Celebs honored in U.K.

Taylor, Andrews, Connery, others praised for contributions

LONDON — Elizabeth Taylor, Julie Andrews, singer Shirley Bassey, Sean Connery and BBC director general John Birt are among those at the top of this year’s New Year’s Honors list, with the ladies all becoming dames, Connery a knight and Birt to enter the House of Lords.

The annual list, nearly 2,000 strong this year, is intended to reward individuals who have contributed in a special to way to society.

The British-born Taylor is praised for five decades of services to acting. Connery was reportedly passed over last year because of his advocating Scottish independence. Apparently, the Labor government did not view that as a problem this time out.

Birt’s appointment to the Lords means that incoming director general Greg Dyke, ex-chief exec of Pearson Televsion, will take on the No. 1 job in British TV two months early beginning Jan. 28.

Other notables in the list include Sony Corp. of America topper Howard Stringer; Virgin tycoon Richard Branson and composer John Tavener, who were knighted; former Monty Python trouper Michael Palin and “Notting Hill” scribe Richard Curtis, who both scooped CBE (Commander of the British Empire) titles; and Liam Neeson and Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler, who received OBE (Order of the British Empire) honors.

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