- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another Barack

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey has added its voice to the growing list of tributes honoring President Obama by naming its latest elephant Barack.

The calf, the circus’s first Asian elephant born by way of artificial insemination, arrived Jan. 19 — on the eve of the historic inauguration of the nation’s 44th president.

The new arrival weighed in at 250 pounds and stands 39 inches tall.

Since 1999, Barack is just the fourth elephant in North America to be successfully born from artificial insemination.

Barack the elephant ” is a living tribute of our ongoing commitment to help save this magnificent yet endangered species,” circus officials said.

First lady at Tussauds

Madame Tussauds wax museum is adding Michelle Obama to its collection of famous figures in the District.

Museum officials on Wednesday released pictures of the design process and told Associated Press the full figure will be unveiled in March. Designers will have spent six months on the figure, studying photographs and video of the first lady. The figure was designed at Merlin Studios in London and will be placed alongside President Obama’s figure in a replica Oval Office.

Taster’s choice

Elizabeth Taylor once kicked legendary hell-raiser Richard Harris out of her Hollywood home after she caught him drinking her expensive perfume.

Mr. Harris, who died in 2002, was a famous Hollywood party animal and lifelong drinker — part of a booze-loving fraternity of British and Irish stars including Oliver Reed, Peter O’Toole and Miss Taylor’s late husband Richard Burton.

His embarrassing encounter with the glamorous actress was revealed to his actor son Jared when the younger man worked with fellow actor Jason Flemyng on the Oscar-nominated “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” the Internet Movie Database reports.

Mr. Flemyng’s father “and my dad were friends when they were young men in Hollywood,” Jared Harris says. “They went to a party Elizabeth Taylor was giving. She cut off the alcohol and kicked everyone out.

“She went up to bed and found Jason Flemyng’s father and my father upstairs downing all the Chanel No. 5.”

Out-of-sync over sync

Gabriela Montero says she and the other members of the Obama inauguration quartet were not trying to fool anybody by having recorded music played in the biting cold, AP reports.

Shaken by comparisons to lip-syncers Milli Vanilli, the pianist insists she and fellow musicians Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Anthony McGill “did the right thing.”

“What is upsetting me these days is the fact that we put so much love into this, with a very profound desire to make it so beautiful,” the Venezuelan-American pianist says. “My only regret is that, unfortunately, some people have chosen to focus on the wrong thing.”

Just before President Obama was sworn in on Jan. 20 with temperatures in the 20s, the quartet appeared to play “Air and Simple Gifts,” a short work composed for the occasion by John Williams. Miss Montero says the quartet actually did play, but the music was drowned out by the amplified music.

The group recorded the work two days earlier but still intended to play it live, she says. A day before the inauguration, about half a dozen keys on the Steinway were sticking, and the piano was not projecting enough sound, Miss Montero says.

“We decided that it would have been a disaster if we went out there with that cold, with the wind, and played our instruments out of tune,” she says. “Can you imagine what kind of tone it would have set? … It would absolutely have been a pathetic way to lead a president into his oath and the moment that this country was waiting for so eagerly.”

Landis suing Jackson

“Thriller” may be headed to Broadway, but first Michael Jackson’s song and groundbreaking music video may be headed to court.

John Landis, the acclaimed director who co-wrote the video and shot “Thriller,” is suing Mr. Jackson, claiming the pop star has failed to pay him royalties for the project for the past four years.

The lawsuit claims Mr. Landis is owed 50 percent of profits from “Thriller” projects and that Mr. Jackson continues to license rights to video games, toys and comic books based on the 14-minute music video and a documentary.

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

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