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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' jacket sells for $1.8 million at auction

Michael Jackson's "Thriller" jacket sold for $1.8 million at this weekend's Julien's auction in Beverly Hills, California.
Michael Jackson's "Thriller" jacket sold for $1.8 million at this weekend's Julien's auction in Beverly Hills, California.

  • NEW: One of Jackson's crystal-covered gloves sells for $330,000, 10 times the estimate
  • A bidder pays $1.8 million for the red and black jacket that he made famous in "Thriller"
  • Other items auctioned this weekend were from Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra and Elvis
  • The cape that the Beatles' Ringo Starr wore in "Help!" sold for $37,500

(Aladdin Blog) -- In an auction featuring memorabilia from the Beatles, Madonna and Elvis Presley, it was Michael Jackson who proved to be king.

The red and black jacket, winged shoulders and all, that the late pop star wore during his zombie-ridden "Thriller" video fetched a $1.8 million bid at this weekend's Julien's auction in Beverly Hills, California, according to the auctioneer's website.

The winning price was exponentially above the estimated bid of $200,000 to $400,000. Part of the proceeds will go toward the Shambala Preserve where Jackson's two Bengal tigers, Thriller and Sabu, have been living the past five years.

The jacket had been given to Dennis Tompkins and Michael Bush, the singer's longtime costume designers, to use as a reference for concert performances of the "Thriller" song. It includes an inscription to them on the jacket's lining, and the sleeve is signed, "Love Michael Jackson."

Its sale came exactly two years after the then 50-year-old Jackson was killed by a surgical anesthetic called Propofol, which a Los Angeles coroner ruled killed the singer in combination with several sedatives found in his blood.

The jacket wasn't the only piece of history from the late King of Pop that was part of the auction. The signature fedora Jackson wore during his Bad Tour was sold for $16,250, a handwritten note to friend Elizabeth Taylor went for $5,625 and a signed pillowcase fetched $3,584. And a bidder paid out $330,000 -- more than 10 times what Julien's had expected to get -- for one of the famous, shiny, crystal-covered gloves that Jackson wore during the 1980s.

"Michael Jackson has an unbelievable fan base," Darren Julien, the auction house's president, told CNN earlier this month.

Other pieces of history, from other members of music royalty, were also featured at the auction. While gold records and instruments were common items, others were more practical -- like Frank Sinatra's boots (selling for $2,500) and his 1986 Jaguar car ($19,000). as well as the U.S. Army-issued sewing kit of Elvis Presley's that went for $1,536.

The King of Pop's closest competition at the auction was the Beatles, which had a number of items for sale. A signed postcard from Liverpool's finest sold for $5,504 and Paul McCartney's bass guitar fetched $14,080. But oft-diminished drummer Ringo may have gotten the last laugh, with the cape he wore in the movie "Help!" selling for $37,500 -- about five times the estimate.

Source: CNN Entertainment

Team pays for rights to own nickname

(Reuters) - South Africa's Football Association (SAFA) will pay five million rand ($732,332.479) for the rights to the popular nickname of the country's soccer team, Bafana Bafana, ending a long running dispute with a licensing company who first registered it.

The sum will be paid over 12 months to Johannesburg-based licensing company Stanton Woodrush, who had registered the nickname almost 20 years ago, SAFA said Friday.

"We feel very happy about the acquisition of the Bafana Bafana name which allows us to exploit this great brand for the good of the game," SAFA president Kirtsen Nematandani told reporters.

It brings to a close a highly divisive issue which had pitted the association against the licensing company in court and also concludes months of post-World Cup negotiations.

Bafana Bafana was a moniker first attached to the team in 1992 by a newspaper reporter. Loosely translated from Zulu it means "our boys" and quickly became popular although was shunned at first by the football association.

After South Africa won the 1996 African Nations Cup, the nickname became firmly attached to the team and the association sought to embrace it but had already been beaten to the registration of the name as trademark by businessman Stan Smidt, who owned Stanton Woodrush.

SAFA lost a court case over the intellectual property rights nine years ago but later went into a partnership with Stanton Woodrush for apparel and licensing sales using the nickname, worth an estimated 50 million rand.

After last year's World Cup, SAFA made a renewed bid to gain sole rights to the nickname and held lengthy negotiations, at one time threatening to ditch Bafana Bafana and organize a public poll for a new nickname. ($1 = 6.827 South African Rand)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Private eye tells homeless man of inheritance

SALT LAKE CITY – A private investigator says he has tracked down a homeless Utah man and delivered some good news: He's inherited a lot of money.

David Lundberg said he found Max Melitzer pushing a shopping cart filled with personal possessions in a Salt Lake City park Saturday afternoon.

Lundberg declined to disclose how much money Melitzer will be receiving, but said the man's brother who died of cancer last year left him a "significant" amount in his will.

"He'll no longer be living on the street or in abandoned storage sheds," he told The Associated Press. "He'll be able to have a normal life, and be able to have a home, provide for himself, and purchase clothing, food and health care."

The story about Lundberg's two-month search for Lundberg has been reported by the Deseret News and KSL of Salt Lake City.

Lundberg said he was hired by the family's New York law firm to locate Melitzer, and some family members plan to meet Melitzer next week in Salt Lake City. He declined to identify them.

Melitzer's family wishes to remain private, and lawyers are deferring questions to Lundberg.

The investigator said he broke the news to Melitzer while they were sitting on a bench at Pioneer Park. While Lundberg said he didn't tell Melitzer how much money he was inheriting, the man was excited.

"He's still in shock. This came out of nowhere," Lundberg said. "He's a really mellow guy in his 60s, very sweet and more articulate than I thought for a man in his position."

Melitzer has been homeless for years and last had mail correspondence with his family in September. But when family members gave him a number to phone, he never called.

Don Hill, house manager at the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake, told Lundberg on Friday that he had seen Melitzer near the facility two days earlier.

Hill said he has known the homeless man for four years, and Melitzer stayed at places like the Rescue Mission when he's not roaming between Salt Lake City and Ogden.

"During the summer, I'd imagine, once in a while he'll stay out nights — outside," Hill told the Deseret News.

Earlier this month, a police officer found Melitzer sleeping in a car in an Ogden salvage yard.

Lundberg said Melitzer was taken Saturday to an undisclosed location in Salt Lake City and doesn't want to talk to the media right now. But Lundberg said he would talk to family members about possibly holding a news conference next week.

The investigator said he found Melitzer with the help of a tip. He received about 60 or 70 such calls after news about his search went out Friday.

"Someone called today (Saturday) and said they saw him at Pioneer Park. I thought it was another crazy tip, but sure enough, there he was," Lundberg said.

Gaga Goes Bald & Beautiful For "Hair" Performance

Lady Gaga is known for her colorful collection of wild wigs, but for a recent performance on Britain's "The Paul O'Grady Show"--ironically of her Born This Way track "Hair"--she went hairless, startling fans by sporting a boldly bald new look. Perhaps after rocking every outrageous hair style and color imaginable since her hair-raising rise to fame in 2008, Gaga felt there was nothing left to do that could shock her fanbase except wearing no hair
at all.

And the stunt worked. The spectacle of seeing a glam icon so associated with crazy hairdos belting out "I'm as free as my hair" while appearing totally hair-free was a shocker, and it wasn't long before "Bald Gaga" was a top trending topic on Twitter.

Well, Gaga wasn't entirely hair-free for her pre-taped "O'Grady" performance: Her piano was blanketed in synthetic hair, and from the neck down she was swathed in a dress that appeared to be fashioned out of turquoise Muppet follicles. And about halfway through her song, she reached for a matching blue pageboy wig, which was sitting atop her piano, and positioned it on her bare head.

