- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mrs. Astor rips guests

A witness testified Monday that the normally polite socialite and philanthropist Brooke Astor made an awkward remark to Britain’s Camilla Parker Bowles and criticized Catherine Zeta-Jones’ dress during a luncheon in 1999, when she was almost 100 years old.

Mrs. Astor died in 2007 at 105.

Vartan Gregorian, Mrs. Astor’s longtime friend, was testifying at the larceny trial of Mrs. Astor’s son, Anthony Marshall, and his lawyer Francis Morrissey - who are accused of taking advantage of her mental decline caused by Alzheimer’s disease to plunder her $198 million estate. According to Associated Press, Mr. Gregorian said the remark to Mrs. Parker Bowles was in Mrs. Astor’s apartment at a reception to introduce Prince Charles‘ future wife to New York society.

Mr. Gregorian said when it came time to toast Mrs. Parker Bowles, Mrs. Astor said, “I drink a toast to Mrs. Keppel,” an apparent reference to Alice Frederica Edmonstone Keppel, Mrs. Parker Bowles’ ancestor and mistress of King Edward VII. Mrs. Astor then said to Mrs. Parker Bowles, “Your grandmother would be proud of you.”

Mr. Gregorian said Mrs. Astor was suggesting that because of Mrs. Parker Bowles’ relationship with Prince Charles - whose first wife, Princess Diana, had died in 1997 - she was following in the tradition of her grandmother. He said Mrs. Parker Bowles “received Brooke’s comments graciously.”

Mrs. Parker Bowles married Prince Charles in 2005.

Mr. Gregorian, president of the charitable Carnegie Corp. foundation, said the luncheon was organized by television personality Barbara Walters and added that although Mrs. Astor said she didn’t recognize the guests, she had met most of them before.

Mr. Gregorian said Mrs. Astor asked him about a woman nearby and he told her, “That’s Catherine Zeta-Jones,” whom he described as a “great actress.”

He said Mrs. Astor responded that she had never heard of Miss Zeta-Jones and said, “She’s wearing the wrong dress for this occasion.”

Mr. Gregorian said that because of Mrs. Astor’s hearing difficulties, she was unaware that others could overhear her talking about the Oscar-winning Welsh actress. The witness said he told Mrs. Astor the man with Miss Zeta-Jones was her husband, Michael Douglas, star of the films “Basic Instinct” and “Wall Street.” When Mrs. Astor said she hadn’t heard of him, either, Mr. Gregorian told her he was the son of Kirk Douglas, whom she knew.

Mr. Gregorian said Miss Zeta-Jones pretended not to hear the remarks.

Poetry man

A poem Bob Dylan wrote about a dead dog when he was a teenager will go on the auction block next month, Agence France-Presse reports.

The handwritten poem called “Little Buddy” is the earliest work by the singing legend to come to auction and is estimated to sell for between $10,000 and $15,000 at Christie’s on June 23, the auctioneers said.

The two-page poem, signed by Bobby Zimmerman, as he was called before he changed his name, “is a dark and mournful poem, about the murder of a boy’s dog,” Christie’s said in a statement.

“I’ll meet my precious buddy up in the sky/ By a tiny narrow grave/ Where the willows sadly wave,” the poem reads.

Mr. Dylan penned the poem in the mid-1950s while he was a camper at Herzl Camp in Wisconsin, AFP reports.

Not guilty, West says

Kanye West has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from a scuffle with a paparazzo last year.

Los Angeles city attorney’s spokesman Nick Velasquez says Mr. West entered the plea through his attorney Friday. The 31-year-old rap star was not in court, Associated Press reports.

City prosecutors charged the rapper with misdemeanor battery, grand theft and vandalism. Mr. West was arrested Sept. 11 after an incident in which he was shown breaking a paparazzo’s camera flash at Los Angeles International Airport.

The next scheduled hearing in the case is July 15, AP said.

Singing for the troops

Amy Grant and Vince Gill are on a mission to help wounded warriors.

According to Associated Press, the country music couple will be hosting a concert at the Kennedy Center June 8 to help launch Challenge America, a national initiative to support and connect existing programs for disabled veterans.

“It’s going to be a very relaxed, comfortable evening,” Miss Grant told People.com. She will be joined onstage by her husband and others, including “American Idol” finalist Melinda Doolittle, Hootie & the Blowfish lead singer Darius Rucker, Doobie Brothers frontman Michael McDonald and bluegrass-country singer and fiddler Alison Krauss.

Challenge America is an outgrowth of Challenge Aspen, which Miss Grant and Mr. Gill have supported for nearly a decade. Challenge Aspen provides recreational opportunities for people with disabilities. Miss Grant has witnessed firsthand how sports can help a wounded soldier’s recovery.

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

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