LOS ANGELES – Kris Allen's smooth vocals and boy-next-door image propelled him to "American Idol" victory Wednesday, turning the theatrical powerhouse Adam Lambert into the most unlikely of also-rans.
"I'm sorry, I don't even know what to feel right now. This is crazy," said a stunned Allen, 23, of Conway, Ark.
As host Ryan Seacrest said in announcing the result of the viewer vote, "The underdog, the dark horse, comes back and wins the nation over."
Lambert's commanding vocal range and stage presence — and the judges' adoration of him — at times turned "Idol" into "The Adam Lambert Show," with the other contestants mere guests. But it turned out that "Idol" viewers could embrace a gifted performer like Lambert, one who sported black nail polish and bold self-assurance, only to a point.
Simon Cowell tipped his hat to both contestants Wednesday.
"To both of you, and I don't normally mean this, I thought you were both brilliant. .... The future's all yours," the judge said.
Before the results were announced, Lambert and Allen had a moment of musical camaraderie: They joined together with Queen on the rock anthem "We Are the Champions."
"Adam did win. So did Kris. Nobody lost tonight. These are two champions," said Paul Stanley from Kiss backstage.
The comments from Cowell and Stanley aren't necessarily empty platitudes. Past contestants can testify that losing the title doesn't mean you're a loser, nor does winning mean you're a shoo-in for superstardom.
Chris Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson, who finished fourth and seventh in their respective seasons, have gone on to huge success. As for "Idol" winners, they range from blockbuster artists like Carrie Underwood to the mostly under-the-radar Taylor Hicks.
Wednesday's outcome echoed last year's contest, which looked like it was going the other way. Cowell all but crowned David Archuleta after the performance finale, calling his a "knockout performance" — but the victory went to David Cook.
Lambert was such a powerful, unique performer that his fans were allowed a sense of entitlement on his behalf. But his triumph wasn't inevitable. When Allen and Lambert were declared the finalists last week, just 1 million viewer votes separated the pair out of 88 million cast.
Allen bloomed during the season, gaining more assurance onstage and winning viewers over with his heartfelt vocals, modest demeanor and well-scrubbed good looks. He also scored big with his singer-songwriter arrangement of the Kanye West song "Heartless," subbing sharp, syncopated guitar playing and crisp vocals for the original's autotune voice and electronic beats.
There was also the Danny Gokey factor. Gokey made it to the top three before he fell out of the contest, leaving his supporters up for grabs.
"After the third one leaves, you wonder where do the votes go from that third contestant," Paula Abdul said backstage after Tuesday's singing showdown.
Allen seemed the likely candidate for those viewers' affections, for on- and offstage reasons. Allen and Gokey, 29, of Milwaukee, were downright conservative when compared to Lambert's elaborate staging and off-the-wall wardrobe choices. Allen is a married college student and has worked as a church worship leader. Gokey, a widower, is a church music director.
Lambert, 27, of Los Angeles, brought measured rock flashiness — daring, not freaky — with songs including "Whole Lotta Love," the first-ever Led Zeppelin tune on "Idol." He's largely kept his personal life under wraps, saying "I know who I am" when asked.
Earlier this week, Allen said he hoped the outcome wouldn't be decided by "having the Christian vote."
"I hope it has to do with your talent and the performance that you give and the package that you have. It's not about religion and all that kind of stuff," he said.
Added Lambert: "It's about music. That's really important to keep in mind."
Allen rose to the occasion during Tuesday's performance show, especially with his soulful version of "Ain't No Sunshine." But he was tripped up by "No Boundaries," an upper-register belting ballad co-written by judge Kara DioGuardi that was ill-suited to his voice.
Lambert did a better job with "No Boundaries" and excelled on his reprise of "Mad World" and on "A Change is Gonna Come."
"That was the best I've ever heard you sing — ever!" exclaimed Abdul.
The finale Wednesday included the usual bag of tricks for extending the show to two hours. There were group numbers, the Golden Idol Award — semifinalist funnyman Nick "Norman Gentle" Mitchell among the contenders — and celebrity-contestant combos.
Allen was joined by Keith Urban on "Kiss a Girl," while Lambert stomped the stage in elevator boots and oversized ribbed shoulder pads for a pyrotechnic performance with Kiss. The female finalists, including Allison Iraheta, opened up for Fergie, who sang "Big Girls Don't Cry" and then was joined by her group, the Black Eyed Peas.
Iraheta later dueted with Cyndi Lauper on "Time After Time" and Danny Gokey joined Lionel Richie for two tunes.
Rod Stewart sang "Maggie May" after the male finalists opened for him with "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy."
An offbeat guest was Steve Martin, the actor-comedian and fine banjo player in his own right. He played his song "Pretty Flowers" with finalists Megan Joy and Michael Sarver on vocals.
Asked by Seacrest to guess who might win "American Idol," Martin replied: "I know it's a long shot, but I'm hoping I do."
DUBAI - A SCIENTIST says the world's first cloned camel has been produced in the desert emirate of Dubai.