While concerned fans feared that Gaga had pulled a Britney and shaved her scalp on a whim, a closer look at her "O'Grady" footage indicates she just wore a bald skullcap on the show. (Calls to Gaga's record label were not returned at press time.) But only her hairdresser knows for sure.

What do you think of Lady Gaga's bare new look?

Eat Your Vegetables, and Don't Forget to Tweet

As a teenager, Jessica Wilson rebelled against her parents. She refused to tweet.

Parents are always looking for ways to position their children for success, from piano lessons to Mandarin immersion. In the Wilson household, that means encouraging the kids to express themselves on the Internet. Unlike parents who struggle to limit kids' computer use, Fred and Joanne Wilson want their kids to be comfortable with the latest in technology.

Courtesy of Wilson family

The parents and kids publish a combined nine blogs. They bring a duffle bag on family trips just to carry all the cords, adapters and batteries for their electronic devices. Mr. and Ms. Wilson, both 49, write almost every day on their blogs, which cover everything from financing start-ups and music (his) to entrepreneurs, family and the key to cooking a prime rib (hers).

Jessica, 20, and Emily, 18, have two blogs each; Joshua, 15, has one, plus two Xboxes. When Josh expressed an interest in building websites, his mom hired a graduate student to tutor him in coding.

Ms. Wilson, an avid cook, photographs most family meals for her "Gotham Gal" blog. "If you try to take a bite of your appetizer before she's taken a picture, you hear her say, 'Wait wait wait wait,' and she'll make you put it back," Josh says.

At times, the kids have resisted the push online. Mr. Wilson, a New York City venture capitalist whose company invested in Twitter, wanted Jessica to be a nimble tweeter. "I would tell her that it was going to be the next big thing," says Mr. Wilson.

Jessica refused to take part. "It was a rebellious thing," she says.

But now, as an aspiring photographer, Jessica sees a benefit to having her dad promote her work to his 173,000 followers.

The Wilsons are an extreme case of connectedness, but maybe not for long. Americans' media consumption keeps increasing, with smartphone ownership and social-network use growing fast. According to a study being released Thursday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 47% of American adults say they use at least one social-networking site.

The Wilson parents blog the old-fashioned way -- with words -- while the kids fill sites like Tumblr with photos. Stitch it all together, and you get a new-media portrait of a close-knit and connected family.

Courtesy of Wilson family

Fred, 49

Mr. Wilson is a managing partner at Union Square Ventures, a venture-capital firm that has invested in companies such as Tumblr, Foursquare, Zynga and Etsy. He is on the board of directors at Twitter and Etsy.

His best-known blog is, which attracts about 250,000 unique visitors a month. While his focus is the technology industry, he sometimes mentions his kids: "For years I tried to get my girls to shop on Etsy. They just didn't get it. Then last spring my daughter came home from college and told me that she was 'addicted to Etsy.' ... Yesss."

In 2005, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson started a family podcast called "Positively Tenth Street." Sunday nights, the clan sat at the kitchen counter taking turns talking about their week and selecting songs. (In one episode, the family discussed power-cord compatibility and played "Waiting for the World to Change" by John Mayer.) Episodes were posted to a website the Wilsons set up, and some aired on a radio station in San Francisco.

"After a year and a half, my sisters said, 'We're done,' " Josh remembers.

"It's actually embarrassing," Emily says.

These days, Mr. Wilson occasionally posts links to his daughters' photograph blogs. He points out that in a Google search on "Jessica Wilson," -- a fairly common name -- his daughter's website is the top link. "Having her online portfolio first on Google could be very valuable to her," he says.

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Mr. Wilson is glad she has come around to Twitter. "In social media there is a tension between a desire for privacy and a desire for attention," her father says.

Jessica sometimes asks her dad to "reblog" photos she is particularly proud of.

"I use the same rule with my kids and entrepreneurs: If I think the thing they want me to [post] is consistent with the online brand I've developed and the audience I've cultivated, then I'll do it," he says.

Courtesy of Wilson family/Emily Wilson

Joanne, 49

Ms. Wilson started blogging in 2003, wanting to preserve a professional identity after she stopped working. She invests for the family in online properties and promotes women entrepreneurs, both on her blog and as co-chair of New York University's Women's Entrepreneur Festival.

"Gotham Gal" is a window on New York's tech scene, complete with downtown restaurants and adventurous travels abroad. But it's also very domestic. Last week, she wrote about a meal the family had to celebrate Emily's high school graduation.

"If she blogs a picture of me I don't like, I get very mad," says Jessica.

Ms. Wilson says she cares very much about her family's privacy. "I know fundamentally where you draw the line," she says. "There are plenty of things that happen that you just don't go there."

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Ms. Wilson says she has regretted only one post: She criticized another school mom for being overbearing. Ms. Wilson never identified the other woman, but when Ms. Wilson ran into her while getting her hair cut, the woman said she knew it was her. "Lesson learned," Ms. Wilson says.

People who hang out with the Wilsons a lot find their way onto Gotham Gal. When Emily's friend, Lizzie Noonan, joined the family on a trip, she was featured on the blog. "One of Josh's friends was like, 'I'm on it more times than you,' " Lizzie says. She replied, "'I'm just getting started!"

Jessica, 20

Jessica wants to be a photographer. She refers to one of her websites as her "portfolio," where she posts a few select images and her contact information. She blogs other photos she has taken, as well as images she has seen online, on Tumblr. She posts snapshots -- a lot of them -- on Facebook.

She knows her parents look at all of her sites and social-media pages. "I'm so active on Facebook, I don't think they can keep up with it," she says.

Jessica, a junior at Wesleyan University who will spend the next semester studying in Cape Town, South Africa, says she doesn't like her parents to write about her.

But she knows the value of having them promote her work. Her father reblogged her first-ever Tumblr post and within a few hours, 14,000 other people had reblogged it from his page, and 2,100 people had opted to follow Jessica's Tumblr blog.

She says she finally joined Twitter after a family dinner in which her mom cited a funny tweet sent out by one of Jessica's college friends. "I was like, 'Hey, he is my friend!' "

Emily, 18

Emily, who will be a freshman at Wesleyan this fall, also loves photography. She maintains two blogs on Tumblr. One is for photographs she has taken of friends, family or street scenes -- images she showcases as her work.

On the other, she posts photos, videos or songs that she thinks are cool, like a photo she reblogged from another person's Tumblr page of a yellow car surrounded by the purple petals shed from a flowering tree. On Facebook, she posts personal snapshots.

Recently, Ms. Wilson posted on "Gotham Gal" about her daughter. "Emily is baking up a storm," Ms. Wilson wrote, sharing with readers the recipe for banana coconut cookies her daughter had prepared.

This upset Emily. "I want to be able to do the things I do in my life, then if I want to share it, I can, it's my choice," she says.

Josh, 15

Josh is more a gamer than a social networker (his 1,000 Facebook friends notwithstanding). He used to play a lot of Zynga games on Facebook but has refocused on Xbox.

His dad often seeks his son's opinion on new websites and apps. "If I'm not busy, I try to do it within a day or two," he says. In the fall, he will enter his sophomore year of high school. He is an editor and reporter for the school newspaper.

Josh follows his favorite pro sports players on Twitter. On the rare occasions when Josh tweets, he tries to rib his parents. Last fall, he wrote, "With @fredwilson and @thegothamgal look for a man in a white and black striped collared shirt @fredwilson, find him you get a hug."

