Monday, November 5, 2001

Britain's richest women

J.K. Rowling, creator of fictional boy wizard Harry Potter, was beaten out by the Material Girl for the title of Britain's highest-earning woman.

The author of four Harry Potter books ranked second in the annual Pay List compiled by the Sunday Times newspaper, with income of 24.8 million pounds � about $36.2 million � in the year ending Oct. 1.

Madonna earned 30 million pounds � about $43.8 million � to top the list. Madonna, who is married to British director Guy Ritchie, qualified because she has a home in London, the newspaper said.

Queen Elizabeth II was the country's third highest earning woman, with income of 15.2 million pounds, or $22.2 million.

Nelson stages a benefit

Willie Nelson is on the benefit concert road again, this time for a Boys & Girls Club.

On Sunday, he hit Brea, Calif., to help raise money the Boys & Girls Club's new two-story, 28,000-square-foot center.

With its 400 members crammed into a portable building and nearby athletic fields, the club is trying to raise $5 million for the building.

Concert tickets were selling from $175 to $20,000, with the single most expensive ticket including cocktails with Nelson on his tour bus and a round of golf.

Singing a conference's praises

Bono put his famous voice to work last week, but he wasn't just belting out U2 songs.

The Irish rocker was with African leaders in Philadelphia discussing third-world debt.

"The debt issue appealed to me because it wasn't throwing pennies at the problem," Bono said Friday. "It was looking at the structure of the problem."

Bono, long active in economic and social issues around the globe, said debt forgiveness would give struggling countries a chance to succeed. He also plans to focus his attention on trade issues and AIDS.

Haggard on the mend

Country music star Merle Haggard is recovering at home from a strained muscle and a virus after interrupting a record release tour last week.

Haggard, 64, was filming a video in Texas when he experienced pain, said publicist Billy Deaton.

The singer-songwriter canceled a few show dates and returned home to Palo Cedro, Calif., for a checkup after consulting with his doctor.

"It's just a strained muscle, not a heart problem ... a little virus," Haggard said from his home Friday. "I'm gonna be back up and running real soon."

Haggard said he expects to resume his tour in Canada on Nov. 14.