But I heard there was a company in Kenosha that had been doing great things, and I’d rather be here with fellow Wisconsinites’,” Mr. Riggs told Associated Press.

Mr. Gardner, a Milwaukee native, was a homeless, single father in California before becoming a millionaire business executive — the story told in the film based on his autobiography. He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel his recent fame hasn’t changed him much, and that he still keeps his “day job” heading a Chicago-based brokerage firm.

“I got up this morning and put my pants on the same way and it felt comfortable,” Mr. Gardner says.

“This all isn’t about me, the movie or the book. This is for us, for everyone who had an opportunity to become negative and decided to go the other way.

“For every father who had to be a mother and every mother who had to be a father, and everyone who had a dream who was told it couldn’t happen.”

Santa Carrey

Jim Carrey, who recently hosted the mother of all holiday parties at Paramount Studios, may be honored as the nation’s official Santa Claus next Christmas, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.

The actor not only collected more than 1,000 toys for needy Southern California children, he also put out nearly $500,000 to throw a benefit for the Los Angeles Fire Department’s “Spark of Love” toy drive. “I can’t think of a better way to spend my life savings,” quipped Mr. Carrey, who will appear in “The Number 23” early next year.

He had almost 500 helpers, including girlfriend Jenny McCarthy, newlyweds Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Ron Howard, Morgan Freeman, Brooke Shields, Cuba Gooding Jr., Brian Grazer, Mark Ruffalo, Virginia Madsen, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus and scores of kids.

Trump’s flag flap

When he wasn’t sending one beauty queen to rehab and stripping the sash from another, real estate mogul Donald Trump was battling his neighbors in Palm Beach, Fla., it turns out.

According to AP, attorneys for Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club filed a complaint Thursday suing the town for $10 million in damages plus attorneys’ fees after he was cited for flying a supersized American flag.

The lavish club hoisted the 15-foot-by-25-foot flag atop an 80-foot pole on Oct 3. Town officials said the Donald had violated zoning codes by having a flagpole taller than 42 feet, in not obtaining a permit, and for not getting permission from the landmarks board.

Mr. Trump’s attorneys say the town is selectively enforcing its ordinances and that flying the flag is a constitutionally protected expression of free speech.

“A smaller flag and pole on Mar-A-Lago’s property would be lost given its massive size, look silly instead of make a statement, and most importantly would fail to appropriately express the magnitude of Donald J. Trump’s and the Club’s members’ patriotism,” the suit states.

All damages awarded to the club in the case would be donated to “The Returning Veterans of the Iraqi War,” the suit said.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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