- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2007

Baby topples Miss N.J.

Another Miss USA tiara is changing heads.

Ashley Harder, Miss New Jersey USA, has resigned because she is pregnant, the Philadelphia Daily News reported in yesterday’s editions.

Miss Harder, 20, told the newspaper she voluntarily stepped down because it’s against pageant rules to compete while pregnant. She could not be reached for comment by Associated Press.

Her resignation is the latest flap for the Miss USA pageant.

Miss Nevada USA Katie Rees was stripped of her title after racy photos of her appeared on the Internet. Miss USA Tara Conner, who was caught drinking in New York bars when she was still underage, was allowed to keep her tiara after she agreed to go into rehab and undergo drug testing.

The Miss USA pageant is scheduled for March 23 in Los Angeles. The winner of that competition goes on to compete in the Miss Universe pageant. Both pageants are owned by Donald Trump and NBC.

Will’s gal warns press

Photographers snapping Prince William’s girlfriend found themselves the focus of attention yesterday after her lawyers said they have collected video footage of them for use in possible harassment claims.

Kate Middleton, who turned 25 last week, has been the subject of intense media focus recently after rumors of an impending betrothal to her long-term boyfriend started circulating. Her pictures have been splashed across Britain’s newspapers, while photographers have remained camped outside her home and office.

“She has said that while she is not with William in public and going about her daily business there is no development or public interest in the story,” said Tim Toulmin, director of the Press Complaint’s Commission, Britain’s media watchdog. “She has made it clear she doesn’t want to be followed.”

Miss Middleton’s lawyers issued a request to newspaper editors, saying they have prepared a dossier of video footage ahead of any possible harassment claims. Her lawyer, Gerrard Tyrell, was not available for comment, AP reports.

“We have received a letter from her lawyers and we’ll be sending it to people in the industry,” Mr. Toulmin said, adding that Miss Middleton’s representatives accepted that there would be times she would be the focus of media attention but felt that permanent coverage was unfair.

The attention given Miss Middleton has been compared to that on Prince William’s late mother Princess Diana. From before her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981 to her death in a 1997 Paris crash, she was routinely followed by paparazzi.

Aretha’s star search

Cicely Tyson, “American Idol” winner Fantasia, Billy Dee Williams and gospel star Karen Clark are among the talent Aretha Franklin hopes to line up for “From These Roots,” the Broadway-bound play based on her best-selling autobiography of the same title.

“I’m casting the key people, who would be myself, my dad and family. I’m interested in Cicely Tyson playing my grandmother,” the multi-Grammy-winning Miss Franklin tells the Los Angeles Daily News. “I’d like to have Fantasia possibly play me as a young woman, and there are others I have in mind. There will be someone playing me at three ages, and I will probably make an appearance at the end of the play.”

So far, Miss Franklin says, “The hardest person for me to cast in my mind was my dad” — the late Rev. C.L. Franklin — “and this may sound far-fetched to you, but I came up with Billy Dee Williams. My father was a very good-looking man. Billy has the build, and he’s a dresser just like my dad, very classy.”

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

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