- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2006

Presidential intervention

What is a hip-shaking, Latin Grammy-sweeping superstar to do when she can’t find a suitable stadium to play in Caracas? If you’re Shakira, you get in touch with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and get yourself an air base.

“Shakira didn’t have anywhere to do her show, and I had banned such shows at La Carlota [Air Base], but her promoters sent me a letter, and I gave it a look,” Mr. Chavez said in Maracaibo, ahead of the Colombian’s “Oral Fixation No. 1” tour show here Saturday.

So, “Welcome, Shakira,” the president said, opening the gates to the base, which was the epicenter of a failed 2002 coup against him, to 40 tons of equipment and some mesmerizing moves.

Shakira rocked the Latin Grammys on Nov. 2, taking home five of the six awards for which she was nominated. Her album ‘Fijacion Oral Vol. 1’ won Album Of The Year.

Christmas cash

Michael Jackson is expected to appear at a Christmas party in Tokyo, where the best tickets would be priced at $3,400 per person, according to a report published yesterday.

Organizers hope to hold the event in Tokyo on Dec. 19, the Nikkan Sports tabloid said.

If Mr. Jackson agrees, the “Premium Christmas” show would be officially announced in the coming week, the paper said.

Under the proposal, Mr. Jackson would not perform at the event, which would offer $3,400 “platinum” tickets and $1,700 “gold” tickets, the report said. Instead, the audience likely will have dinner with Mr. Jackson while listening to his recorded music, the report said.

Those with platinum tickets would sit nearer to Mr. Jackson and have a group picture taken with the singer, but it was not clear how many tickets would be sold, the tabloid said.

Gold-ticket holders would receive his autographed portrait, the report said.

Mr. Jackson last came to Japan in May, when he received a Legends Award at MTV Japan’s Video Music Awards.

It was the most public outing by the superstar since he was acquitted on child molestation charges in June 2005, and fled the United States for the relative privacy of the Arab kingdom of Bahrain.

Wedding sites

From George Clooney’s estate on Lake Como to Mussolini’s former residence on Garda Lake, press speculation on where in Italy Hollywood’s most high-profile betrothed couple will tie the knot has only one consistent element: A lake.

The likely site of the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, who are to marry in an undisclosed Italian location on Saturday, appears to have been narrowed down to the Odescalchi Castle on Lake Bracciano, near Rome.

The romantic, 15th-century castle — with its halls, gardens and even a chapel nearby — can host up to 1,400 guests and has become the focus of the latest speculation.

As international press began gathering in the quiet town Friday, local officials and residents remained tight-lipped.

“The only thing we have received in the past days is a request to clear the square in front of the castle,” Bracciano Mayor Patrizia Riccioni told Associated Press Television News. “It is a hint, not evidence,” she said with a smile.

It is also not a denial, like the one issued recently by spokesmen for Mr. Clooney and the Villa Feltrinelli, a hotel that was once Mussolini’s residence, that the wedding would not be held there.

As of midday Friday, a red truck from Santa Ana, Calif.-based logistics company GeoLogistics was regularly coming in and out of Odescalchi Castle.

For scoop-seeking reporters, any clue is a good clue.

Italian news channel SkyTG24 on Thursday interviewed an electrician near Lake Bracciano, who would only say he was doing work in the castle for the rumored wedding.

Miss Holmes, 27, and Mr. Cruise, 44, were engaged in June 2005. Their daughter, Suri, was born on April 18.

Mr. Cruise and Miss Holmes were first photographed together in Rome in April 2005. Two months later, the “Mission: Impossible” actor announced he had proposed to Miss Holmes in Paris atop the Eiffel Tower.

For the wedding, Miss Holmes will wear a dress designed by Giorgio Armani.

The actress, who starred in TV’s “Dawson’s Creek,” was previously engaged to actor Chris Klein. Cruise, previously married to Mimi Rogers and Nicole Kidman, also had a high-profile romance with Penelope Cruz.

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from wire reports.

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