"My parents love it when I do stuff like that," he says.

For years, Josh has been asking his parents to buy a television for his room. But Mr. and Ms. Wilson have one limit on technology: no TVs in the bedrooms. "They don't want us in our rooms glued to the TV," Josh says. Of course, Josh notes that he can download programs to his laptop.

He says he ignores his mom's blog. "I try to refrain from reading her blog because then we don't have anything to talk about," he says.

Swimming in the Living Room Pool

The Chelsea neighborhood townhouse has a 15-by-30 foot pool in the living room.
Photo: Core

It's not often that you come across a home with 30,000 gallons of water in the living room. But one rare property in Manhattan is equipped with just that—an indoor pool that doubles as an entertainment area for the owners.

The "trophy property," as the owner calls it, is a Federal-style townhouse on West 15th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues, which is on the market for $10.955 million.

Evelyn McMurray Van-Zeller was living in Europe when she inherited the Manhattan home from her brother in 1995; she now lives there with her husband, João Van-Zeller.

For Ms. McMurray Van-Zeller, taking on the townhouse was challenging both emotionally and physically. "I had a full, complete life in Europe," she said. "In several weeks I had to sell houses, cars, a dog. It was very difficult. This is a complicated house to inherit."

The 15-by-30-foot pool is eight-feet deep and was installed in 1975 by previous owners. Ms. McMurray Van-Zeller said the pool is "grandfathered in."

The art around the pool enhances the experience.
Photo: Core

The pool level has a brick wall and is surrounded by granite flooring and living-room furnishings. Ms. McMurray Van-Zeller said the artwork, antiques, medieval weaponry and plantings in the adjoining atrium give the space a "cave-like, medieval, Moroccan look."

But achieving the look was no easy task. In order to hang the artwork and weaponry on the brick wall, Ms. McMurray Van-Zeller had to get a 25-foot ladder and place it in the pool; in order to reach the ladder without getting wet, she employed a small pink raft, rowed it to the ladder, and climbed up to affix the decorations to the wall.

"Improvisation is very important when you have a house like this," she said. "The good news is that if you fall off, you fall into the pool."

While pool maintenance may be a drag, Ms. McMurray Van-Zeller says she and her animals thoroughly enjoy the amenity. Her three turtles and 5-pound Yorkshire terrier sometimes go for a dip. "You feel like you're on a permanent holiday," she said. "There's almost no reason to leave the house [with] the pool, the sauna [and] the gym."

The pool level has a brick wall and is surrounded by granite flooring.
Photo: Core

The renovated townhouse is split into a triplex with two apartments on the top floors that rent for $4,000 and $5,000, respectively. The entire townhouse has six bedrooms, five bathrooms and a garden with a small pool—this one for the owner's turtles. There are also five fireplaces, including one in each of the rental apartments.

Ms. McMurray Van-Zeller said she's ready to move back to Europe and own a smaller place in Manhattan. She says the buyer of her home could either be "a celebrity or someone who wants a trophy property or bragging rights." She added, "Who doesn't want to say they have a swimming pool in their living room?"

The property was listed in February with CORE. Prior to that, it had been on and off the market in 2008 with an initial asking price of $11.5 million.

One major doesn’t make Rory Mcllroy a Tiger Woods

BETHESDA, Md. – By the time dusk settled over Congressional Country Club on Sunday evening it was clear that golf had found its challenge to Tiger Woods, even if it comes in the form of a man barely 22 years old with freckles on his face and the bushy hair of a teenager. For all the imposters and has-beens and never-really-coulds who were supposed to break the iron rule of the game’s most dominant player over the last 14 years, who would have imagined Rory McIlory?

Stalking the greens he fades into the scenery, a kid making a joke of grown men, he hardly seems tall enough to crush the drives he hits so precisely. And yet with one brilliant week here on the very course that hosts Tiger’s tournament, he leaped into that hazy ether owned only by Woods. McIlroy might only have won three professional tournaments in his brief career, but his 16-under par total in this U.S. Open was one of the most dominating performances in a major ever, obliterating Tiger’s previous Open record of 12 under set at the 2000 Open at Pebble Beach.

So here is the new face golf was desperate to find, the one whose life changed forever this weekend, the one that will now be pictured as the favorite at the next several major tournaments regardless of whether Woods returns from his injuries.

But Rory McIlroy is not Tiger Woods. He does not strut through golf tournaments with an icy indifference, breaking opponents just by the act of not even looking their way. He isn’t the kind to brush past a group of fans without at least a nod or the tiniest of waves.

On Saturday, after McIlroy nearly made the outcome of this tournament moot by shooting a 68, he walked into the clubhouse, spotted a small boy standing in the hallway and tossed him his glove. The boy beamed. The boy’s mother clapped. And Rory replied with a slight smile as he walked toward the locker room.

It’s the kind of thing Tiger would have never done lest he seem compassionate. Yet it is the frigid distance that helped Tiger win 14 major titles and become the most-feared man on the tour. He crushed his adversaries before he ever played them.

McIlroy is not a golf robot. Even as he scorched his way through Congressional doubts lingered about his will. He could have been the true challenge to Tiger two months ago in the green forest of Augusta, but his last-day lead at the Masters imploded somewhere off the side of the 10th fairway cementing a label as yet another talented young player too fragile to survive the pressure of a major tournament.

Most observers believe that Rory McIlroy will win many majors and eventually be ranked as the top player in the game.

You do not go from being the player who blew the Masters and squandered a first-day lead at last summer’s British Open to being the most intimidating presence on the tour in a matter of weeks. You are not yet the game’s best player if thousands are lining the ropes on Sunday, craning their necks half expecting you to crumble.

Just Saturday evening Lee Westwood, who shares a business manager with McIlroy, wondered aloud if McIlory would hold what was then an eight-stroke lead. “You don’t know how he’s going to deal with the big lead,” Westwood said. “He had a big lead in a major and didn’t deal with it well before. There’s pressure on him with regards to that. We’ll see.”

Nobody said “we’ll see” when Tiger led by eight strokes on the next to last day of a major.

Maybe someday McIlroy gets a Tiger-like desire. Maybe winning this tournament and all the fame that comes with it will harden him, wiping the youthful smirk that dances on his lips and steeling him against the world the way Woods always did. Perhaps, as everyone seems to predict, he will win lots and lots of majors and approach the 14 major titles won by Tiger. But it’s hard to believe a kid who talks freely about his failings and admits that the thing he needed to add most to his game was arrogance could be Tiger.

Instead he will likely become something else, something more loveable: a really good player who knows how to treat people well, who will smile and sign autographs and play the game with joy and not as if he was on a corporate mission.

Sunday he took the victor’s walk down the 18th fairway, basking in the roar that reverberated through the trees, over the pond and against the giant clubhouse standing regal atop a hill. There are few strolls like this in sports and everybody expects there will be many more. But still it lay in contrast to the previous evening, when he leaned over to knock his final putt into the hole and from far across the water there came a voice piercing the silence.

“Just like the Masters!”

Nobody would have dared scream such a thing at Woods in the same situation.

Which is why Rory McIlroy is a really, really good golfer.

But he is not Tiger Woods. At least not yet.

Monster, Billionaire Mansions

Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, 26, may have recently shelled out $7 million for a Palo Alto home, but when it comes to billionaire real estate, that purchase is downright thrifty. Many of the world’s richest people spare no expense when it comes to home sweet home, throwing down tens and hundreds of millions of dollars on mega mansions designed to suit every possible fancy.

