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Barbara Walters wins leadership award

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HOLLYWOOD - Barbara Walters has interviewed heads of state and Hollywood's biggest celebrities, but it's the working women she remembers the most - the streetwalkers on 57th Street in Manhattan near Carnegie Hall when she became the first woman to co-host the Today show in the 1970s.

As the prostitutes plied their trade in the predawn hours, Walters, in her dark glasses and carrying a garment bag, would also slip into the back of a car - hers, though, was a long black limousine bound for Rockefeller Center. "I would look at them and they would look at me . . . and I gave them hope," Walters said. "That's my message to you today."

Walters related the anecdote to the 650 entertainment industry insiders who attended The Hollywood Reporter's 12th annual "Women in Entertainment Power 100" luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Tuesday as she accepted the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award.

The award was created last year to honor Lansing, a pioneer in the film industry, and recognize individuals who have been leaders and role models in their fields. Connick, Marsalis to build musicians' neighborhood

NEW ORLEANS - Singer Harry Connick Jr. and saxophone player Branford Marsalis are working with Habitat for Humanity to create a "village" for New Orleans musicians who lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina.

More than $2-million has been raised for the project dreamed up by Connick and Marsalis - a neighborhood built around a music center where musicians can teach and perform, said Jim Pate, executive director of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity.

The first $1-million came from benefit concerts in New York three weeks after the storm, said Quint Davis, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival producer who helped arrange the concerts.

"The money being used to build these homes for New Orleans musicians was raised by New Orleans musicians. Our pact with them was to help New Orleans' musical community," Davis said at a news conference Tuesday. "Saw' movies' producer, 42, dies in hospital

LOS ANGELES - Film producer Gregg Hoffman, who developed an eight-minute film into the horror hit Saw and its gory successor Saw II, died unexpectedly after complaining of pain. He was 42.

Mr. Hoffman died Sunday (Dec. 4, 2005) at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, where he had been admitted after developing neck pain, his business partners said. He died of natural causes, according to a news release from Lions Gate Entertainment, which distributed his recent films. An autopsy was planned.

Hoffman and his partners at Twisted Pictures financed the low-budget Saw (2004) and Saw II (2005) and stood to reap millions of dollars.

The first film cost about $1-million to make, opened over Halloween weekend last year at No. 3 at the box office, and grossed more than $102-million in DVD and box office revenue.

The $4-million sequel, released just before Halloween this year, ranked No. 1 at the box office in its debut weekend with $31.7-million in receipts. It has made $86-million in six weeks, according to box office figures released Monday. Wynonna Judd co-host of country talent show

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Country singers Wynonna Judd and Cowboy Troy will host the fourth season of the USA Network's "Nashville Star" talent search series.

The eight-week show, which combines elements of reality TV with a talent competition, has launched the recording careers of Buddy Jewell and Miranda Lambert.

"This is a real coup," H.T. Owens, executive producer of "Nashville Star," said Monday. "With Wynonna and Troy it gives us a bigger star quotient. It adds excitement to the show."

Judd - who has sold nearly 30-million albums as a solo artist and half of the mother-daughter duo, The Judds - said hosting will give her a chance to mentor younger artists.

Cowboy Troy released his major-label debut, Loco Motive, earlier this year. He has had success melding country with rap and rock in a sound he calls "hick-hop."

Music executive Anastasia Brown and singer/songwriter Phil Vassar will return as judges and will be joined each week by a special celebrity guest judge.

The winner of the competition is guaranteed a recording contract, but other contestants can, and sometimes do, end up with a contract as well.

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