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Philanthropist plants offer

Newark, N.J. -- Former book publisher and philanthropist Herbert Axelrod has offered to sell his rare collection of Italian string instruments to the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra for a lower -- and lower -- price.

Axelrod told the orchestra that for every dollar it raises, he will reduce by $2 the $25 million pricetag he originally placed on the instruments.

The collection, which includes 12 Stradivarius and three Guarneri del Gesu violins, is valued at $50 million. It is already on loan to the orchestra, which has been working to raise the money since April.

Seacrest hopes to steer viewers away from TV idol

Las Vegas -- "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest is betting a swank casino setting can help him steal some New Year's Eve viewers away from his idol, Dick Clark.

The Fox TV talent show host and Los Angeles radio disc jockey is hosting a New Year's television concert special in Las Vegas that pits him -- and Sin City -- against Clark's long-running Times Square bash.

"He's one of the people that I very much look up to," Seacrest said. "It's exciting for me to be on television at the same time as my idol. But I still want to win."

Clark is 73. Seacrest turned 28 on Tuesday and thinks he can lure viewers with the "young, sexy and hip" crowd that makes it inside an invitation-only party at the Venetian casino in Las Vegas.

Fox's "America's Party" special at 10 p.m. on Dec. 31 is to include live performances from Sheryl Crow, Ashanti and Sugar Ray.

Blair gets style from mom

New York -- Selma Blair says her mother, a Detroit magistrate, is her fashion icon.

"I am so taken with my mother," the 30-year-old actress says in the January issue of W magazine. "She has the most amazing style, and I wear everything of hers. And the one thing she always taught me was not to wear trends."

Blair, whose movies include "Cruel Intentions," "Legally Blonde" and the upcoming "A Guy Thing," favors cashmere sweaters, vintage bags and pearls.

"And I've never been to a fashion show, even though I'm always invited," she says. "Alas. If anyone knows me for my face, thank God. But I'd rather get a damned acting job than be a front-row girl!"

Actress hopes to smarten up youngsters about environment

Omena, Mich. -- Actress Amy Smart is lending her celebrity to the Leelanau Conservancy to help rally environmental awareness among young people.

Smart, who's co-starred in movies including "Rat Race," "Road Trip" and "Varsity Blues," will appear in a public service announcement to air early next year on television.

She's already been an environmentalist in her hometown of Los Angeles. She volunteered for the public service announcement because her parents are involved with the Leelanau Conservancy, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported.

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