Take industrial billionaire Ira Rennert’s 43,031 square-foot Fair Field estate in Sagaponack, New York. Valued at $200 million according to tax assessments, the sprawling 29 bedroom, 39 bath manse is one of America’s largest single-family homes — and arguably the most expensive. Amenities include not one but three dining rooms, three swimming pools sitting side by side, two courtyards, an orangery, a 164-seat screening theater and a pavilion housing a basketball court, a gym, and a 2-lane bowling alley. There’s even an on-premise power plant to keep everything running.

On the opposite coast, Russian venture capital billionaire Yuri Milner recently forked over $100 million for a 25,000-square foot, French chateau-inspired mansion in Silicon Valley. The Palo Alto estate touts indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, a ballroom and a wine cellar. If Rennert’s Fair Field estate could be the most expensive home in the country, Milner’s is its direct competition for that title. The Facebook and Groupon investor, who calls Moscow, Russia home, bought the place as a secondary property.

Many billionaire homeowners don’t move into their new digs right away. Once they’ve closed, which usually occurs through a third party LLC to keep the sale as private as possible, it’s time to retrofit the property for their lavish lifestyles, remodeling or in some cases, tearing down and rebuilding a brand new mansion altogether. This is a common occurrence in the ritzy Long Island, New York zip codes that make up the Hamptons, where billionaire investor Ron Baron dropped $103 million on 40 acres of beachfront land sans a house. In the most recent and extreme example, hedge fund billionaire David Tepper just knocked down the $43.5 million Sagaponack home he bought last year; he reportedly plans to build a house that’s twice as large on the empty site.

“A lot of people will buy a $30 million ocean front mansion, tear it down, and start all over again,” explains Alan Fiocchi, founder of AlchemyRED, a company that project manages the ground-up construction or intensive remodeling of multi-million dollar estates around the world. Fiocchi, who works on properties averaging $25 million with a typical renovation budget of $10 million, acts as Owner’s Representation for many billionaire clients, including many of Wall Street’s high profile finance gurus, one non-American Head of State and members of royal families.

Billionaires like their privacy. Fiocchi, who must sign non-disclosure agreements to take on a job, says it is common for clients to shell out money for technology that ensures safety. “We’ve done full security in terms of bullet-proof glass on all the windows,” says Fiocchi. “We’ve even had clients who were extremely paranoid about air quality, so we engaged engineers from Germany to make sure they had the highest air quality known to man circulating through their residences.”

The world’s richest spend millions on the finish work, especially stonework and millwork. Take the Maison de L’Amitie estate in Palm Beach, Florida that real estate mogul-turned-reality show star Donald Trump sold to Russian fertilizer kingpin, Dmitry Rybolovlev in 2008 for a discounted $95 million (originally listed for $125 million). The Donald snatched up the 60,000 square foot, oceanfront estate for just over $40 million in 2004 and set to work sprucing it up, adding gold and diamond fixtures and a 50-car garage.

Some billionaires collect pricey plots of land the way others might collect wine or art. Tech titan Larry Ellison is perhaps most famously known for his Woodside, Calif. compound, fashioned after a Japanese imperial palace with man-made lake, teahouse and moon pavilion. But the Oracle founder has also dished out hundreds of millions of dollars on more than a dozen Malibu and San Francisco estates in recent years. Earlier this year, he scooped up former billionaire Edra Blixseth’s 240-acre Porcupine Creek estate in Rancho Mirage, Calif. for a deeply discounted $42.9 million.

“When I think of a trophy property selling or something unusual entering the market that gets a lot of attention it…actually pulls more inventory out onto the market…and other properties that may be considered competing in this price point come out of the woodwork because the selling of them is optional,” explains Jonathan Miller, chief executive of Miller Samuel Inc, a New York City-based real estate appraisal company. He notes that while high-end aspiring homeowners have the money to shell out on uber expensive estates, many still tend to abstain from buying property that is wildly overpriced – just as their home-buying peers in the lower ends of the market do.

Here are five monster billionaire mansions worth visiting:

Maison de L'Amitie, a $95 million property in Palm Beach, FL.
Photo: ZUMA Press/Newscom

Maison de L'Amitie, Palm Beach, Fla.
Owner: Dmitry Rybolovlev, worth $9.5 billion
List Price: $125 million
Final Purchase Price: $95 million

The sprawling oceanfront 60,000-square foot compound, bought from Donald Trump in 2008, includes diamond and gold fixtures and a nearly 50 car garage.

Xanadu 2.0, worth an estimated $121 million, is in Medina, Wash.
Photo: CelebrityHomePhotos/Newscom

Xanadu 2.0, Medina, Wash.
Owner: Bill Gates, worth $56 billion
Home Value: $121 million, according to tax assessments

The high-tech Lake Washington complex owned by the world's second-richest man boasts a pool with an underwater music system, a 2,500- square foot gym and a library with domed reading room.

Promised Land, purchased for $50 million, is in Montecito, CA
Photo: Splash News/Newscom

Promised Land, Montecito, Calif.
Owner: Oprah Winfrey, worth $2.7 billion
Purchase Price: $50 million in 2001

The media queen's 23,000-square-foot Georgian-style manse sits on more than 40 acres, boasting a tea house, more than 600 rose bushes and an upscale outhouse.

Casa Sin Nombre in Palm Beach, Fla. is for sale for $59 million.
Photo: Corcoran

Casa Sin Nombre, Palm Beach, Fla.
Owner: Columbia University, bequeathed by the late media mogul John Kluge
For Sale: $59 million

Reflecting pools, statues and six houses adorn the oceanfront grounds of the late Metromedia founder's property, which recently hit the market after being willed to his alma mater.

Fair Field Estate in Sagaponack, N.Y. is valued at $200 million.

Fair Field Estate, Sagaponack, N.Y.
Owner: Ira Rennert, worth $5.2 billion
Property value: $200 million, according to tax assessments

The industrial billionaire's hulking 29-bedroom, 39-bath Hamptons compound has not one, but three swimming pools, plus its own power plant on premises.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Prince Philip marks 90th birthday with new title

Prince Philip marks 90th birthday with new title
AFP/Pool – Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, attends a reception for the Action on Hearing Loss charity at Buckingham …

LONDON (AFP) – Britain's Prince Philip received a new royal title from his wife Queen Elizabeth II as a gift on his 90th birthday Friday, as the outspoken consort said he would finally scale back his workload.

The queen made him Lord High Admiral -- the titular head of the British Royal Navy and an office until now held by her -- partly in recognition of the promising seafaring career Philip gave up to spend a lifetime at her side.

The gruff patriarch, the longest-serving consort in British history, opted to spend his birthday with a typical lack of fuss, as he hosted a charity reception and chaired a conference for military colonels.

Despite remaining sprightly for his age, if not the dashing blond naval officer of more than five decades ago, Philip admitted he would now take a step back from official duties.

"I reckon I've done my bit. I want to enjoy myself a bit now, with less responsibility, less frantic rushing about, less preparation, less trying to think of something to say," he told the BBC.

"On top of that my memory's going, I can't remember names. I'm just sort of winding down."

There has been speculation he could hand over some of his duties to his grandson Prince William's new wife, Catherine.

Since marrying the then princess Elizabeth in 1947, Philip has carved out his own role supporting the monarch, accompanying her on visits around the world and jollying people up with his off-the-cuff remarks.

Some have been near the knuckle.

On a visit to China in 1986, he warned a group of British students: "If you stay here much longer, you'll all be slitty-eyed." And he told a British student who had trekked in Papua New Guinea in 1998: "You managed not to get eaten, then?".

