- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Beatles’ pal out

Apple Corps, guardian of the Beatles’ commercial interests, said yesterday that its chief executive, a longtime friend of the Fab Four, has quit.

Neil Aspinall, a school friend of Sir Paul McCartney and the late George Harrison, was the band’s first road manager and drove them between gigs in his van. He later became their personal assistant and in 1968 was given a management role at Apple Records, the band’s own record label. Mr. Aspinwall, now 64, was executive producer on the top-selling “Beatles Anthology” album and was behind other successes, including the “Beatles One” album, Associated Press reports.

The company said in a statement that Jeff Jones, a former executive vice president at Sony BMG, has been appointed as Mr. Aspinall’s replacement. There was no explanation for why Mr. Aspinall quit.

“This is astonishing news,” said former Apple press officer Geoff Baker. “Neil was the fifth Beatle and the architect of all the Beatles’ success over the past 15 or 20 years. I can’t see how the Beatles’ legacy will be looked after as well without him, and I’m amazed that Paul and Ringo [Starr] are letting this happen.”

The write stuff

Elizabeth Spencer has been selected to receive the 20th annualPEN/Malamud Award.

Given annually since 1988 in honor of the late writer Bernard Malamud, the award recognizes a body of work that demonstrates excellence in the art of short fiction.

Miss Spencer — the author of seven collections of short fiction as well as nine novels, a memoir and a play — has long been honored as an essential voice in the contemporary short story as well as in Southern fiction. She also is a writing instructor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The PEN/Malamud Award includes a memorial reading in the 2007/08 PEN/Faulkner reading series at Folger Shakespeare Library and a prize of $5,000. Previous PEN/Malamud Award winners include John Updike, Saul Bellow, Eudora Welty, Stuart Dybek and William Maxwell, Joyce Carol Oates, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Ann Beattie, Nathan Englander, Tobias Wolff and Adam Haslett.

Wild’ founder jailed

Joe Francis, founder of the infamous “Girls Gone Wild” video empire, was taken into custody by federal marshals in Florida yesterday to face a contempt-of-court citation after initially defying a federal judge, APreports.

He was booked into the Bay County Jail, said Ruth Sasser, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office.

Mr. Francis — who makes an estimated $29 million annually from videos of young women exposing their breasts and in other sexually provocative situations — yesterday appeared before federal Magistrate Larry A. Bodiford, who ordered him held without bail. Tomorrow, he’s scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak, the judge who issued the contempt citation.

Mr. Francis, 34, drew the contempt citation during negotiations in a civil lawsuit brought by seven women who were underage when they were filmed by his company on Panama City Beach during spring break in 2003. Lawyers for the women told Judge Smoak that Mr. Francis became enraged during the settlement talks, shouted obscenities at the attorneys and threatened to “bury” them. The judge ordered Mr. Francis to settle the case or go to jail for his behavior.

Negotiations continued with the help of a mediator but broke down Thursday, and Judge Smoak issued a contempt of court warrant. Mr. Francis initially refused to surrender and called the jurist “a judge gone wild.”

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

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