- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2008

Steel resolve

Novelist Danielle Steel has told the parents of troubled star Britney Spears that their failure to keep seeking psychiatric care for their daughter may end her life.

The author’s own son Nick Traina was diagnosed at 16 with bipolar disorder, a condition that propelled him into a deep depression leading to his suicide in 1997 at age 19.

Miss Steel believes that Miss Spears, who was placed on psychiatric evaluation at a Los Angeles hospital last month but released just six days later, may also suffer from the debilitating illness.

She told Reuters News Agency that if Miss Spears were bipolar, she could “get on track with the right treatment and medication.” The singer’s parents, she added “have to be extremely loving, extremely resourceful and extremely persistent.”

The romance writer is also calling for U.S. laws to be changed to allow mentally ill patients to be committed against their will: “Usually bipolars present extremely well and they can bounce into court … look very together and be a complete mess three hours later on the streets somewhere.

“There’s nothing you [as a parent] can do.”

Hearings continue

The divorce hearing between Paul McCartney and Heather Mills looks set to stretch into a second week, after a judge allotted extra time for the couple’s court case.

The hearing had been scheduled to end Friday, but officials at London’s Royal Courts of Justice said the case before Justice Hugh Bennett would continue today.

Miss Mills, 40, and Mr. McCartney, 65, separated in 2006 after four years of marriage and have since traded blows in the press while trying, and failing, to agree on divorce terms.

The hearing was called to decide on Miss Mills’ share of the former Beatle’s fortune, estimated at as much as $1.6 billion. Press reports suggest that Mr. McCartney has offered his wife about $50 million and that she is seeking at least double that amount.

The couple have squared off every day this week, but few details have emerged. Unlike most British court cases, divorce proceedings are heard in private, and the courtroom is closed to journalists and the public.

Mr. McCartney has hired lawyer Fiona Shackleton, who represented Prince Charles in his 1996 divorce from Princess Diana. Miss Mills, who fired her legal team late last year, is representing herself.

After the hearing ends, Justice Bennett is expected to take several weeks to consider a settlement. The terms will not become public unless it is challenged in the Court of Appeal, or either of the parties chooses to reveal details.

Walken wild

Christopher Walken sang a song from “Hairspray” and spoofed a “Saturday Night Live” skit Friday night in accepting Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Man of the Year award.

At a roast before the presentation, Mr. Walken, 64, who serenaded John Travolta last year in the latest film version of “Hairspray,” dressed himself in drag and sang to a Harvard student.

Mr. Walken, who joked afterward that he’d “have prepared or had a couple of drinks” if he had known what was in store, donned a copper-colored bra and brown wig. He couldn’t get into a pair of blue pumps that were supposed to be part of the outfit, doing a dance in his street shoes instead.

Members of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals at Harvard University, the nation’s oldest undergraduate drama troupe, also had Mr. Walken read the recipe for “hasty pudding,” and asked him to show off his “psychic powers,” a play on his role in 1983’s “The Dead Zone.”

Talisa Friedman, press manager for the Hasty Pudding drama troupe, said Mr. Walken exemplifies the Hasty Pudding spirit and the value it puts on fun.

Charlize Theron also won a Hasty Pudding award this year.

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from wire reports.

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