But in a sign of the public affection for him, the palace revealed that almost 2,000 birthday cards had been sent to the duke from across the globe, including New Zealand and Australia, Italy, Poland, France and Germany.

Known officially as the Duke of Edinburgh, he is patron of some 800 organisations, covering fields including conservation, design and developing life skills among youngsters.

Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark, a nephew of Greek king Constantine I, was born on a kitchen table on Corfu on June 10, 1921.

After a turbulent childhood, Lieutenant Mountbatten, as he became, married Elizabeth but his stellar progress in the Royal Navy, including service in World War II, was halted when his wife became queen in 1952.

He told ITV it was "disappointing", but "being married to the queen, it seemed to me that my first duty was to serve her in the best way I could".

Buckingham Palace said in a statement that the award of the title of Lord High Admiral was a "gift to The Duke of Edinburgh on the occasion of his 90th birthday", and that an official ceremony would take place at a later date.

The queen has held the title, which dates back to the 14th century, since 1964.

Canada also named Prince Philip an admiral and general in the Canadian Armed Forces for his birthday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, praising his "significant contribution to our national life".

The queen is Canada's head of state.

On Friday Philip was also honoured with a 62-gun salute and the striking of a Royal Mint coin with his image on one side and the queen's on the other.

At the event he attended for the Royal National Institute for Deaf People he was given a pair of ear defenders.

But the official celebration of his birthday will be on Sunday when there will be a service at Saint George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, attended by the royal family, with a reception to follow.

"There is no ceremony or anything today. The main event will be on Sunday," a Buckingham Palace spokesman told AFP.

The duke showed the accolades were unlikely to go to his head, as he showed when he was asked by the BBC if he thought he had been successful.

"I couldn't care less. Who cares what I think about it? I mean it's ridiculous," he said, adding that he had figured out how to perform his role by "trial and error".

Paying tribute this week, Prime Minister David Cameron said Philip had been "a constant companion and a source of rock-solid strength" to the queen, adding that Britons found the duke's down-to-earth style "endearing".

World's Most Expensive Cities 2011

Americans might complain about the high cost of living, but overseas the U.S. dollar is even weaker. Find out where it buys the least.

Australia, former penal colony, home to the Great Barrier Reef, and producer of world-class shiraz, has never exactly been synonymous with a high cost of living. Yet because of a strong economy and proximity to the booming Asia Pacific region, many overseas visitors might find it more expensive to slip an extra shrimp -- or just about anything else for that matter -- on the barbie here than in most other countries around the world. In fact, in a recent survey, six Australian cities placed among the top 30 most expensive in the world, according to global human resources firm ECA International. Just two years ago, not a single Australian city ranked in the top 100.

Australia is not alone in becoming more expensive. Singapore, for example, rose to No. 36 in ECA's ranking, from No. 68 last year, on the strength of the Singapore dollar. Caracas, Venezuela, rose from No. 91 to No. 15, a result of rampant inflation.

The city that earns the dubious honor of being the most expensive for holders of U.S. dollars is Tokyo, a rank it also enjoyed last year. How expensive is it? How about $24 for a movie ticket and nearly $11 for a beer. Japan dominated the ranking with four of the 10 most expensive -- in addition to Tokyo, Nagoya (No. 3), Yokohama (No. 5), and Kobe (No. 9) also made the list.

Due to the weakened U.S. dollar, no U.S. city ranked in the top 30 this year. The country's most expensive city, Manhattan, N.Y., fell to No. 44, from No. 28 in 2010, making it cheaper than Canada's Toronto (No. 37) and Vancouver (No. 42). The U.S.'s second most expensive city, Honolulu, fell to No. 62 from No. 40. (And while they haven't yet, it could be only a matter of time before Beijing (No. 46) and Shanghai (No. 47) crack the top 30.)

Of course, a weak dollar is not necessarily a bad thing. "If the U.S. continues to be relatively cost-effective in an international context, we will see companies pay more attention to whether they are saving money by expanding operations in places like Asia if the cost of living in these places is increasing," says Lee Quane, ECA International's regional director for Asia.

Aussie Dollar Strengthens

ECA International's ranking is based on a survey carried out in more than 400 cities worldwide in March. It compares the costs of living for expatriates maintaining a standard of living on a par with developed countries to guide employers' salary and benefits offers. Items such as food and beverage, basic goods and services, and some entertainment are included, but the survey excludes housing, utilities, car purchases, and school fees, which can vary widely and typically are counted separately in expatriate compensation packages.

A combination of inflation, availability of goods, and exchange rates affect costs. "The strong Australian dollar, which hit parity with the U.S. dollar last November and has strengthened further since, has been a significant factor behind the continued rise of Australian locations up the global ranking," Anna Michielsen, general manager for Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific for ECA International, said in a release.

The Australian dollar has strengthened by nearly 30 percent against the U.S. dollar since last June. That means a $100 meal would have cost about $83 last June and now costs about $106. The country is also becoming more expensive than other locations in Asia: ECA points out that goods and services in Sydney were only 3 percent more expensive than in Hong Kong last year and are now 17 percent more costly.

Rising prices, particularly of food and energy, also play a role: Fruit prices in Australia were up 24.9 percent year-on-year in the first quarter and vegetable prices 18.7 percent (due in part to floods); electricity rose 11.7 percent and gasoline 9.3 percent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Overall consumer prices in the quarter were 3.3 percent above their level a year ago. The bureau forecast in January that weekly living costs for families could increase by as much as A$100 per week this year.

Deteriorating Competitiveness

The cost of a quick lunch in a Sydney restaurant is now $27.10, compared with $20.57 in Manhattan; a dozen eggs is $5.60, against $3.65 in Manhattan; and a tube of toothpaste is $5 vs. $3.72 in Manhattan, according to ECA International.

Since 2004, Australia has seen a deterioration in its relative competitiveness doing business globally, says Glenn Mair, director of MMK Consulting in Vancouver and a leader of KPMG's Competitive Alternatives study, which analyzes the costs of doing business in cities around the world.

In 2004, the cost of doing business in Australia was about 8.5 percent lower than in the U.S., according to KPMG's report. By 2010, the gap had shrunk to 2.2 percent, due to Australia's strong dollar and stable economy during the global economic crisis.

"I anticipate some improvement for U.S. [competitiveness] if currency trends stay the same," Mair says. He adds, however, that volatile exchange rates can make this hard to predict.

It is too early for companies to change their strategy based on recent cost changes, and many other considerations are involved, says ECA's Quane. Still, signs are that U.S. cities may be becoming more cost competitive for businesses.

World's Most Expensive Cities 2011

No. 1: Tokyo

Quick lunch: $20.80
Beer at a bar: $10.56
Kilogram of rice: $9.80
Dozen eggs: $4.50
Movie theater ticket: $23.80

Although the consumer price index in the Tokyo area has been falling since 2009, according to data from Japan's statistics bureau, the city remains the world's most expensive. While housing costs are not included in this survey, ECA International estimates that the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Tokyo stood at $4,352 in September.

No. 2: Oslo

Quick lunch: $45.20
Beer at a bar: $13.18
Kilogram of rice: $6.10
Dozen eggs: $8.50
Movie theater ticket: $18.80

Norway's capital is a major hub for trade, shipping, and finance and is home to the Oslo Stock Exchange. Oslo has ranked among the world's most expensive cities for years, which is not surprising when a quick lunch costs about $45 and a dozen eggs, $8.50.

