Malibu Seen

LIBERTY BELLES

The Dixie Chicks struck a chord with fans of free speech and champions of civil rights at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. Sexy songbirds Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines and Emily Robison were the guests of honor at this year’s Bill of Rights Awards Dinner to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union.

The chicks ruffled more than a few feathers when they spoke out against the Bush administration’s war in Iraq in 2003. The ensuing controversy led to the acclaimed documentary “Shut Up and Sing.”

“It never in a million years would have crossed my mind that I couldn’t question our government,” Maines said.

The singer knows the flap may have cost the Chicks a few record sales, but it also underscored the importance of the First Amendment.

ACLU Executive Director Romona Ripston agreed, saying the organization is more relevant than ever. “The ACLU supports the rights of individuals to take strong stands in defense of liberty,” Ripston told the enthusiastic crowd. “Our honorees understand that carelessly discarding our rights will not make us safer.”

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But the Chicks weren’t the only draw at this A-list affair. Penelope Cruz, political wit Bill Maher and legendary actor James Whitmore were among those showing their spirit.

Cruz accepted the award on behalf of Paul Haggis. producer/screen writer made history as the first person to write back-to-back Oscar winners for both “Crash” and “Million Dollar Baby.” The evening’s Courageous Advocacy Award was given to Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charles D. Swift who faced off with the Bush administration over detainees’ rights to a fair trial and successfully won his case at the Supreme Court.

The freedom fest wrapped up with a special performance by Jewel making this night of liberty a real gem indeed.

WILDE NIGHT IS CALLING

It will be a marvelous night for a Moondance on Feb. 22 when the one and only Van Morrison brings his magic to the Wilshire Ebell Theater. The Irish musician will be honored by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance at the second annual Oscar Wilde pre-Academy Awards Party. The Alliance recognizes Irish writing excellence in film.

Songs by the Belfast-born musician have been featured in more than 50 films including “Thelma and Louise,” “An Officer and a Gentleman” and “As Good as It Gets.”

Also in line to receive top honors, Irish screenwriter Terry George who wrote “In the Name of the Father” and William Monahan who penned “The Departed.”

Local lovely Roma Downey will be taking the night off from her new play “A Picasso” to emcee the “fantabulous” affair. The guest list of Hollywood royalty includes the great dame Helen Mirren who is certain to take home the Best Actress Oscar for her spot-on performance as Queen Elizabeth in “The Queen.”

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