Nisar Ahmad Wani, a senior reproductive biologist at the government's Camel Reproduction Centre, says the cloned camel is a six-day-old, one-humped female called Achievement or Injaz in Arabic.
Injaz was born April 8 after an uncomplicated gestation of 378 days, the center said in a press release on Tuesday.
The centre said she was created from cells harvested from an ovary of an adult female camel.
Camels are a valuable commodity in the desert sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf.
They are used for racing and transport.
They are famous for healthy low-fat milk and can fetch owners millions of dollars at camel beauty contests. -- AP
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Dog-crazy Americans will soon be able to buy a pet-friendly car with a cushioned dog bed in the trunk, fitted with a built-in water bowl and fan and a ramp to help less agile dogs climb in.
With the help of a rescue dog named Sammy, Japanese car maker Honda Motor Co unveiled the pet friendly version of its Element utility vehicle at the New York Auto Show.
It features easy-wash seat covers, a fitted dog bed with restraints to keep Sammy safe in the event of a crash, and a paw logo on the side. Honda said the car would go on sale across the United States from the fall of this year.
Honda spokesman Sage Marie said it was designed with both safety and comfort in mind. "(It's) a car we think is of interest to many of today's dog-crazy consumers," he said.
Senior product planner James Jenkins said Americans spend $41 billion a year on their pets, a figure forecast to rise to $52 billion in two years, indicating a big market for the car.
"Pets have become more like family, more important to households than ever before," Jenkins said.
The current model of the Element starts at a little over $20,000 and Honda has yet to determine how much the pet friendly features will add on to the price tag, Jenkins said.
Sammy's owner, Heather Cammisa of the Humane Society of the United States, said she had borrowed the car for two weeks and found the ramp especially useful.
"Sammy actually needs a ramp. Before I adopted him he ended up at a shelter having been hit by a car and he needs that ramp," she said. "Otherwise I lift him to get into my car."
NEW YORK – Natasha Richardson, a gifted and precocious heiress to acting royalty whose career highlights included the film "Patty Hearst" and a Tony-winning performance in a stage revival of "Cabaret," died Wednesday at age 45 after suffering a head injury during a beginners' ski lesson. Alan Nierob, the Los Angeles-based publicist for Richardson's husband Liam Neeson, confirmed her death in a written statement.
"Liam Neeson, his sons (Micheal and Daniel), and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha," the statement said. "They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time."
The statement did not give details on the cause of death for Richardson, who suffered a head injury when she fell on a beginner's trail during a private ski lesson at the luxury Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec. She was hospitalized Tuesday in Montreal and later flown to a hospital in New York.
Family members had been seen coming and going from the New York hospital where Richardson was taken.
Vanessa Redgrave, Richardson's mother, arrived in a car with darkened windows and was taken through a garage when she arrived at the Lenox Hill Hospital on Manhattan's Upper East Side about 5 p.m. Wednesday. An hour earlier, Richardson's sister, Joely, arrived alone and was swarmed by the media as she entered through the back of the hospital.
It was a sudden and horrifying loss for her family and friends, for the film and theater communities, for her many fans and for both her native and adoptive countries. Descended from at least three generations of actors, Richardson was a proper Londoner who came to love the noise of New York, an elegant blonde with large, lively eyes, a bright smile and a hearty laugh.
If she never quite attained the acting heights of her Academy Award-winning mother, she still had enjoyed a long and worthy career. As an actress, Richardson was equally adept at passion and restraint, able to portray besieged women both confessional (Tennessee Williams' Blanche DuBois) and confined (the concubine in the futuristic horror of "The Handmaid's Tale").
Like other family members, she divided her time between stage and screen. On Broadway, she won a Tony for her performance as Sally Bowles in a 1998 revival of "Cabaret." She also appeared in New York in a production of Patrick Marber's "Closer" (1999) as well as 2005 revival of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire," in which she played Blanche opposite John C. Reilly's Stanley Kowalski.
She met Neeson when they made their Broadway debuts in 1993, co-starring in "Anna Christie," Eugene O'Neill's drama about a former prostitute and the sailor who falls in love with her.
"The astonishing Natasha Richardson ... gives what may prove to be the performance of the season as Anna, turning a heroine who has long been portrayed (and reviled) as a whore with a heart of gold into a tough, ruthlessly unsentimental apostle of O'Neill's tragic understanding of life," The New York Times critic Frank Rich wrote. "Miss Richardson, seeming more like a youthful incarnation of her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, than she has before, is riveting from her first entrance through a saloon doorway's ethereal shaft of golden light."
Her most notable film roles came earlier in her career. Richardson played the title character in Paul Schrader's "Patty Hearst," a 1988 biopic about the kidnapped heiress for which the actress became so immersed that even between scenes she wore a blindfold, the better to identify with her real-life counterpart.
"Natasha Richardson ... has been handed a big unwritten role; she feels her way into it, and she fills it," wrote The New Yorker's Pauline Kael. "We feel how alone and paralyzed Patty is — she retreats into being a hidden observer."