No. 3: Nagoya, Japan

Quick lunch: $19
Beer at a bar: $11.37
Kilogram of rice: $8.50
Dozen eggs: $3.60
Movie theater ticket: $21.80

Nagoya is one of Japan's premier industrial and technological centers and is well known for its high quality of life and competitive business costs, according to the U.S. Commercial Service. Unlike Japan's other major cities, Nagoya was not significantly harmed by the global economic downturn and has maintained its growth.

No. 4: Stavanger, Norway

Quick lunch: $32.30
Beer at a bar: $12.83
Kilogram of rice: $5.70
Dozen eggs: $6.80
Movie theater ticket: $17.30

Stavanger was mainly a fishing community until oil was found in the North Sea in the 1960s, transforming it into a major Norwegian city. Today, Norway is a leading oil exporter, with Statoil as the largest oil company in the Stavanger region. The industry has become central to the local economy and has attracted many residents from other countries.

No. 5: Yokohama, Japan

Quick lunch: $16.90
Beer at a bar: $6.59
Kilogram of rice: $4.20
Dozen eggs: $2.50
Movie theater ticket: $21.70

Japan's second-largest city after Tokyo, Yokohama is easily reached from Tokyo by train. The port city is home to over 300 IT firms and has a growing biotechnology base, according to the city. Yokohama has nine main business districts and exports many cars and auto parts.

No. 6: Zurich

Quick lunch: $32.90
Beer at a bar: $10.54
Kilogram of rice: $3.70
Dozen eggs: $7.90
Movie theater ticket: $19.60

The financial sector is an important part of Zurich's economy and the city is home to the Swiss Stock Exchange and companies such as Credit Suisse and Swiss Re. Zurich is also a major transportation hub. Mercer ranked the city second in the world for quality of life in 2010, but such a high standard of living does not come cheap: Zurich jumped to No. 6, from being the 10th most expensive city last year.

No. 7: Luanda, Angola

Quick lunch: $52.40
Beer at a bar: $6.62
Kilogram of rice: $4.60
Dozen eggs: $5.20
Movie theater ticket: $13.90

Luanda was the most expensive city in the world in ECA International's 2009 ranking. Last year it slipped to third place, due to the depreciation of the kwanza, and this year it fell again, to No. 7. While the city has a high poverty rate, it remains one of the most expensive places for expatriates to maintain standards of living comparable to those in their home countries.

No. 8: Geneva

Quick lunch: $33.70
Beer at a bar: $9.12
Kilogram of rice: $4.70
Dozen eggs: $8.60
Movie theater ticket: $19.20

Truly a global city, Geneva is home to such international organizations as the United Nations (which has an office in the city) and the International Committee of the Red Cross. An important center for banking, government, and technology, Geneva attracts many professional visitors, as well as tourists. It ranked as the third-best city in the world for quality of life in Mercer's 2010 report.

No. 9: Kobe, Japan

Quick lunch: $15.60
Beer at a bar: $8.69
Kilogram of rice: $9.30
Dozen eggs: $3.10
Movie theater ticket: $20.80

Kobe is one of Japan's busiest ports and a manufacturing center for appliances, food, and transportation equipment. The city offers many types of cuisine, though it's known best for high grade and pricey Kobe beef.

No. 10: Bern, Switzerland

Quick lunch: $28.80
Beer at a bar: $7.46
Kilogram of rice: $4.70
Dozen eggs: $8.40
Movie theater ticket: $19.10

Switzerland's capital, Bern is the center of Swiss government, the engineering industry, and the precision industry, as well as a manufacturing center for watches and other technology used in the medical, IT, and automotive sectors, according to the Bern Economic Development Agency. Branded watches such as Rolex, Longines, Swatch, and Rado are manufactured in the Canton of Bern.

Lady Gaga's sister makes red carpet debut

Lady Gaga's 10-inch platform shoes, spiked bustier, and turquoise wig weren't the only things that got the Web talking this week when she arrived at the Council Of Fashion Designers Of America Awards (CFDA) in New York to pick up her style-icon honor. The woman in black who escorted her across the red carpet also sparked a buzz.

The woman's name is Natali Germanotta, and she is Lady Gaga's 19-year-old sister. Natali bears a strong resemblance to the sibling six years her senior. Dressed in a simple pants suit, gold necklace, bustier, and black lipstick, Natali looks like Lady Gaga without the rock star costumes and hair.

Natali has been photographed at other Gaga events. She was in the front row when Lady Gaga performed on "Today" last year. And she even has a cameo in the epic Lady Gaga and Beyonce video "Telephone." In the video, when Lady Gaga enters the jail holding cell, she stands directly beside then-17-year-old Natali, who is wearing dark shades and big '80s hair.

Months after the "Telephone" video debuted, Gaga made news when attending Natali's high school graduation.

Based on the activity on her @germmonster318 Twitter page, Natali seems to live a regular life. She tweets about college. She's a first-year fashion design student at Parsons design school in New York. Her profile picture is from a flick with her boyfriend. In her 99 tweets to date, she comments about college, missing her girls from high school, and going to Pinkberry with her mom, and sometimes she sends love to her world-famous sister.

The night Gaga entered the Grammys in an egg, Natali sent her support. "My little fetus in the egg is gonna kill it tonight," she tweeted. She later added, "Couldn't ask for a better person for me to call my sister and best friend," she wrote. "@ladygaga- stefi, I love you with all my heart an I am so proud of you. X."

In January, Natali revealed her favorite Gaga song, a mellow '80s dance track called "So Happy I Could Die" from "The Fame Monster." Lady Gaga's fans love Natali, too. They send her messages about Gaga. When Natali tweeted that she needed more followers, Perez Hilton responded and helped spread the word.

That's Really Week is definitely impressed by the sisterhood between these ladies. And there's more good music news this week. Aerosmith announced that its returning to the studio to record its first album in 10 years. Ludacris made a surprise appearance during Jason Aldean's performance on the CMT Awards. Gwen Stefani fans weren't so happy, though, to hear that she would no longer pursue her solo career. And lastly, Flo Rida was charged with driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license.

Get more details on these stories in the links below. Flo Rida tried to talk his way out of the citation, and we have an excerpt of the hilarious quote. Be sure to check back next week for another news roundup.

When Mavs fans turn their heads into creepy basketballs

When Mavs fans turn their heads into creepy basketballs

There really isn't much more I can add to this. Yardbarker found a picture of a Dallas Mavericks fan who had turned his head into a strangely deflated basketball. My editors and I agree that you should see this gentleman's head. I would also like to point out, with a heatwave sweeping much of North America, that you probably shouldn't do this to your, or anyone else's, head.

Unless you really, really like the Mavs. Because we already know that you don't like the Heat.

Yahoo!'s own Jason Sickles documented the fan's apparent first attempt at creating this rather unhealthy alter-ego in a column from last month:

"I shaved my head and eyebrows," he boasted.

Caked in orange and black paint, Perez's smooth noggin resembled a basketball ready for play.

"This is my first time to ever do something like this," the Keller resident said.

Apparently the fan, named Frank Perez, makes himself up as the ball in order to score free tickets to Mavericks playoff games, given away by team officials hoping to fill the stadium with all sorts of crazy. Mission accomplished, Frank! And we'll be on the lookout for His Orangeness in Thursday's Game 5.

Nowitzki says Wade, James ‘childish … ignorant’

MIAMI (AP)—Dirk Nowitzki(notes) said Saturday that Dwyane Wade(notes) and LeBron James(notes) were “a little childish, a little ignorant” in a video that appears to show them mocking the Mavericks star’s recent illness.

