Entertainment Edition:

The season’s golden girls, bad boys, and red-carpet rebels

ENTERTAINMENT EDITION: The season's golden girls, bad boys, and red-carpet rebels

WINNERS

Batman
Batman and Superman recently went toe to toe and settled the age-old debate over superhero supremacy. The battle, though, was recorded only in the chequebooks of wealthy collectors. Late last month, a copy of Action Comics No. 1, the first to feature Superman, was sold for a record US$1 million in a private sale in New York City. Three days later, the first comic featuring Batman hit the auction block in Dallas, and sold for US$1,075,500.

Jennifer Aniston
Lawmakers agree Aniston played a major role in getting California’s new paparazzi law approved. The law calls for fines of up to US$50,000 against media outlets that buy and publish “unlawfully obtained” photos. Aniston told legislators she’d had as many as 30 photographers charge her on the sidewalk and been followed through L.A. streets at night in SUVs. Politicians agreed: there’s something truly deranged about having that much of an interest in Jennifer Aniston.

Christopher Plummer
After 55 years in show business, Canadian actor Christopher Plummer finally had a reason to show up at the Oscars this year when he was nominated for his role in The Last Station. Plummer didn’t win—the award went to Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds—but one suspects he won’t mind having to find something else to do next Oscar night if he’s not nominated again. “It’s a flesh-peddling business,” he said, prior to the show. “And I don’t always like the feeling on the red carpet.”

IMAX
IMAX is riding the 3-D movie bandwagon all the way to the bank. Thanks to blockbusters like Avatar, the Mississauga, Ont.-based firm rang up $100 million at the box office in the fourth quarter of 2009, more than triple its take from a year earlier. And with new releases like Alice in Wonderland already smashing sales records, IMAX can finally be counted on to deliver something more interesting than geriatric Rolling Stones concert documentaries.

Lily Safra
At nearly $550 million, her sprawling villa on the French Riviera was hardly a bargain, even if it is one of the world’s most beautiful houses. So when the recession hit in 2008, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov got a bad case of buyer’s remorse and reneged on a bid to buy the lavish home. But Prokhorov had made a 10 per cent deposit and France has a strict no-refund policy. Safra eventually won the ensuing court battle—and, in the end, gave the $55 million to charity.

Vampire Weekend
Only 12 independently distributed albums have ever reached the No.1 spot on Billboard’s top 200 chart. Vampire Weekend’s second album, Contra, joined that rarefied class when it debuted in the top spot thanks to first-week sales of 124,000 copies. Still, the feat only shows how dismal music sales have become. The first indie album to ever hit No. 1, N.W.A.’s Efil4zaggin, had sold over a million copies when it claimed the spot in 1991.

Ellen DeGeneres
When Paula Abdul wouldn’t sign a contract rumoured to be worth US$5 million per year, she left a gaping hole at American Idol’s judge’s table, which DeGeneres was only too happy to fill. The producers are no doubt just as happy—her first appearance saw viewership spike to 28 million. Ellen, who reportedly earned US$35 million last year from her talk show and endorsements, calls Idol her “night job.” “The times we’re living in,” she said, “we’re all doing that.” Poor thing.

Justin Bieber
The meteoric rise of the Stratford, Ont., teen owes everything to a music exec spotting the videos Bieber had posted on YouTube. The carefully coiffed pop singer was then signed to Usher’s label, released a hit album and sang the first line in the new version of We Are the World. Now it takes just a wave and a smile from the cardiganned wonder to send girls into bouts of hysterical squealing, and their parents into bouts of teeth gnashing.

Nana Mouskouri
With 300 million albums sold over a 40-plus-year career, the Greek singer hardly needs the $35,000 a year pension she earned by serving as a member of the European Parliament in the ’90s. So with her cash-strapped native Greece teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, Mouskouri donated the pension to the government. The move leaves Greece with a mere $420 billion left to shave off its national debt.

Sarah Killen
Conan O’Brien has nearly 650,000 followers on Twitter. On the other hand, O’Brien himself follows just one person, chosen “at random.” “She likes peanut butter and gummy dinosaurs,” the former late-night comedian tweeted. “Sarah Killen, your life is about to change.” Indeed it has. Killen now has over 27,000 followers and was showered with gifts by companies looking to capitalize on her fame. But Killen is also using her 15 minutes in the spotlight for good. The 19-year-old has urged followers to donate to a breast cancer charity, and has already raised thousands.

Anthony Castro
Until this month, Castro’s life was a monument to bad luck. The Boise, Idaho, man’s history included being shot in the head, witnessing the horrors of 9/11, and a spell living on the street. But his unusually grim life took a happier turn when he scratched a lottery ticket and discovered he’d won US$250,000. “It may change my economic status,” Castro said, “but it doesn’t change me.” Here’s to hoping it changes him just a bit.

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