Crooner Clay Aiken to take a place among knights of the Round Table

The Baltimore Sun

Get ready! American Idol superstar Clay Aiken joins the Tony award-winning musical Monty Python's Spamalot, causing a line at the doors of the Shubert Theatre on West 44th Street beginning Friday. And he'll stick with this hilarious show through May 4.

Director Mike Nichols: "Clay is amazing, beyond that glorious voice. Turns out he is an excellent comic actor and a master of character. People are going to be surprised by his wide-ranging talent, since the first impression is of great country charm and a singer to remember. This guy is not only a star; he is a lot more. We're lucky to get him for Spamalot!"

Ding-Dong! What a gift!

Thinking on Mr. Nichols, let's mention his personal triumph - Charlie Wilson's War, one of the best movies of the year.

So, what does a super famous director send for Christmas to an old friend who happens to write gossip? Well, I have an iron doorstop from Mr. Nichols and his bride, Diane Sawyer. It consists of the legs of the Wicked Witch of the West, resting under the door and wearing the magic ruby red slippers.

Any minute, I expect Dorothy to come along, don the slippers and then we'll dance off down the yellow brick road singing, "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead." A fine beginning for 2008.

No-shows of Oscars past

Back on Nov. 20, this column asked what would happen to the Academy Awards if the writers' strike went on and on? At the time, one hardly imagined the worry might become a reality.

Well, if some nominees and celebrities shun Oscar this year in support of the writers, it won't be the first time Big Twinkies have ignored the proceedings for one reason or another. Kate Hepburn resolutely didn't appear to pick up any of her many Oscars; Marlon Brando sent an American Indian to refuse the statue on his behalf; the night Paul Newman finally won he didn't bother to show up; George C. Scott refused to appear, calling it all "offensive, barbarous and innately corrupt"; and so on. This year, it is feared that George Clooney, Keira Knightley, Johnny Depp and Denzel Washington (all probable nominees) might stay away as a show of solidarity for the striking writers.

Calling out Gwyneth

Sense About Science is a British charity concerned with promoting good science and spotlighting public figures who endorse products or espouse health theories when they simply don't know what they are talking about. This group named Gwyneth Paltrow as an offender after she declared: "I am convinced that by eating biological foods it is possible to avoid tumors." SAS says celebrities should avoid promoting "quackery."

Chitchat from France

So the French aren't so "sophisticated" after all; they deplore their declining-in-popularity new president Nicolas Sarkozy who has referred to himself as "the poor man's Tom Cruise!" - whatever that means.

Nope, the Frenchies have gone Puritanical over the recently divorced prexy and his model friend, Carla Bruni. Well, I say never underestimate the wrath of disgruntled Frenchmen. (Marie Antoinette did and look what happened!)

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