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Side show

By SHARON FINK, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 23, 2003

FREEBIES OF THE YEAR: David Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer has no need for the blood-pressure monitor. Someone please take away John Tesh's BriteSmile gift certificate. Gwen Stefani of No Doubt can use that Sunbeam Oster In2itive blender; we're sure she didn't get one for either of her weddings to Gavin Rossdale. And we bet that Sk8er Boi is a con and Avril Lavigne is very happy with her Mattel My Scene Barbie doll.

Such are the good and bad of the free stuff given to nominees and presenters for tonight's Grammy Awards ceremony.

Also included in the very big gift bag -- a super-size Wilson Luggage suitcase -- is an Apple 20 GB iPod, Evolution candles, a Logitech digital camera and a Sak purse.

Of special interest to the participants still pleading poverty to their record companies was a "Gift Lounge" set up at Madison Square Garden on rehearsal days. They could pick from more freebies, including Safilo eyewear, Jabra wireless headsets and 500 Stetson hats (please, don't encourage Sheryl Crow).

Combined value of the gift suitcase and lounge items, says USA Today: $20,000.

FAVORITES AND UNFAVORITES OF THE YEAR: Las Vegas oddsmakers like Norah Jones for record of the year and best new artist. Bruce Springsteen's The Rising is tapped for album and song of the year, Rolling Stone says. Among those given no chance to end the night with anything but their gift suitcase are new artist nominees Ashanti and Michelle Branch, and Vanessa Carlton for her Teshlike A Thousand Miles.

QUOTE OF THE YEAR: Asked to talk about the rather basic lyrics of A Thousand Miles, Carlton tells mtv.com: "Less is more. Unless it's mileage, then more is more."

PEACENIK OF THE YEAR: If U2 shows up to mark the third straight year the academy has handed a nomination to 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind (Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, Walk On), it could be the first time a Nobel Peace Prize nominee attends the ceremony.

Bono is on the short list for this year's award.

Then again, the short list has 150 people on it. So, many more nominees could have attended over the years. ( Michael Jackson must have made the not-that-short list once, sometime between We Are the World and He Is An Accused Child Molester.)

Also on the short list with Bono, who spends a lot of time working for social and political causes: Pope John Paul II; Illinois Gov. George Ryan, who cleared the state's death row; and French President Jacques Chirac.

SMART CAREER MOVE OF THE YEAR: Covering the ceremony for Entertainment Tonight is Frenchie Davis, the American Idol contestant kicked out two weeks ago for posing for a porn Web site, even though she told the producers up front about her noble effort at making money for college. Which means the circle is compete: Fox gets a lot of publicity during a key ratings month, and Davis gets all the Idol publicity and opportunities without having to slog through the whole competition.

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