You can find weightier political coverage in the front of the book, but if you want to know about beautifying heads of state, or aspiring ones, you’ve come to the right place.

After bagging wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sen. John Kerry, D.-Mass., finds himself saddled with allegations that he professes too much ignorance about Botox, the popular wrinkle-reducing shot.

The New York Daily News chatted up a couple of plastic surgeons, who examined before-and-after pictures of the 60-year-old lawmaker posted on the Drudge Report. They concluded Kerry’s smooth brow shows the marks of a bad Botox injection.

Kerry told a Boston radio station that he “absolutely” never received Botox treatments, but eyebrows arched when he added: “I’ve never even heard it. Where did this come from? … I’ve never even heard of it. Never heard of it.”

This is a matter of what “it” is. Does “it” mean Botox? In a June 2003 profile in Elle magazine, the candidate’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, said she used Botox and would consider plastic surgery.

Of course, “it” could have meant the rumor itself, and not the needle.

More intimate with fresh faces is Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, and cheesecake-TV magnate, who returned from a holiday break with a glint in his eyes. Berlusconi acknowledged having cosmetic surgery on his 67-year-old lids – and said his wife encouraged him to do it.

“Veronica is behind the whole thing,” he told reporters at a meeting with fashion industry leaders. He said he might have more work done.

“I like the way I look,” said short, slick, sartorial leader. “I feel fine. I look in the mirror and I like what I see and I think I am more pleasing to others, too.”



DECREES OF SEPARATION

While R. Kelly might think it cool to hang in the Green Room at next month’s Grammys with collaborator Michael Jackson, a Chicago judge says that would be wrong.

Cook County Circuit Judge Vincent Gaughan has ordered Kelly, the R&B star awaiting trial on child pornography charges, to stay away from the King of Pop, himself facing child molestation charges.

Kelly, who produced two songs for Jackson – the 1995 hit “You Are Not Alone” and last fall’s “One More Chance” – is nominated for two Grammys at the Feb. 8 ceremony. Jackson is not nominated for any awards this year; there are no indications that he even plans to attend.

Kelly lawyer Edward Genson said Monday’s ruling was no biggie.

“What’s the difference if someone makes an order not to see someone he didn’t want to see in the first place?” Genson asked.

Kelly was arrested in June 2002 after a videotape surfaced that allegedly showed him having sex with an underage girl. He denies.

Jackson has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of performing lewd or lascivious acts on a child under 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent, reportedly wine. He was arrested in November.



BROWN’S OUT

R&B icon James Brown has been released from jail on his own recognizance, which we hope bears little resemblance to the frightful photograph taken by Aiken, S.C., police upon his arrest, again, for alleged spousal abuse.

A judge yesterday ruled that the Godfather of Soul did not have to post any money for bail. Brown allegedly shoved his wife, Tomi Rae Brown, 33, during an argument at their Beech Island home.

When Brown was selected to receive a lifetime achievement award by the Kennedy Center last fall, an Aiken shelter director complained about the choice of a man who had been arrested three times for allegedly beating his late wife, Adrienne Brown.



PRYOR’S DOWN ON FRYERS

Comedian Richard Pryor, once extra-crispy himself, will join a list of celebrities criticizing Kentucky Fried Chicken on billboards in several cities. As part of PETA’s international campaign to pressure the fast-food purveyor to crack down on its suppliers’ treatment of birds, Pryor is calling for a boycott.

Print ads will appear in black newspapers. Pryor, who once set himself on fire during a cocaine free-basing episode, joins PETA in calling on KFC to replace electric stunning and throat-cutting with controlled-atmosphere killing, phase out the forced growth of chickens, and add sheltered areas and automated chicken-catching.



THIS SHOULD CLEAR THE AISLES

Melissa Gilbert, once of “Little House on the Prairie,” is asking her fellow famous people to avoid shopping at Wal-Mart. Now the president of the Screen Actors Guild, Gilbert has sent an e-mail to Hollywood types, asking them to avoid the discount store, according to MSNBC. “Wal-Mart’s low prices come at a tremendous cost,” Gilbert wrote, “not only to workers in groceries and retail, but to thousands of workers in manufacturing whose jobs have moved out of the country as suppliers struggle to meet Wal-Mart’s demands for cheaper products. We all feel the pain of runaway production – so shop union, work union.”



NOTHING LOST IN TRANSLATION

Turns out the funniest part of Sunday’s Golden Globe ceremony was the stone truth.

Accepting an award for best actor in “Lost in Translation,” Bill Murray avoided the boilerplate thank-yous – instead saying his personal trainer had died and he had fired his agents.

According to the blogs The Blueprint and Gawker.com, Murray toned his bod with Raphael Picaud, the founder of Body Maxx, a celeb-catering gym in West Hollywood, Calif. Picaud died last year.

And the former “Saturday Night Live” funnyman is apparently an ex-client of Creative Artists Agency, after having severed ties with agents Jessica Tuchinsky and Rick Kurtzman.



(Wire services and E! Online contributed to this article.)



(c) 2004, 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-01-29-04 1548EST



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