- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Britney to divorce

Pop star Britney Spears has filed for divorce from her dancer husband, Kevin Federline, according to court documents published yesterday.

The 24-year-old former teen idol, who married Mr. Federline in 2004, will seek custody of the couple’s two children, 1-year-old Sean Preston and 2-month-old Jayden James, the documents filed at Los Angeles County Superior Court say.

Miss Spears’ second marriage has provided endless fodder for tabloids, which have speculated frequently that the union has been in trouble.

Her lawyers cited “irreconcilable differences” for the split, while the TMZ.com celebrity Web site cited friends of the singer as saying there was no one reason for the divorce but rather “a string of events.”

Miss Spears, whose wealth in 2004 was estimated by Forbes magazine at around $123 million, had a prenuptial agreement with Mr. Federline that will protect her assets, sources close to the singer told TMZ.

The singer shot to superstardom in late 1998 with her smash-hit debut album, “Baby One More Time,” which she followed with another chart-topping success the following year, “Oops! … I Did It Again.”

According to Time magazine, Miss Spears has sold more than 76 million records worldwide and her 31 million albums in the U.S. make her the eighth-best-selling female artist in American music history.

Picasso on block

A judge ruled yesterday that a Picasso painting can be sold at auction despite a claim that its former owner was forced to sell it to the Nazis in the 1930s because his family descended from Jews.

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff issued the order four days after Julius H. Schoeps, an heir to Berlin banker Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, filed a lawsuit in Manhattan to stop the sale.

The judge had temporarily blocked the auction of “Portrait de Angel Fernandez de Soto,” which is expected to fetch up to $60 million.

The painting was scheduled to be sold at Christie’s today as part of its impressionist and modern art sale.

Botched joke?

Faith Hill insists she’s no Kanye West.

The country music superstar says she was just joking when cameras showed her screaming “What?” in apparent anger when she lost the Female Vocalist of the Year award to newcomer Carrie Underwood at the Country Music Association Awards ceremony Monday night in Nashville.

“The idea that I would act disrespectful toward a fellow musician is unimaginable to me,” Miss Hill said. “For this to become a focus of attention given the talent gathered is utterly ridiculous. Carrie is a talented and deserving Female Vocalist of the Year.”

Media outlets and blogs zeroed in on Miss Hill’s reaction after Miss Underwood’s name was announced at the ceremony. While other nominees — Sara Evans, Gretchen Wilson and Martina McBride — gave the typical gracious loser smile, Miss Hill, who was standing backstage, turned to the camera and shouted “What?”

Although her voice could not be heard, it was clear from her lips what she said. She looked visibly upset, and then it looked as if she was storming off.

However, Miss Hill said it was all a joke, and her manager, Gary Borman, echoed that: “I’ve worked with Faith for many years now, and the idea that she would ever insult or undermine another artist, let alone another human being’s success is absolutely preposterous. Those who know her know that she’s incapable of such actions,” he said.

“She was being playful while the nominations were being read and playful after.”

Miss Underwood, the 2005 “American Idol” champ, has become a triple platinum success since releasing her debut album late last year. Miss Hill is a longtime darling of country music with crossover pop appeal.

Compiled from wire reports by Kevin Chaffee.

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