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Marilyn Manson cuts his tour short in the wake of the Columbine High shooting

Plus, the magazine award winners are announced, and Monica Lewinsky: Italian actress?

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BOWING OUT Marilyn Manson has postponed his tour’s last five shows after coming under fire when his music was linked with the student killers at Columbine High School. ”People are trying to sort out what happened and to deal with their losses,” Manson said in a statement posted on his website. ”It’s not a great atmosphere to be out playing rock and roll shows, for us or the fans.” The shock-rocker went on to say that he felt bands like his were being ”unfairly scapegoated” by the media.

WINNERS The American Society of Magazine Editors annual awards were announced today, with Time winning for best public interest magazine. Also taking ASME honors were Vanity Fair (for general interest mags with circulation over one million), Newsweek (for Michael Isikoff’s reporting on the Monica Lewinsky imbroglio), and Cigar Aficionado Online (for best online magazine).

BLACKBALLED Retail chain J.C. Penney will no longer sell merchandise with the foulmouthed ”South Park” characters on it because customers were complaining, according to a store spokesman. Conservative group the Christian Family Network jumped all over the decision, commending the chain and claiming that the influence of the cartoon was partly responsible for the Columbine shootings.

CASTING The story of the woman who would not go away continues: Italian newspapers are reporting that Monica Lewinsky is negotiating a multimillion-dollar deal with the Italian film company Filmauro to star in a movie. Executives at Filmauro — which is known for producing comedies chockful of sex and skin — would not comment…. Natalie Portman will be ditching the world of ”Phantom Menace” special effects for her next project: She’ll play a pregnant teen who begins living in a Wal-Mart when her boyfriend ditches her, in ”Where the Heart Is.” Matt Williams, cocreator of TV’s ”Roseanne” and ”Home Improvement,” will make his feature-directing debut.

SPLITTING UP After finally landing a hit in America last year with ”Bittersweet Symphony” (after great success in their native Britain), The Verve is splitting up. Singer Richard Ashcroft said that ”circumstances” had made it impossible to continue. The band had given hints of imploding last year when guitarist Nick McCabe bowed out of the band’s summer tour and the concerts fell apart…. Producer/writer/director James L. Brooks (”As Good as it Gets”) has filed for legal separation from his wife, Holly Beth Holmberg, citing that old chestnut, irreconcilable differences. The couple has been married for 20 years and has three children.

RESIGNING In one of his wiser career movies, Ron Silver has left the cast of ”Veronica’s Closet” to go back to theater and film. He may return for occasional guest appearances next year, although NBC hasn’t yet announced whether it’s renewing the sitcom for a third season.

COURT BATTLES Actor David Carradine (”Kung Fu”) and his wife are suing People magazine for a January 11 article that allegedly libeled him by calling the actor ”washed up,” ”a drunk,” ”unemployable,” and claimed that he had once been court-martialed. Carradine is also charging breach of contract, saying that he had been promised that the article would be flattering in exchange for his dropping a previous lawsuit against People’s Australian version, Who Weekly, which referred to Carradine’s wife, Marina Anderson, as ”a porn star.” ”Their lawsuit is totally without merit,” said a People spokesperson….. An Italian court has ruled that Luciano Pavarotti must shell out $2.5 million in unpaid taxes. The opera great had claimed that since his official residence is in tax-free Monte Carlo, he owed nothing, but the court maintained he has to pony up in Italy, since he mostly resides in Modena.

OBITUARY Trumpeter Al Hirt, a New Orleans jazz favorite, died yesterday at 76 from liver failure. Hirt, who released 55 albums, was not only an aficionado of pure jazz, but was also known for melding traditional styles with pop music, which gained him a wider audience.

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