- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2006

Showstopper

She was an equestrian, a disco princess and a black-clad rocker — plus she crucified herself on a mirrored cross — all in less than two hours.

Madonna is known for her theatrical, action-packed shows, and Sunday night’s sold-out opener of her “Confessions” world tour in Inglewood, Calif. was no exception, Associated Press reports.

More than a dozen dancers — who had as many costume changes as the Material Mom herself — provided ample eye candy. Meanwhile, a jungle-gym contraption lowered from the ceiling became a play place for Cirque du Soleil-style gymnasts, while multiple massive video screens flashed images of war, world leaders, nature and, of course, Madonna.

Wearing jodhpurs and a top hat and carrying a jeweled riding crop, the singer emerged from a giant disco ball covered with $2 million worth of Swarovski crystals. Maybe that’s why the tickets cost up to $350.

True friends

Who’s your pal?

According to a poll conducted by Sisterwoman.com, a new social networking site that celebrates women’s friendships, Oprah Winfrey and Jennifer Aniston are the top two best celebrity girlfriends.

Of course, there is also a poll for worst celebrity girlfriends, notes the Detroit Free Press: Star Jones Reynolds, a co-host on “The View,” and the aforementioned Madonna were named the two worst.

Miss Winfrey, known for her close relationship with pal Gayle King, has all the virtues of a good girlfriend, say those who chose her. “Kind,” “generous,” “funny” and “bright” were used to describe the Big O, who garnered 36 percent of the votes.

Poll takers were almost as effusive about Miss Aniston, the beleaguered “Friends” star, who finished a close second with 34 percent of the vote. After her divorce from Brad Pitt, she has openly talked about the support of her girlfriends, even hanging out at Miss Winfrey’s pad in the wake of the split.

Mrs. Jones Reynolds, on the other hand, received icy reviews. “She’s way too self-absorbed and completely vain,” one poll taker says. Just behind “The View” co-host was Madonna, mainly because of her steadfast devotion to all things Madge.

Richards recovering

Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards has returned to the United States after being treated for a head injury in New Zealand, his publicist said yesterday.

Mr. Richards, 62, was injured April 27 in Fiji. News reports have variously claimed that he fell out of a palm tree or from a Jet Ski. Mr. Richards later had surgery in Auckland to relieve pressure in his head, AP reports.

Final chapter

Nobel laureate Toni Morrison plans to retire from her Princeton University professorship, reports the Denver Post, citing a report from the Daily Princetonian. The news comes just as the New York Review of Books named Miss Morrison’s 1987 novel “Beloved” the best American fiction of the past 25 years.

“It is a happy occurrence that at the very moment that professor Morrison has decided to retire she should have received this honor, one that is so richly deserved,” said Edmund White, director of the university’s creative writing program.

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

Comely vegans

Prince has been voted the “world’s sexiest vegetarian” in PETA’s annual online poll, the animal rights group announced yesterday.

The pop star, 47, shares the honor with Kristen Bell, the 25-year-old star of “Veronica Mars,” which is being carried over from UPN to the new CW Network this fall, Associated Press reports.

A strict vegan, Prince recently wrote in the liner notes of his latest album, “3121,” about the ills behind wool production. He closed the disc with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being.”

Miss Bell, in a statement, said of her vegetarianism: “I had a hard time disassociating the animals I cuddled with — dogs and cats, for example — from the animals on my plate, and I never really cared for the taste of meat. I always loved my brussels sprouts.”

Runners-up in the poll, which PETA said received more than 40,000 votes, include Natalie Portman, Nicollette Sheridan and Joaquin Phoenix.

Last year, Coldplay singer Chris Martin and “American Idol” Carrie Underwood were picked as the two “sexiest vegetarians.” Other previous winners include Andre 3000 of the rap group OutKast, Tobey Maguire, Josh Hartnett, Alicia Silverstone, supermodel Lauren Bush and Shania Twain.

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