- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 16, 2006

Actor honored

Cliff Robertson was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday.

The actor, who grew up in La Jolla, Calif., would wash airplanes and clean engines as a teenager in hopes that a pilot would give him a ride and a lesson.

In 1969, he organized an effort to fly food and medical supplies into Biafra, which had declared independence from Nigeria. And in 1978, he organized a similar effort for famine-stricken Ethiopia.

“Gliding is my Walden Pond,” said Mr. Robertson, 80, who most recently reprised his role as the avuncular Uncle Ben Parker in the upcoming “Spiderman 3.”

Others enshrined included Bessie Coleman, the first black American to earn a pilot’s license, and Robert White, the first person to fly six times the speed of sound.

Film producer Tony Bill served as master of ceremonies at the enshrinement event.

Mr. Bill, 65, who has been a pilot for 50 years, directed “Flyboys,” which opens Sept. 29 and is about the birth of aerial combat during World War I. He won an Oscar for best picture in 1973 for producing “The Sting.”

The aviation hall was founded in 1962 in Dayton, the hometown of the Wright brothers, and later established by Congress. Wilbur and Orville Wright were the first of 186 enshrined.

Generous gesture

Mel Gibson, about to wrap up the filming of his Mayan epic, “Apocalypto,” in the jungles of Mexico’s Veracruz state, is donating money to build houses for poor people in the region.

The 50-year-old director-actor will donate the money through the Rotary Club and Mexico’s family welfare agency, government officials announced Thursday.

Officials said the donation will be used to construct homes for poor residents of the port city of Veracruz and the city of San Andres Tuxtla.

Mr. Gibson began filming “Apocalypto,” which follows the journey of a Mayan hero on the run through the rain forests of pre-Columbian Mexico, last fall.

Like his 2004 religious blockbuster, “The Passion of the Christ,” which was shot in Aramaic and Latin, “Apocalypto” is being done in an ancient tongue, Yucatec Maya.

The action adventure is set for release Dec. 8.

This is not Mr. Gibson’s first demonstration of generosity in Mexico. Last October, he met with President Vicente Fox to announce that he would donate $1 million to help Mexico recover from Hurricane Stan.

Hurricane Stan and related storms left more than 1,500 people dead or missing in Central America and Mexico.

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from wire reports.

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