- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2006

Trouble in paradise?

They’ve denied they’re on the verge of splitting, but Paul McCartney and his second wife, Heather Mills, are spending more time apart after a reported series of fights. Two weeks ago, Miss Mills, 37, made a solo getaway to the South of France, the New York Post reported Sunday.

Last week, when she returned to their English country home, Sir Paul, 63, split for the French Riviera.

“She is angry that he gets so much adulation from fans and is one of the most famous people on the planet, while she feels she should get just as much respect for being a model and campaigner,” an unnamed friend of the couple told the London Evening Standard. “She feels she should be seen as just as big a star.”

Miss Mills and Mr. McCartney wed in June of 2002.

Good signs

Johnny Depp has the write stuff when it comes to signing autographs, while Cameron Diaz is the worst, according to a new list from Autograph Collector magazine. Mr. Depp, followed by George Clooney, topped the magazine’s 14th annual survey of Hollywood’s best and worst signers, the Denver Post reports. The “Pirates of the Caribbean” star also was rated best last year.

“Many stars become bad signers once fame and fortune hits, but not Depp. He’s even signed autographs for crowds at the airport while carrying luggage,” says Steve Cyrkin, editor and publisher of the Santa Ana, Calif.-based magazine.

“Cameron Diaz may be a talented actress, but she’s persistently a terrible signer,” Mr. Cyrkin said. “Instead of just turning down a person’s autograph request, she’ll lecture them about how dumb autographs are.”

It’s Dr. Freeman now

Morgan Freeman accepted his honorary degree from Delta State University with a simple “Thank you.”

The Cleveland, Miss. college conferred the Doctor of Arts and Letters degree on the 68-year-old actor in front of a capacity crowd Saturday at the school’s Walter Sillers Coliseum, according to Associated Press.

“Mr. Freeman’s commitment to the Delta has been steadfast and solid. He has never forgotten his roots, and we appreciate him for that,” Delta State President John M. Hilpert said.

Later, at a reception, Mr. Freeman, an Oscar winner for “Million Dollar Baby,” acknowledged Leola Gregory Williams, an elementary school teacher in his native Greenwood, Miss.

“She was a magician, a true magician,” he said, adding that Miss Williams inspired him and challenged him “to make something of my life, to do good.”

Words of wisdom

Art Garfunkel made up for last summer’s arrest for marijuana possession in Woodstock, N.Y., by speaking to students at two local high schools in the town about keeping a healthy lifestyle, AP reports.

Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams said the singer, who was found with a marijuana cigarette in his ashtray after being pulled over for running a stop sign, spoke at the two Hudson Valley schools — instead of paying a $100 fine — in late March. It was the second time in less than two years that Mr. Garfunkel, a Manhattan resident, was arrested for having pot in Ulster County. He paid a fine the first time.

Mr. Garfunkel, who with Paul Simon made up the duo Simon & Garfunkel, produced a string of hits in the 1960s, including “The Sound of Silence,” “Mrs. Robinson” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Poetry in motion

A dozen high school students from across the country, all masters in poetry recitation, will showcase their skills for a chance to win $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends — including $20,000 for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion — during the Poetry Out Loud National Finals tonight at 7:30 at the Lincoln Theatre.

The 12 students will be selected from among 51 participants scheduled to compete in three semifinal rounds today, with Suzanne Fields, a columnist with The Washington Times, serving as one of the honorary judges.

Featured speakers and guest judges for the evening national finals include National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia; John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation; Caroline Kennedy; Scott Simon, host of National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition Saturday”; Azar Nafisi, author of “Reading Lolita in Tehran”; Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic Michael Dirda; and Curtis Sittenfeld, author of “Prep: A Novel.”

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

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