NEW YORK (AP) – Playboy founder Hugh Hefner’s stretch limousine, along with an exclusive tour of the Playboy mansion and two tickets to an invitation-only New Year’s Eve party, fetched $77,675 at auction.

The 1988 Mercedes Benz limo, converted for Hefner in 1989, was among more than 300 items from the Playboy archives that sold at the Christie’s auction Wednesday for a total of $2.75 million, according to Playboy Enterprises Inc.

A 1953 photograph of Marilyn Monroe, the magazine’s first centerfold, sold for $17,925, and the image of Bo Derek featured on the March 1980 cover went for $11,950.

Also sold were works by artists LeRoy Neiman and Alberto Vargas that were featured in Playboy, an original manuscript by Jack Kerouac and the 1968 Shel Silverstein cartoon “Silverstein Among the Hippies.”

Cooper headlines radio show

PHOENIX (AP) – Welcome to Alice Cooper’s radio show.

The 55-year-old rock star, who was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame earlier this month, will host the syndicated “Nights With Alice Cooper” starting Jan. 26.

“It’ll be sort of an ‘Alice’s attic,”‘ Cooper said. “The way to do it is to make this kind of rock n’ roll become theatrical on radio, the way I made it theatrical onstage. There will be ongoing stories and characters, but it will be wrapped up in classic rock.”

The show, which will originate at Phoenix’s KDKB-FM, will air on at least six stations in the Midwest and New England.

Cooper became known for shocking audiences with gruesome concert performances including acts like guillotines lopping off heads and simulated hangings.

Classic Cooper albums include “Killer” and “Welcome to My Nightmare.”

Springsteen helps fill authority’s coffers

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority’s profits grew by about $14 million this year, thanks in large part to Bruce Springsteen.

George Zoffinger, the authority’s president, said Wednesday that its profit had grown from $34.4 million in 2003 to $48 million this year. He said the boost was mostly because of 10 sold-out shows that Springsteen and the E Street Band played a Giants Stadium in July and August.

Zoffinger says the profit is expected to drop to about $37.9 million next year – unless Springsteen unexpectedly returns to Giants Stadium.

“Bruce is out, I assume – unless he wants to make another $30 million,” Zoffinger said, referring to the $3 million per show that Springsteen took in from stadium ticket sales. “If he wants to come back, believe me, we’ll take him.”

The authority cleared more than $800,000 from each show, mostly from beer sales, parking fees and a portion of the T-shirt sales from the 55,000 patrons who came out for each show.

Parks to receive honorary award

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Peter Parks, who specializes in micro-photography of tiny life forms, will receive an honorary Academy Award for his work.

The Gordon E. Sawyer Award will be presented to Parks on Feb. 14 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences scientific and technical awards dinner, a prelude to the Oscar ceremony Feb. 29.

Parks was a founding partner of Oxford Scientific Films, which provides footage and photographs of various organisms. He also formed Image Quest, a company that develops wildlife, visual-effects and 3-D film technology for large-format cinema.

“His recent work on the IMAX film ‘Bugs!’ has given us the ability to see, for example, insect eggs blown up to 5 million times their size, and in 3-D,” said Richard Edlune, who heads the academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards Committee.

Parks previously won two scientific and technical awards from the academy for developing a zoom device for microscopic photography and for his work in special-effects photography.

The Sawyer award is named after the former head of the sound department at Samuel Goldwyn Studios, who also was a member of the academy’s scientific and technical committee from 1936-77. The award is presented to individuals “whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry.”

Butters is Parker’s top choice

NEW YORK (AP) – Butters has become one of Trey Parker’s favorite “South Park” characters.

Butters, who’s blond and constantly being picked on, started playing a larger role when muffled, hooded Kenny was killed off for a year, says Parker, who created the popular Comedy Central animated show with Matt Stone.

“We ended up adding all these dimensions to Butters that I think were really great,” Parker told AP Radio recently. “He’s always the kid that’s worried his parents are going to ground him, but on the other hand he’s got this other persona where he thinks he’s this evil superhero, but even in that he does the most mundane things.”

Parker, 34, said he knows when he’s writing a scene featuring Butters and Cartman that it’s going to be good. (Stone voices Butters and Parker voices Cartman.)

The seventh season finale aired Wednesday night.

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‘Rings’ star prepares for life after trilogy

NEW YORK (AP) – Elijah Wood, star of “The Lord of the Rings” films, is bracing for separation anxiety.

“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” opened Wednesday in theaters nationwide. It’s the final installment in Peter Jackson’s fantasy trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s text. All three films were shot during a 15-month period in New Zealand.

“When the press is finished and the movies are out, there will be a certain feeling of sadness and separation anxiety,” Wood told reporters recently, according to AP Radio. “We’re going to have to arrange something for next year to bring us all back together.”

“The Fellowship of the Ring” was released in 2001, followed by “The Two Towers” in 2002. The films also star Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin and Liv Tyler.

“The fellowship in many ways will carry on for the rest of our lives,” said the 22-year-old Wood. “Even after we don’t have to be together for the films, I think that we will always know each other and be together in one way or another.”

Aiken tops manners list

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Clay Aiken, a runner-up on the Fox network’s talent contest “American Idol,” heads the National League of Junior Cotillions’ list of the “Ten Best-Mannered People of 2003.”

The Charlotte-based organization, an etiquette and social training program for young people, announced its 12th annual list Tuesday. Nominations came from cotillion students and directors nationwide.

Anne Colvin Winters, executive director of the league, said selections were based on “demonstration of honor, dignity and respect.”

Aiken, 25, was selected “because of the courteous manner in which he treats fellow performers and fans.”

His album, “Measure of a Man,” was released in October.

The list also includes talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, Gen. Tommy Franks, Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons, surfer Bethany Hamilton, NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw, first lady Laura Bush, actor Mel Gibson, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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Gates foundation awards $10M grant

SEATTLE (AP) – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded Seattle Biomedical Research Institute a $10 million grant to continue its research in developing a vaccine to prevent malaria in pregnant women.

The grant, which was announced Wednesday, supports the institute’s malaria antigen discovery program. Initial testing for the program is done at the institute’s labs in Seattle and at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. The most promising candidates for a vaccine will be studied at a field laboratory in Muheza, Tanzania, where the Seattle research institute and Tanzanian scientists are researching malaria in pregnant mothers and their infants.

“This grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will support SBRI’s research that could lead to the first vaccine to prevent pregnancy malaria,” said Ken Stuart, the research institute’s president.

Three years ago, the Gates Foundation provided a $5 million, three-year grant to start the institute’s malaria research program, which now has nearly 30 researchers.

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Hospice receives $20 million from MacDonald’s founder’s widow

SAN DIEGO (AP) – A gift of $20 million to the San Diego Hospice, a nonprofit agency dedicated to nursing terminally ill patients, has been left by the estate of Joan B. Kroc, widow of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc.

Kroc, 75, died in October.

Hospice officials announced the gift Tuesday, noting that Kroc had christened the building and enjoyed visiting the hospice, especially around the holidays.

Kroc spokesman Dick Starmann said the gift from her estate – three times larger than the hospice’s yearly budget – is intended to make death more comfortable for patients.

“She wanted the people of San Diego who were gravely ill, terminally ill, to have a place that was serene and lovely,” Starmann said.

Kroc also has bequeathed $10 million to the San Diego Opera, $200 million to National Public Radio and $50 million apiece to peace institutes at the universities of Notre Dame and San Diego that bear her name.

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AP-ES-12-18-03 1434EST

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