People in the news

‘Poet laureate of television’ Nipsey Russell dies at age 80

New York – Nipsey Russell, who played the Tin Man alongside Diana Ross and Michael Jackson in “The Wiz” as part of a decades-long career in stage, television and film, died Sunday. He was 80.

The actor, who had been suffering from cancer, died at Lenox Hill Hospital, said his longtime manager Joseph Rapp.

Born in Atlanta, Russell launched his television career as Officer Anderson in the 1961 television series “Car 54, Where are You?” He also appeared in the 1994 film version.

He became a fixture on popular television game and talk shows, where he was welcomed for his poetic delivery that earned him the moniker the “poet laureate of television.” He also took his signature four-line poetry on the road for readings and performances.

Russell also appeared in the films “Nemo” in 1984, “Wildcats” in 1986 and “Posse” in 1993.

Paris Latsis has only kind words for ex-fiance Hilton

Los Angeles – The engagement has been called off, but Paris Latsis has only kind words for his ex-fiancee, Paris Hilton.

The 22-year-old Greek shipping heir called Hilton “the most incredible woman I have ever met in my life,” in a brief statement released Monday through Hilton publicist Elliott Mintz.

“I respect her decision and appreciate the very kind and generous manner in which she is handling her very difficult decision,” Latsis said. “This was the best experience of my life and I will always be grateful for it.”

Hilton, 24, announced over the weekend that she had ended their four-month engagement because she’s “not ready for marriage” and didn’t want it to end in divorce.

There were earlier reports the two families had been concerned about Latsis’ lack of a job and Hilton’s busy social life.

Latsis’ father, Gregoris Kasidokostas, declined Saturday to say why the couple had broken up, but earlier had called a wedding postponement “common sense,” according to People magazine’s Web site. Latsis “is young and he should wait (for marriage),” Kasidokostas told People last week.

Michael Jackson ventures back into court arena

Los Angeles – Michael Jackson has filed a lawsuit against a concert promoter to prevent arbitration over a disputed 1999 concert contract.

Jackson and his company, MJ Company, sued concert promoter Marcel Avram and his German-based company Monday for breach of contract, according to court papers. The lawsuit also seeks a preliminary injunction to prevent Avram from proceeding with arbitration.

Michael Bruce Abelson, Jackson’s lawyer, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Monday night after business hours.

In November 2002, Jackson testified in a $21 million lawsuit brought by Avram, who accused the entertainer of backing out of two concerts on New Year’s Eve 1999. A Santa Barbara County jury in March 2003 ruled that Jackson must pay Avram $5.3 million.

Both parties reached a settlement agreement in 2003 that resolved existing and future claims related to the concerts, court papers said. Disputes regarding the settlement were to be resolved in Superior Court as a part of the settlement agreement, but Avram has moved forward with arbitration, according to the lawsuit.

An arbitration hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 24.

Jackson is seeking an injunction to prevent any alternative forms of dispute resolution.

Jagger denies reports of rift over his girlfriend

London – Mick Jagger says his girlfriend, stylist L’Wren Scott, isn’t trying to rehab the Rolling Stones’ choice of clothing and smoking habits.

“We have not had any disagreements about clothes, smoking or L’Wren, and this is all very hurtful for her,” the 62-year-old rocker said in a statement Tuesday.

He issued the statement after British newspaper reports suggested that Scott had angered band members by giving them fashion tips and urging some of them to stop smoking.

“It is completely untrue to say that L’Wren has caused a rift between myself and the rest of the band,” Jagger’s statement said.

Jagger said the 38-year-old Scott “would not dream of interfering with a band who have been on the road for 40 years. In fact the band, their wives and girlfriends are all getting along extremely well.”

The Rolling Stones are touring North America to promote their latest album.

In Jagger’s statement, Jo Wood, wife of Stones guitarist Ron Wood, denied that Scott had tried to get her husband to quit smoking.

“Ronnie is the only one who can stop himself from smoking. No one can tell him to stop. Me and L’Wren went together to stop smoking in Boston three years ago,” she said.

“It’s ridiculous about the clothes. Ronnie has the same look which he has had forever and that’s not about to change.”

Britney Spears opens closet to help hurricane victims

New York – Wear Britney’s bra, kick off her flip-flops and cuddle her toy bear – all for charity.

Britney Spears is holding a veritable garage sale, auctioning clothing, furniture and jewelry on the eBay auction Web site to raise money for the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund.

“This is a great opportunity to get some cool (and rare) Britney items while contributing to a very important cause!” says a posting on Spears’ Web site. The 23-year-old pop singer was raised in Kentwood, La.

Items include a white stone bra worn in one of her videos, a pair of blue-and-pink jeans with a pink suede buckle belt, and an autographed “I Have the Golden Ticket” burgundy tank top with an arrow pointing down.

The auction, which opened Saturday, continues this week, with proceeds going to The Britney Spears Foundation to help hurricane victims.