Richardson was directed again by Schrader in a 1990 adaptation of Ian McEwan's "The Comfort of Strangers" and, also in 1990, starred in the screen version of Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale."
She later co-starred with Neeson in "Nell," with Mia Farrow in "Widow's Peak" and with a pre-teen Lindsay Lohan in a remake of "The Parent Trap." More recent movies, none of them widely seen, included "Wild Child," "Evening" and "Asylum."
She was born in London in 1963, the performing gene inherited not just from her parents (Vanessa Redgrave and director Tony Richardson), but from her maternal grandparents (Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson), an aunt (Lynn Redgrave) and an uncle (Corin Redgrave). Her younger sister, Joely Richardson, also joined the family business.
Friends and family members remembered Natasha as an unusually poised child, perhaps forced to grow up early when her father left her mother in the late '60s for Jeanne Moreau. (Tony Richardson died in 1991).
Interviewed by The Associated Press in 2001, Natasha Richardson said she related well to her family if only because, "We've all been through it in one way or another and so we've had to be strong. Also we embrace life. We are not cynical about life."
Richardson always planned to act, apart from one brief childhood moment when she wanted to be a flight attendant — "wonderful irony now since I hate to fly and have to take a pill in order to get on a plane. I'm so terrified."
Her screen debut came at age 4 when she appeared as a flower girl in "The Charge of the Light Brigade," directed by her father, whose movies included "Tom Jones" and "The Entertainer." The show business wand had already tapped her the year before, when she saw her mother in the 1967 film version of the Broadway show "Camelot."
"She was so beautiful. I still look at that movie and I can't believe it. It still makes me cry, the beauty of it. I could go on and on — in that white fur hooded thing, when she comes through the forest for the first time. You've never seen anything so beautiful!" Richardson said.
She studied at London's Central School of Speech and Drama and was an experienced stage actress by her early 20s, appearing in "On the Razzle," "Charley's Aunt" and "The Seagull," for which the London Drama Critics awarded her most promising newcomer.
Although she never shared her mother's fiercely expressed political views, they were close professionally and acted together, most recently on Broadway to play the roles of mother and daughter in a one-night benefit concert version of "A Little Night Music," the Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical.
Before meeting up with Neeson (who called her "Tash") Richardson was married to theater and producer Robert Fox, whose credits include the 1985 staging of "The Seagull" in which his future wife appeared.
She sometimes remarked on the differences between her and her second husband — she from a theatrical dynasty and he from a working-class background in Northern Ireland.
"He's more laid back, happy to see what happens, whereas I'm a doer and I plan ahead," Richardson told The Independent on Sunday newspaper in 2003. "The differences sometimes get in the way but they can be the very things that feed a marriage, too."
She once said that Neeson's serious injury in a 2000 motorcycle accident — he suffered a crushed pelvis after colliding with a deer in upstate New York — had made her really appreciate life.
"I wake up every morning feeling lucky — which is driven by fear, no doubt, since I know it could all go away," she told The Daily Telegraph newspaper in 2003.
LINKENHOLT, England (Reuters) – An entire English village, complete with 22 houses and cottages, two blacksmiths and a cricket pitch, goes on sale this week.
The charitable trust which owns Linkenholt in Hampshire, southern England, has decided to sell up and use the capital it raises elsewhere.
The asking price when Linkenholt goes on the open market on Wednesday is 22-25 million pounds ($31-35 million), according to Jackson-Stops & Staff estate agents who are handling the sale.
The archetypal English village is nestled in rolling countryside and boasts a manor house, old rectory and clock tower and is part of a 2,000-acre estate.
One of the few things a buyer would not own is St. Peters church, which originally dates back to the 12th century but was significantly rebuilt in 1871.
Locals, who rent their properties, are expected to stay on after the sale, and most hope that a change in ownership does not mean a change in lifestyle.
"It would be nice if somebody bought the estate and lived here and was Lord of the Manor to be quite honest, that's the general consensus of everyone in the village," said Colin Boast, one of the village's two blacksmiths.
"It would just be nice if somebody looked at the village and said 'well, let's keep it as the village it is.' But you never know."
Paul Raynesford, a local thatcher, said he thought the asking price for the village was reasonable.
"I think if you were to go around and work out the individual bits I think you'd find it's quite a fair price, taking into account the price of the agricultural land and the price of the individual properties," he said.
Tim Sherston of Jackson-Stops called the village a "safe and sound investment" despite the economic slowdown.
"You've got an entire village -- 22 houses, a cricket pitch, a village shop, a forge and 1,500 acres of farmland, 450 acres of woodland ... We think actually there will be a lot of potential buyers for this."
The estate is owned by the Herbert and Peter Blagrave Charitable Trust.
With no heir, the late Herbert Blagrave, a philanthropic racing figure, left his family fortune to a trust, along with orders that the money should be spent on sick children, the elderly and injured jockeys.
Since much of that fortune is still tied up in Linkenholt, the trustees decided it was time to try to sell.