- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 6, 2006

It’s over

Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn have called it quits, People magazine reported on its Web site. Representatives for both actors said the couple decided to end their romance after Miss Aniston, 37, visited Mr. Vaughn, 36, in London in October, AP reports.

The couple met while filming “The Breakup,” which was released earlier this year. Miss Aniston was previously married to actor Brad Pitt.

Good Samaritan bling

Hip-hop and fashion mogul Russell Simmons says he’s selling bling to help raise money for the development and empowerment of Africans.

The 49-year-old entrepreneur announced his “Green Initiative” jewelry, which is manufactured and designed by Simmons Jewelry Co. Twenty-five percent of proceeds from sales will go toward the Diamond Empowerment Fund, which will support institutions such as schools and colleges in South Africa and Botswana and help boost economic development.

“Africans need this industry,” Mr. Simmons told Associated Press while touting the economic benefits to the region, such as the funding of many HIV/AIDS clinics.

His recent visit to South Africa and Botswana to tour diamond mines and factories coincides with efforts by human rights groups to raise awareness about so-called conflict diamonds, which have fueled and funded wars in Africa. Hollywood has also taken up the issue with “Blood Diamond,” a new film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly, which shows how conflict diamonds financed civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s. It opens nationwide tomorrow.

Generous gift

Gilbert and Jaylee Mead have done it again: donated a record-busting sum to a local theater of note. Their most recent gift, a whopping $35 million, will go toward Arena Stage’s $120 million building campaign. Arena says the donation is the largest ever made to an American regional theater, as well as one of the top 10 largest ever given to a nonprofit arts organization in the United States. When completed, sometime in the next three years, the new theater complex will be called Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Not long ago, the couple made a generous gift to Studio Theatre, which named a stage in their honor.

Those present for yesterday’s announcement included architect Bing Thom (who is designing the renovated and enhanced theater); DC Councilwoman Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat; prominent performing artists Maurice Hines, Robert Prosky and Brad Oscar; plus Arena’s artistic director Molly Smith and executive director Stephen Richard.

Also on hand: playwrights David Henry Hwang (“M Butterfly”), Charles Randolph-Wright (“Blue”), and Pulitzer Prize -winner Nilo Cruz (“Anna in the Tropics”).

A win for Eastwood

“Letters From Iwo Jima,” the second of Clint Eastwood’s two-part look at World War II, is the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures’ pick as the best film of 2006. Other winners, announced yesterday, include Helen Mirren, named best actress for “The Queen,” and Forest Whitaker, who won the best actor award for his role in “The Last King of Scotland.”

“Letters,” which depicts the war from the Japanese perspective with a mostly Japanese cast, opens nationwide Dec. 20.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse and Ann Geracimos from staff, Web and wire reports

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