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Published: Thursday, 7/3/2008

Limbaugh signs deal believed worth over $400M

FROM THE BLADE NEWS SERVICES

Approaching his 20th anniversary as talk radio's most dominant force, Rush Limbaugh has signed a lucrative new deal with Premiere Radio Networks that will keep him on the air until 2016.

Premiere wouldn't disclose details yesterday, but Limbaugh told the New York Times in an article to be published Sunday that he would be getting a nine-figure signing bonus and would make about $38 million a year.

Limbaugh's three-hour show, broadcast from his office in Florida, is heard on some 600 radio stations across the country. More than 14 million people listen to him at least once a week, according to Talkers magazine. Sean Hannity is second with more than 13 million listeners.

"This is exactly where I want to be, doing what I was born to do, with an amazing audience and phenomenal support from affiliate stations and sponsors," Limbaugh said in a statement. "I'm having more fun than a human being should be allowed to have."

Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" this year showed his continuing influence in political discourse. He urged his listeners to vote for Hillary Clinton to keep the Democratic nomination fight going in the hopes of hurting Barack Obama.

Limbaugh, however, is no big fan of presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, even though he prefers him to Obama. Limbaugh, 57, said in January that if McCain were nominated "it's going to destroy the Republican Party."

Keeping Limbaugh in the fold is crucial if radio is going to be competitive with the Internet and satellite radio, said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers.

"It shows that there's a strong commitment on the part of one of the leading companies in our industry to remain viable for the next decade," he said. "If radio is going to continue and to survive it's got to do what it takes to keep its biggest players happy and exclusive to radio."

Premiere Radio Networks is owned by Clear Channel Radio.

Are the Brangelina twins boys or girls? Will they be delivered naturally or by cesarean?

Angelina Jolie's obstetrician, Michel Sussmann, declined to answer several burning questions about the highly anticipated birth to Hollywood's hottest couple, but he did make one thing clear during a five-minute news conference yesterday: "She is a patient like any other. And she's very simple. I have a lot of respect for her."

Apparently unaware that the stars are unmarried, the doctor said: "Mrs. Angelina Jolie and her husband, Mr. Brad Pitt, told me to tell you that she is doing absolutely fine."

He said her hospitalization had been scheduled for a long time. "Her hospitalization at this stage in her pregnancy is totally normal for a patient who had a caesarean [section] during her first pregnancy."

Her stay in the hospital in Nice could be a relatively long one. The doctor said she would remain in the hospital until the babies are delivered and that could be "in the weeks to come."

French medical secrecy laws are very strict. While Sussmann said that the couple had given him the OK to give out a few details about the pregnancy, he did not disclose the due date.

Pitt has been seen coming and going since Jolie's hospitalization became public. Yesterday afternoon, he entered a side door with the couple's two daughters in tow, 3-year-old Zahara and 2-year-old Shiloh. The couple also have two sons, 6-year-old Maddox and 4-year-old Pax.

Oscar winner Tatum O'Neal, the former child actress who chronicled her struggles with addiction in a 2004 memoir, pleaded guilty yesterday to disorderly conduct stemming from her drug arrest in June.

O'Neal, 44, was ordered to attend two half-day drug treatment sessions and to pay a $95 fee, court officials said.

"I'm going back to my meetings and back to my life. ... I'm just glad that I got the deal that I got," the actress said outside Manhattan criminal court.

O'Neal was initially charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to one year in jail, court officials said. Local media reported that the actress was caught buying crack cocaine from a homeless street vendor on the night of June 1, three blocks from her home in Manhattan's Lower East Side, once a crime-infested neighborhood that has become trendy.

At 10, O'Neal became the youngest person to win a competitive Academy Award for her supporting role in Paper Moon, in which she starred along with her father, Ryan O'Neal.

She was due back in court Sept. 4 to confirm she complied with the court order and to pay the fee.

The actors' union and Broadway theater producers reached a tentative agreement for a new contract yesterday, averting the possibility of a strike such as the one that shut down Broadway for almost three weeks in November.

The new contract, which covers 39 months and expires in September, 2011, would increase the compensation package for actors - including health benefits and pensions - by 11.25 percent.

Actors' Equity Association and the Broadway League, which represents producers and theater owners, had been negotiating past the midnight Sunday deadline, when the last contract expired. The sides started negotiations in April.

"In two months of tough bargaining, we achieved an excellent contract with significant gains for every Equity member working on Broadway and the road," John P. Connolly, executive director of the union, said yesterday.

The contract must be reviewed by the union's governing body. If it is approved, it will be sent to Equity members for a vote. Maria Somma, a spokesman for the union, said the process could take at least several weeks.

A rape charge against Rikki Rockett has been dropped after Mississippi authorities determined that the Poison drummer was not in the state at the time of the alleged crime.

Authorities say they are now looking for a man with a history of passing himself off as a rock musician to pick up women.

Rockett was accused of raping a woman at a central Mississippi casino in September, 2007, and was arrested in March. The Neshoba County district attorney's office confirmed Tuesday that the charges were dropped.

Rockett, whose real name is Richard Ream, said he was in California when the rape was alleged.

"I was with my fiance watching her try on wedding dresses," Rockett said in a phone interview. "We've got eyewitnesses to that."

The 46-year-old drummer said he's never been arrested before and feared his reputation would be ruined.

"That is one word you don't want associated with your name," Rockett said. "Rape is right up there with murder and child molestation."



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