Jewish World Review Jan. 7, 2004 / 13 Teves, 5764

Lloyd Grove

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Bono hits a brick wall; Britney, before the nuttiness; the Arianna primary; more | NEW YORK — For the past two years, U2 front man Bono has been meeting on and off with National Football League officials, hoping to get them to allow a mention of global AIDS during the Super Bowl halftime show.

The activist Irish rocker — who performed with his band at the 2002 Super Bowl in an emotional tribute to the victims of 9-11 — last year joined Jennifer Lopez in Los Angeles to record "An American Prayer," his song concerning the African AIDS crisis.

I'm told that Bono proposed to the NFL that he and J-Lo perform his tune during the Feb. 1 extravaganza in Houston, and thus raise awareness of the growing catastrophe.

A familiar figure in Washington as a lobbyist for federal funding to fight African AIDS, Bono floated other ideas during repeated meetings with NFL Communications Vice President Joe Browne at the league's New York headquarters, and persuaded initially skeptical MTV types — who are producing the 12-minute halftime show for the NFL — to endorse Bono's effort.

But last week, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue's office summarily rejected Bono's proposal, saying the show — which is being sponsored by AOL to the tune of $8 million — is for entertainment, not flogging worthy causes.

"We simply decided that were going to have our halftime show, and we were going to deliver, as we do annually, an extremely entertaining halftime show," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told me Tuesday. "We don't believe it's appropriate to focus on a single issue." He added that this has been a long-held view.

McCarthy said Tagliabue was not involved in the decision, nor was he aware of Bono's frequent visits to headquarters. "As commissioner of the National Football League, he has bigger concerns than over who's performing a halftime show," McCarthy said.

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I asked why NFL officials continued to meet with the rock star if the AIDS halftime show component wasn't in the cards. "They were listening," he answered, "and they met with Bono out of their great respect for him."

McCarthy added that the NFL is still planning to participate this spring in Bono's planned trip to Africa to highlight the AIDS crisis, and that NFL players will be along for the ride.


From her un-pop-tarty behavior on the island of Nevis, you'd never know that Britney Spears was about to descend into Las Vegas madness.

Or something.

"She was there from the 26th of December until the morning of the 31st — and she was with a beautiful blonde girlfriend and some bodyguards," said a fellow guest at the Four Seasons Resort on the posh Caribbean island. "She was completely un-diva-ish in her manner. She always said hello when I passed her, she was very cooperative about signing autographs and posing for pictures, and she seemed thrilled by all the little posses of kids that trailed her around everywhere. She was pretty nice — incredibly friendly, actually — and seemed like a well-brought up girl."

Spears was renting a spacious private villa in the Four Seasons compound and hung out there one night having a bull session with admiring teenagers on vacation with their families.

On another night, the guest said, Spears shooed away a group of younger fans who dropped by.

"Britney and her friend, who was really stunning, were very quiet, just sunning themselves on the beach in their bikinis and getting manicures and pedicures, doing that girl thing," said the guest, a New York author who asked for anonymity. "I heard that one night she got all dolled up and went to a Rasta bar."

The "friend" was actually Spears' cheerleader-cousin, Laura Lynn Covington.

The guest told me that Spears — looking "a little the worse for the wear and maybe about 5 pounds heavier than she'd like" — seemed "a little lonely."

"I can't put my finger on it, but that was my sense," the guest said.

Spears, maybe to assuage that loneliness, ultimately found herself in a Las Vegas wedding chapel walking down the aisle with childhood pal Jason Allen Alexander. They spent 55 hours as husband and wife until the marriage was hastily annulled.


DON'T GET NO RESPECT?: Hollywood money-man Graham King provided 75 percent of the budget for the 2000 multiple Academy Award-winning movie "Traffic," a feather in his cap as a foreign sales agent. But King is apparently not ready to forgive and forget that director Steven Soderbergh and other key players neglected to thank him from the stage at the Oscars. "Soderbergh didn't thank anybody, but the others just, you know, forgot," he complains to W magazine. "I mean, what do they want me to do? Wave a banner from the audience? Come on! The guy who writes the check should be remembered. Am I right?"

THE ARIANNA PRIMARY: Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has a new fan: syndicated columnist Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington. The Greek-born Huffington presides over one of the glitziest salons in Southern California at her gated house in star-studded Brentwood. The ex-wife of onetime Republican Senate candidate Michael Huffington (who spent more than $30 million of his own money to lose to Dianne Feinstein in 1994), she is a Newt Gingrich conservative turned liberal populist, and met the former Vermont governor months ago when he came to dinner with Rob Reiner. In her upcoming column, Huffington derides the notion that Dean is unelectable: "Consider the source: the folks besmirching the good doctor's Election Day viability are the very people who have driven the Democratic Party into irrelevance." She also champions Dean in a soon-to-be published book for Miramax, "Fanatics and Fools: Why George Bush Must Lose So the American People Can Win."

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© 2003, Creators Syndicate