Leno lives life in the fast lane

Jay Leno, who two years ago drove the pace car at the Indianapolis 500, will be behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Monte Carlo to lead the starting field at the Aug. 5 NASCAR Brickyard 400.

The host of NBC's "The Tonight Show" was joined Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by Jeff Gordon, a three-time Winston Cup series champion from nearby Pittsboro, Ind., and winner of the Brickyard 400 in 1994 and 1998.

Leno collects antique and classic cars and motorcycles and has driven in some celebrity races. The Brickyard pace car will be a specially modified 2001 Monte Carlo, with increased horsepower and a lowered suspension.

Pope teams with pop singers

Talk about the ultimate Christmas album. Boy band 'N Sync, country darling Faith Hill and pop princess Britney Spears have signed up to read prayers written by Pope John Paul II on a CD coming out during the holiday season. The festive package will serve as a companion piece to the seven-volume "The Private Prayer Books of Pope John Paul II," a collection of the pontiff's personal writings. "The prayer books, CD and video represent a project that is global in its scope," said Rick Garson, chairman of Compulsion Entertainment, in a company statement. Portions of the proceeds will be donated to charities selected by the Vatican, he added.

Ellen who?

Anne Heche, formerly half of Hollywood's most high-profile lesbian couple, is engaged, reports E!Online � to a man.

Less than a year after she and Ellen DeGeneres called it quits, Heche has accepted a wedding proposal from her boyfriend, cameraman Coley Laffoon, manager Lauren Lloyd confirmed Wednesday. "She's engaged, and she's wearing a ring. She's happy," Lloyd said. "She's definitely getting married."

In August, Hollywood's best-known lesbian couple announced they had split up after 3 1/2 years together, calling it an "amicable parting." Hours after news of the split broke, Heche was found wandering dazed, confused and barely clothed through a rural area near Fresno, Calif.

Bond, Mrs. James Bond

No word on whether Sean Connery's artist wife prefers her martinis shaken or stirred, but she is certainly getting the celebrity treatment lately. She took center stage Wednesday at the opening of her art exhibit in Rome, while Connery played a supporting role.

Micheline Roquebrune Connery is a Tunisian-born French painter who specializes in bright, colorful seascapes and portraits, including many of her famous husband. One portrait on display shows Connery, now 70, looking sexy in a yellow bathrobe. The exhibition arrived in Rome after stops in Chicago, Washington, and Athens, Greece.


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