- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Grinning, baring

With award season still under way, Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley are exchanging ball gowns for birthday suits.

The starlets posed nude for the cover of Vanity Fair magazine’s yearly Hollywood issue, which hits newsstands today.

Fashion superstar Tom Ford also appears on the cover photo, although he stuck with a more traditional suit — one of black fabric.

Mr. Ford, the issue’s guest art director, said he hadn’t planned on becoming part of his own project, but he stepped in when “Wedding Crashers” star Rachel McAdams, 29, backed out.

“She did want to do it, and then when she was on the set, I think she felt uncomfortable, and I didn’t want to make anybody feel uncomfortable,” Mr. Ford said yesterday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Other Hollywood stars weren’t difficult to persuade, Mr. Ford said.

“A lot of women, actually — a couple of men, too — wanted to take their clothes off,” he said. “These are such beautiful people, beautiful women, and who doesn’t want to see a bit of them?”

Free trade

South Korean movie star Choi Min-Shik put his medal where his mouth is.

According to Agence France-Presse, the actor returned a top cultural award in protest of the government’s decision to cut a protectionist quota for homegrown movies.

“This medal has no longer any significance,” said Mr. Choi, the star of South Korea’s 2004 Cannes Grand Prix-winning “Old Boy,” in returning his Okgwan Order of Culture Merit to the culture ministry.

“The medal of the government that has trampled on its own cultural sovereignty has no longer any value. So I’m returning it.”

The Seoul government awarded him the medal in 2004 in recognition of his contribution to the country’s cultural development.

Fire and rain

From Bruce Springsteen’s mournful harmonica on “Millworker” to Sting’s acoustic guitar on “Close Your Eyes,” a generation of singer-songwriters influenced by James Taylor paid tribute to him with their versions of his hits.

Stories abounded, Associated Press reports, when a powerhouse lineup of Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, the Dixie Chicks, Dr. John and Taj Mahal kicked off Grammy week by honoring the 57-year-old Mr. Taylor as MusiCares Person of the Year on Monday night.

“It’s strange to be at an event like this and still be alive,” Mr. Taylor joked, then added seriously, “It’s very moving, very terrifying and very wonderful to hear these songs done live.”

It was a working evening for Mr. Taylor, who joined his band for “Copperline” and “Shed a Little Light.”

Cat sidelined

Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall) has canceled the upcoming tour behind her critically acclaimed new album, “The Greatest,” citing health reasons.

According to RollingStone.com, the tour will be rescheduled soon. The jaunt was to kick off Saturday in Memphis, Tenn., and stop at the 9:30 Club March 5 and 6.

Despite health concerns, Miss Marshall has a well-earned reputation for microphone shyness.

In a 1999 performance at New York’s Bowery Ballroom, according to a RollingStone.com report, Miss Marshall grew so upset that she turned her back to the audience and sat down on the stage to sing, with fans sympathetically patting her back.

Compiled by Scott Galupo from Web and wire reports.

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