- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 18, 2007

Suit settled

Toni Braxton has settled her multimillion-dollar lawsuit against her former personal manager, representatives of both parties said.

Under the settlement, the Grammy-winning singer, 39, is free to pursue new projects following her return of a $375,000 advance to manager Barry Hankerson, Miss Braxton representative Michael Sitrick said Tuesday. Mr. Hankerson had previously demanded an additional $1 million to provide the singer with only a partial release from her contract, Mr. Sitrick said.

Miss Braxton’s lawsuit claimed that Mr. Hankerson owed her at least $10 million for dirty dealing that caused her to abandon a long relationship with Arista Records, a Sony BMG Music Entertainment label, for Blackground Records, the manager’s record label. Mr. Hankerson disputed those claims.

Sober as a judge

Paula Abdul’s spacy behavior on “American Idol” has prompted many to ponder if there’s a tumbler or two of booze in that red cup on the table in front of her on the Fox talent contest.

That’s nonsense, the 44-year-old “Idol” judge tells Us Weekly magazine in its Feb. 16 issue. “I’ve never been drunk. I have never done recreational drugs,” she says. “Just look at my 20-year career. Tell me someone who is into partying or doing drugs that could have done that.”

In her five years on “Idol,” Miss Abdul has weathered criticism about her sometimes odd behavior, which has included slurred and garbled speech, and her not-so-subtle gushing over the show’s young, male singers.

Last year, Fox announced that Miss Abdul signed a deal to remain on “Idol” through 2008.

Father-son act

Richard Gere appears with his father, a longtime volunteer for the Meals on Wheels Association of America, in the organization’s latest public service ads.

Father and son teamed up for a print ad and a television spot after the association learned that Homer Gere has been a meal delivery volunteer for almost 20 years.

The ad, headlined “My dad teaches me how to act every day,” does not identify Richard Gere, 57, by name.

The print ad has so far appeared in issues of Prevention and Sports Illustrated.

Meals at Maria

The newest addition to the roster of celebrity-inspired restaurants, Carlos Santana’s Maria Maria, promises to deliver authentic Mexican cuisine in an atmosphere inspired by his music.

The 59-year-old musician and his wife, Deborah, announced a partnership this week with Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Dudum Sports & Entertainment Corp., which developed Joe DiMaggio’s Italian Chophouse in San Francisco and other celebrity-focused establishments.

Together, they plan to turn three existing Northern California restaurants into Maria Maria, named after Mr. Santana’s Grammy-winning single.

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from Web and wire reports.

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