Who is that blond billionaire who has been seen with former President Bill Clinton – at a private dinner party in Toronto in September and last month at the Preakness in her family’s box at Pimlico Race Course?

She is Belinda Stronach, chief executive of auto-parts maker Magna International Inc. Her father, Frank Stronach, owns Pimlico.

Canadian papers have been running items about their alleged “close personal and business relationship,” according to Al Kamen of the Washington Post, who describes the buzz as “salacious – and surely false.”

A spokesman for Magna called the friendship “a business relationship.”

Clinton spokesman Jim Kennedy told Kamen that Clinton, 56, has met with Stronach, 36, and her father several times over the past year “to discuss the Clinton Library Foundation.” The two met two years ago when Clinton spoke at a charity golf and dinner event at Magna’s private golf course near Toronto.

So why all the speculation about them now?

Stronach is divorcing her husband, Norwegian four-time Olympic gold medal-winning speed-skater Johann Olav Koss.



CLASSIC OPRAH

Oprah Winfrey resurrected her powerful book club yesterday, with a new emphasis on classic works as opposed to pop lit.

So, did she suggest we all curl up this summer with Homer, Jane Austen or Voltaire? Nope. Oprah’s pushing an American classic, “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck.

“You won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough,” she told viewers of her show.

Oprah’s past suggestions have moved tons of books and have rewritten best-seller lists.

Now she is going global and interactive, offering a free membership to the Book Club on www.oprah.com that includes reading guides, discussions, weekly e-mails from herself – plus the chance to buy shirts, hats and tote bags at Oprah’s Book Club Boutique, with profits benefiting Oprah’s Angel Network.



VANDROSS RULES

Luther Vandross’ album “Dance With My Father” has debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. It is the first chart-topping pop album ever for the 52-year-old singer, who continues to recover from an April 16 stroke. It’s also his highest-selling debut, with 441,856 copies sold.



THE RETURN OF “SEX”

The sixth and final season of “Sex and the City” will begin Sunday night at 9 on HBO, and while plot lines have been guarded, we can now report that Charlotte (Kristin Davis) will convert to Judaism.

Viewers of the gal-pal series who have been following the escapades of Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), and Charlotte, will recall that Davis’ character is deeply in lust with the less-than-handsome but oddly endearing Jewish attorney Harry Goldenblatt (Evan Handler), who is madly in love with her.



“IDOL” STARS MOVE ON

“American Idol” champ Ruben Studdard, 24, will make his movie debut in March alongside Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar in “Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.” The big guy will play the lead singer in a band hired for a party.

Runner-up Clay Aiken, 25, who tells Rolling Stone magazine that he has been estranged from his father since he was a year old, also reveals that he owns 16 pairs of shoes, bites his toenails, is scared of cats and water and is heterosexual. Aiken’s “This is the Night / Bridge Over Troubled Water” is the biggest-selling single release since Elton John’s 1997 re-release of “Candle in the Wind.”

Studdard’s “Flying Without Wings / Superstar” is nipping at its heels at No. 2.

Meanwhile, Kelly Clarkson, 21, and Justin Guarini, 24, last year’s “Idol” winner and runner-up, await the release of their movie musical “Beach Party” Thursday.

Critics have not been invited to screen it – never a good sign! Nonetheless, the cheery twosome are out gamely promoting their first screen effort, which portrays them falling in love and breaking into song under the summer sun in the manner of 1950s duo Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.



(Staff writer David Patrick Stearns, People.com, and wire services contributed to this report.)



(c) 2003, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Visit Philadelphia Online, the Inquirer’s World Wide Web site, at http://www.philly.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-06-18-03 1913EDT



Facebook comments