Wade said he really did cough and turned it into a generic joke because cameras were rolling. He and James blamed others for trying to make a big deal out of it.

The video taken by the CBS affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth shows Wade walking alongside James following a shootaround the morning of Game 5 of the NBA finals. Wade coughs, then says, “Did you hear me cough? Think I’m sick.”

Nowitzki was coughing and sniffling throughout Game 4 because of a sinus infection that also left him with a 101-degree fever. He played anyway and led Dallas to a victory over the Miami Heat that evened the series at two games each. The Mavs also won Game 5, sending them into Game 6 on Sunday night with a chance to be crowned champions.

The video of Wade’s cough spread across the Internet on Friday, when both teams were traveling. So it became a popular topic at news conferences Saturday.

“First of all, it wasn’t fake coughing,” Wade said. “I actually did cough. And with the cameras being right there, we made a joke out of it because we knew you guys were going to blow it up. You did exactly what we knew. We never said Dirk’s name. I think he’s not the only one in the world who can get sick or have a cough. We just had fun with the cameras being right in our face about the blowup of the incident, and it held to be true. You blew it up.”

Said James: “If you guys want to feed into everything that not only myself or D-Wade or the Miami Heat do, I think that’s a non-issue. There’s bigger issues in this series than that.”

The video clip runs 26 seconds. After Wade coughs, he and James laugh and tug their collars over their nose and mouth, as Nowitzki did during his interview following Game 4.

Nowitzki clearly didn’t see anything humorous about it. He considered them implying he may not have been sick.

“I’ve been in this league for 13 years. I’ve never faked an injury or an illness before,” Nowitzki said. “But (the video) happened. It’s over to me. It’s not going to add anything extra to me. This is the NBA finals. If you need an extra motivation, you have a problem.”

Monday, June 6, 2011

World's Best New Hotels 2011

From a hillside African lodge to a Brazilian eco-retreat, these are the year’s best new hotels.

By Travel+Leisure Staff

For our annual It List, a compendium of the world’s most noteworthy new hotels, Travel+Leisure editors and writers logged thousands of miles in search of the next best new hotels for you to lay your head.


Las Vegas

Finally, a Vegas hotel for design geeks and food nerds. Guest rooms have Fornasetti wallpaper in the closets, furniture with solid modern lines, a generous soaking tub, C.O. Bigelow toiletries, art you will actually think about, and stacks of Phaidon books on the bedside. Venture into the David Rockwell–designed Chandelier bar and to restaurants by heavyweights including Scott Conant (Scarpetta), Bromberg Brothers (Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill), and José Andrés (Jaleo; China Poblano). Doubles from $195.


Loita Hills, Kenya

With a silent partner like Paul Allen (yes, that Paul Allen) backing Olarro, it’s no wonder this hillside lodge overlooking the Masai Mara is becoming Kenya’s next high-profile hideaway. Designer Anthony Russell has worked his magic on the seven thatched cottages and a two-bedroom villa: the tiled floors resemble giraffe markings, and the billowing fabric ceilings give the feel of a tented camp (without the hassle of having to unzip your door). At this new conservancy the wildlife may not be as prolific as in other parts of Africa, but after-dark safaris with night-vision goggles, as well as a perfect perch to watch the annual wildebeest migration, more than compensate. Doubles from $1,370.

GoldenEye Hotel & Resort


This property on the northern coast of Jamaica has quite a pedigree: in the 1940’s, Ian Fleming built a villa on a hidden cove to write his James Bond novels and entertain visitors including Noël Coward and Errol Flynn. Now owner Chris Blackwell has transformed GoldenEye into a small but stylish resort. With only 11 cottages and six suites along a white-sand beach and secluded lagoon, the vibe is as exclusive as it was in Fleming’s day and the guest list just as impressive (was that Beyoncé and Jay-Z hanging out at the waterfront Bizot bar?). Doubles from $448.

Banyan Tree Al Wadi

Ras Al Khaimah, U.A.E.

Camel rides? Check. Sand dunes? Check. Private pools? Check. The new Banyan Tree Al Wadi—tucked into the desert and a 45-minute drive from Dubai—is a daydreamer’s oasis. Set on 250 acres, 150 of which are a nature preserve, 101 villas blend regional design elements (bedouin-style tented ceilings) with Far Eastern service touches (the spa specializes in Thai massages). We rose early for a tour of the honey-colored landscape and returned to dine at the resort’s Al Waha restaurant while spotting wild gazelles through the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows. Doubles from $465.


Barra de São Miguel, Brazil

It was a risky proposition for engineer Pedro Marques to quit his career to open a 23-room eco-retreat on a sleepy beach along Brazil’s Alagoan coast, north of Bahia. But the gamble has paid off in spades. The hotel wows with eucalyptus columns and natural wood and brick interiors, all of which reinforce the indoor-outdoor aesthetic that sets the retreat apart. Environmental responsibility is emphasized: staffers are instructed in conservation techniques to avoid disturbing the nearby preserve. Doubles from $630.

Borgo Egnazia

Puglia, Italy

Though this blinding-white stone monolith looks as ancient as the fortified farmhouses that surround it, sprawling Borgo Egnazia is actually brand- new. Rooms are monochromatic, splicing luxe (limestone double sinks; wide shaded terraces) with unexpected design moments (single olive branches in lieu of flowers). Twin pools are lounge-worthy and huge; if only management would designate one of them exclusively for adults. Doubles from $455.

Taj Falaknuma Palace

Hyderabad, India

You’ll trade your car for a horse and carriage at the gate of the Taj Falaknuma Palace, which crowns a hill above the city, and be showered with rose petals when you ascend the marble steps. After a 10-year restoration, this former palace of the Nizam of Hyderabad (once the world’s richest man) is now a living museum, with 60 opulent guest rooms done up in ivories and golds. Wander the property if you like: nothing is off limits, including the library of rare books. Adding to the fairy-tale setting, at sunset you’ll hear the lilting strains of a flute in the courtyard. Doubles from $890.

Ritz-Carlton Shanghai

Pudong, Shanghai

It’s almost impossible to actually walk anywhere in the frenetic Pudong neighborhood, so lucky for you that Ritz-Carlton’s second Shanghai property offers plenty of reasons to stay put. Topping off Cesar Pelli’s 58-story IFC Shanghai building, the 285-room hotel places you in a cloud-level fantasy. Guest rooms, with their Art Deco touches, have skyline views from floor-to-ceiling windows, Frette linens, and freestanding bathtubs built for lounging. Doubles from $534.

W Retreat Koh Samui


Bringing a long-lacking dose of mod design and youthful exuberance to this ever-popular Thai resort island, W Hotels’ first “Retreat” property in Southeast Asia hews to the brand’s urbane aesthetic. Fans of the cheeky W formula will find all the requisite diversions, such as morning Thai boxing. Seeking serenity? The resort occupies a coveted peninsula on Samui’s quiet northern coast. While the lure of the beach may be hard to resist, guest rooms offer plenty of watery temptations as well: all of the 75 glass-walled villas have private pools, and the best offer shimmering Gulf of Thailand views. Doubles from $712.

Matakauri Lodge

Queenstown, New Zealand

It’s no wonder hedge-funder turned hotelier Julian Robertson chose a secluded South Island spot for his family’s third hotel, Matakauri Lodge, the latest sibling to the Farm at Cape Kidnappers and the Lodge at Kauri Cliffs. The property is ideal for adventurers in search of a luxury lodge near Queenstown. The 11 large, timber suites, decorated in rust, orange, and cream by native design doyenne Virginia Fisher, feature walk-in closets, open fireplaces, and the requisite mountain vistas. Doubles from $460.

