Book collectors with fat wallets, take note: A first edition of the rare John James Audubon book "The Birds of America" will be auctioned by Christie's in New York on Jan. 20. When another copy of "The Birds of America" sold for $11.5 million in 2010, it became the world's most expensive book.
"The Birds of America" was published in the early 1800s as a serial, with subscribers getting a handful of plates at a time. It was printed on oversized pages, more than 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide; the original black-and-white engravings were hand-colored. It took a decade to complete the project. There are thought to be only about 120 copies of the book in full, which includes 435 color illustrations.
"The format was chosen not out of any grandiosity but because it was Audubon's remarkable desire — and ability — to produce life-sized engravings of each bird," rare book dealer Rick Gekoski told the Guardian. "Thus the finches and cardinals have plenty of space in which to flit about, while the flamingo and trumpeter swan tilt their necks graciously inward and arrange themselves with some care. The effect of this is just terrific."
NBC program heads to school
Corporate philanthropy meets midseason ratings grab in a new musical-theater initiative from NBC that will target 20 underserved schools around the country.
The program, which was announced Friday, coincides with the Feb. 6 debut of NBC's series "Smash," about the making of a Broadway musical.
NBC said it will work with 20 schools to stage their own musical productions and implement self-sustaining theater programs. The initiative, which is being branded as "Smash: Make a Musical," is a partnership with iTheatrics, a New York organization that promotes musical theater for students of all ages.
NBC's initiative is similar in spirit to the education program already launched by Fox that is tied to its hit series "Glee." Fox's program, which is called "Glee: Give a Note," raises money to be donated to music programs in underserved schools throughout the country. It is a partnership with the National Assn. for Music Education.
Sheen turns in tornado check
Actor Charlie Sheen quietly donated $25,000 to help tornado relief efforts in Alabama, making good on a pledge to help survivors of the deadly twisters even though some had doubted his promises.
The head of Tuscaloosa's tourism agency, Don Staley, said a representative of Sheen recently turned over money that came in through a fundraising website that the actor set up after tornadoes last spring killed about 250 people in Alabama, including 52 in the west Alabama city.
Sheen wrote a check for about $15,000 after the website generated just $10,000 in contributions.
"He said he wanted to raise $25,000, and he made good on that," said Bob Maron, one of Sheen's managers.
It's Leno over Letterman
As 2011 drew to a close last week, Jay Leno maintained his lead over David Letterman in the late-night television ratings, figures from Nielsen showed Friday.
Leno's "Tonight Show" on NBC has averaged 3.7 million viewers per night since the season began Sept. 19, compared with 3.3 million for Letterman's "Late Show" on CBS. The two shows are running even among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic that many advertisers covet.
Elsewhere on the late-night comedy front, the Adult Swim programming on the Cartoon Network is averaging 2.2 million viewers a night this season between 11:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m., "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central 1.9 million, "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central 1.3 million and "Conan" on TBS 900,000.
Loretta Lynn moves concerts
Country legend Loretta Lynn has rescheduled her first two shows of the year to give her knee more time to heal. The 76-year-old singer underwent total knee replacement surgery in the fall and suffered from pneumonia.
Lynn was scheduled to perform in Kentucky and North Carolina this weekend. Those shows will now take place in February and April, respectively. Lynn's next gig is Jan. 21 in Oklahoma.
Baldwin up for more '30 Rock'
Alec Baldwin has committed to another two years for his role as Jack Donaghy on NBC's "30 Rock," NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt confirmed Friday.
Still uncertain, though, is whether "30 Rock" will be around for two more seasons. It begins its sixth season Thursday and hasn't yet been renewed for a seventh, let alone an eighth.