CRITIQUED: A week after Ashlee Simpson’s lip-synching debacle on Saturday Night Live, Avril Lavigne gives a thumbs down to such technical tricks. The Canadian pop star, 20, tells Billboard.com: “There are a lot of people out there today, who have become stars or famous musicians – I wouldn’t really define them as a star – with a record only because they have connections and only because they have money and for the wrong reasons. … And it sucks. Actually, I know for a fact there are some young female artists who don’t even sing on their own records and who don’t sing live. And that is pathetic.”
THANKED: Sandra Bullock may have left her home state of Virginia long ago, but she still carries a part of it with her, the Miss Congeniality star, 40, told a crowd this weekend as she accepted the Virginia Film Award from the University of Virginia’s Culbreth Theatre. (The honor recognizes people for significant contributions to the film industry.) “It’s nice to step off the plane and feel the humidity,” said Bullock in Charlottesville, as quoted by the Associated Press. She then added with a smile: “‘Virginia is for lovers’ … I still have that T-shirt since, like, puberty.”
POISED: Tom Brokaw, 64, chief anchor of NBC Nightly News for more than two decades, is turning over his desk to Brian Williams on Dec. 1, though Tuesday’s Election Night coverage is being viewed as his final hurrah. Notable is that by Election 2008, certainly one and maybe all three network faces will be different. Dan Rather, who turned 73 yesterday, is fighting for his future after CBS’s botched story on President Bush’s National Guard service. And Peter Jennings is 66. Says Brokaw, adding that he’s touched when fans approach and say they’ll miss him: “It’s a natural transition, and it’s a new generation taking over. I had my opportunity when I replaced John (Chancellor). Dan replaced Walter (Cronkite).” As for his future, Brokaw plans to spend more time with his grandchildren.
BELTED: American Idol runner-up – and Georgia resident – Diana DeGarmo, 17, sang the national anthem before the Busch race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday. The appearance marked her first time at the track, though not at a NASCAR competition. “The first race I ever went to was the Brickyard 400 when I was 10 or 11,” she said. “That was a blast. I got a hat and bear, the whole thing.” Her debut album, Blue Skies, is due Dec. 7.
DIED: JFK impersonator and comic Vaughn Meader, 68, who rocketed to fame with the satirical comedy album “The First Family” in 1962 (the fastest-selling album of all time, until the Beatles came along), died Friday in Maine. His career died along with the assassination of President Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, and his life had been tragically marred by substance abuse, he later admitted. Eventually he became a musician, though he never regained the fame he enjoyed during the Kennedy years.
EXPLAINED: Elton John, 57, blames his sometimes explosive behavior on simply being an artist. He told Britain’s Sunday Times magazine that his tantrums may be traced to his beating drug and alcohol addictions 14 years ago, yet “the rage and the temper are still there … but it’s part of being creative.” Within the past month, the rocker cursed and shouted at Taiwanese photographers for surprising him as he arrived at Taipei airport, calling them “rude, vile pigs,” and he criticized Madonna at a London awards ceremony, accusing her of charging fans outrageous prices to see her lip-sync in concert. “I don’t seem to have anger – I have rage,” admits John. “There are still times, especially when I’m tired, when the bad temper and the irrationality come out. And I hate that. Because I’m trying to change it.”
DROPPED: The Bush campaign agreed to stop playing the 1976 hit “Still The One” – by the band Orleans – at Bush rallies, after the song’s writer, John Hall, protested its use by the president and “strongly” backed John Kerry, reports Reuters. Said Nicolle Devenish, Bush campaign spokeswoman: “The song is in the music catalog of the licensing company we use to provide music to our campaign rallies. But out of deference to Mr. Hall’s views the song will no longer be played.”