What you’re doing wrong at the gym

If you've been going to the gym regularly and not seeing great results, it may be because you're unknowingly mangling your moves (no offense). The truth is, most people make tiny but key errors in their techniques, and these mistakes prevent them from building muscle and burning more calories. We selected four basic moves that have a tendency to trip women up, and asked top trainers for form fixes. Apply their tips to upgrade your routine and your body.

You lean forward, causing your front heel to rise.

1. "Narrow your starting stance," says Gray Cook, author of Athletic Body in Balance. The closer your feet are, the harder your core has to work to stabilize your body.

2. "As you do the lunge, focus on moving your torso only up and down, not pushing it forward," says Craig Rasmussen, a fitness coach at Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. This keeps your weight balanced evenly through your front foot, allowing you to press into the floor with your heel, which tones more lower-body muscle.

Quick Tip, Lunges: Drop your back knee straight down to the floor.

Banish Bumps and More: How to Get Summer-Ready Legs

You start the movement by bending your knees.

1. As you squat, imagine you're sitting down into a chair, rather than forward on top of your knees. Push your hips back first instead of beginning by bending your knees, which puts more stress on your joints, says Dan John, a strength coach in Burlingame, California.

2. Women tend to lean forward on their toes, but they should sit back into their heels. Try this fix: Pretend that you're standing on a paper towel, says Charlie Weingroff, lead physical therapist for the U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations Command at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. "Then imagine trying to rip the towel apart by pressing your feet onto the floor and outward." This activates your glutes, which helps you use heavier weights and break through plateaus.

Quick Tip, Squats: As you stand, think about pushing the floor away from your body, rather than lifting your body.

Sculpt a Tight Butt and Legs with Plyometrics

You round your lower back as you bend over.

1. "When bending down, act as if you are holding a tray of drinks and need to close the door behind you with your backside," says Alwyn Cosgrove, co-owner of Results Fitness. This helps you push your hips back instead of rounding your lower back--a form blunder that puts you at risk for back problems.

2. It's easy to put too much space between the weight and your body as you move up and down. Pretend you're shaving your legs with the bar or dumbbells, suggests Kaitlyn Weiss, a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Southern California. The farther the weights are from your body, the more strain on your back, which limits the work of your hamstrings and glutes.

Quick Tip, Straight-Leg Deadlifts: As you return to standing, squeeze your glutes. You'll engage your butt rather than strain your lower back.

Greatest Fitness Foods for Women


You ignore the muscles that draw back your shoulder blades.

1. "Before you start the exercise, create as much space as you can between your ears and shoulders," says Rasmussen. Pull your shoulder blades down and back, which will ensure you work the intended middle- and upper-back muscles.

2. "As you row the weights, stick out your chest," says Mike Boyle, owner of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning in Woburn, Massachusetts. This allows you to better retract your shoulder blades, which will lead to better results.

3. "Imagine an orange between your shoulder blades," says Nick Grantham, owner of Smart Fitness in the U.K. "As you pull the weights or your body up, 'squeeze the juice out of it' by bringing your shoulder blades together."

Quick Tip, Rows and Pullups: Using an overhand grip forces your rhomboids (upper-back muscles) to work harder.

NY-born twin friars die on same day at age 92

Adrian and Julian Riester
AP – This May 2003 photo provided by St. Bonaventure University shows Adrian, left, and Julian Riester, identical …

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Identical twins Julian and Adrian Riester were born seconds apart 92 years ago. They died hours apart this week. The Buffalo-born brothers were also brothers in the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor. Professed friars for 65 years, they spent much of that time working together at St. Bonaventure University, doing carpentry work, gardening and driving visitors to and from the airport and around town.

"It was fun to see them, just quiet, gentle souls," Yvonne Peace, who worked at the St. Bonaventure Friary for nearly 21 years, said Friday.

They died Wednesday at St. Anthony Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., Brother Julian in the morning and Brother Adrian in the evening.

Both died of heart failure, said Father James Toal, guardian of St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg, where the inseparable twins lived since moving from western New York in 2008.

"It really is almost a poetic ending to the remarkable story of their lives," St. Bonaventure spokesman Tom Missel said. "Stunning when you hear it, but hardly surprising given that they did almost everything together."

Julian and Adrian Riester were born Jerome and Irving on March 27, 1919, to a couple who already had five daughters. They took the names of saints upon their ordination in the Catholic church.

"Dad was a doctor and he said a prayer for a boy," Adrian once said, according to St. Bonaventure. "The Lord fooled him and sent two."

After attending St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, the brothers were turned away by the military because of their eyesight, the university said. One had a bad left eye, the other a bad right eye.

Eventually they joined the friars of Holy Name Province in New York City. They received separate assignments before reuniting at the seminary at St. Bonaventure from 1951 to 1956. After serving parishes in Buffalo for 17 years, they returned to St. Bonaventure in 1973 and spent the next 35 years there.

They had separate rooms in the friary but one telephone extension that rang into both, Peace recalled. It was usually the more talkative Adrian who answered, though Julian possessed a quiet authority. They never said who was born first.

"Brother Julian was like the big brother. Brother Adrian would defer to him," Peace said. "They picked up one of our friars at the airport one time and the friar said, `Can I take you to dinner?'

"Brother Adrian looked at Brother Julian and said, `We aren't going to dinner?' `No, we'll go home,'" Peace said. "So that was it. No discussion, no contradicting. `No, we aren't going today.'"

Funeral services are scheduled for Monday at St. Mary Our Lady of Grace Church in St. Petersburg. Afterward, the brothers' bodies will be flown to Buffalo and buried Wednesday at St. Bonaventure Cemetery, across the street from the university.

Messi punched outside restaurant in his hometown

According to reports from Argentina and Spain, Lionel Messi was punched by a teenager as he signed autographs outside a restaurant in his hometown of Rosario. Messi was eating with two friends and no security. After they finished, he signed autographs and took pictures outside with the mob of fans that had spotted him, at which point a kid shouted, "I'm a Central supporter, you're from Newell's" and punched him. He then ran away, chased by a pack of Messi fans (which I imagine was quite funny looking) as Messi himself just left without reacting.

Messi began his youth career with Newell's Old Boys, Rosario Central's fiercest local rivals, which explains why the kid felt the need to declare his support (I guess he didn't want anyone thinking he was a Real Madrid fan).

Given all the witnesses to the incident, I'm sure there will be more on this to come.

UPDATE: Messi told Ole, "I felt nothing and I only learned of it after the hype. Nothing happened." So was he actually hit or is he just impervious to mere mortals' attempts to hurt him?

UPDATE II: OK, so he might not have felt the punch, but he had to feel the lady in the picture squeezing his cheeks. Pretty sure that counts as assault too.

UPDATE III: Here's an eyewitness account from the AP:

"There was a crush of people waiting outside," Pablo Moyano, who was working in the restaurant, told Argentine TV. "There were kids, reporters, photographers waiting … and one of the kids tried to punch him. I don't know if he pulled it off. He went running afterward."

Witnesses said the suspect was dressed in the uniform of a school a few streets away.

Now we are left to wonder how Cristiano Ronaldo got a hold of a local school uniform.

UPDATE IV: Here's video of the incident...

Unfortunately, it looks like the kid wasn't really chased. It also appears he is at least four times larger than Messi, which makes it that much worse.

Photo: AP