Name game gives manufacturers a royal challenge

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LONDON — It’s a royal bonanza — but for Britain’s souvenir makers, also a royal headache.

The upcoming birth of Prince William and his wife Kate’s first child is a golden opportunity that comes with a mystery: the name and gender of the baby.

It all means that, while merchants have known for months that the future heir to the throne is due in mid-July, they’ll be sent into a mad dash to create, or at least put finishing touches on, royal baby memorabilia.

Sophie Allport, a designer of fine bone china, is one manufacturer waiting for the future monarch’s name to send her commercial plans into motion. She has thousands of pre-orders for hand-crafted commemorative mugs but can’t fill them until the baby’s name can be etched on the rims.

She’s as ready as she can possibly be — having prepared both blue and pink designs depending on whether it’s a prince or princess.

“We’ve never done something like this so I hope it works,” said Allport, whose designs, once written, will be scanned, mailed or even driven by courier to the city of Stoke-on-Trent, the center of Britain’s ceramic industry.

Be it Alexandra, George or Elizabeth, or any of the other names touted as possibilities, Stoke-on-Trent’s workers will then apply Allport’s designs to 10,000 mugs, which then will be fired in huge kilns and finished with a ceramic glaze.

Francis Morrall, deputy chief executive of the British Ceramic Confederation, said many designers have just left a small gap on their designs for the baby’s name, gender and date of birth.

“All of the designs will have been prepared months ago,” he said.

Singer Randy Travis recovering from brain surgery

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Country music stars and fans joined together to urge prayers for Randy Travis overnight as he recovered from brain surgery following a stroke at a Texas hospital.

Travis remained in critical condition after surgery Wednesday night to relieve pressure on his brain, publicist Kirt Webster said. The 54-year-old Grammy Award-winning singer had been improving while being treated for heart failure caused by a viral infection when he had the stroke.

Steady concern for Travis, a popular and pivotal figure in country music, turned to active support as stars like Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum and Martina McBride and the Grand Ole Opry used Twitter to join Webster’s call for prayers. Hundreds of users reached out using the hashtag PrayforRandy.

“We’re all pulling for you Randy,” Brad Paisley said via Twitter.

Joan Rivers faces Writers Guild trial in dispute

LOS ANGELES — The Writers Guild of America is putting comedian Joan Rivers on trial.

The council of the Writers Guild of America, East recently voted to bring Rivers before a three-person trial board to answer allegations that she violated the union’s rules by writing and performing show-runner duties for the E! Network show “Fashion Police” during a strike.

Writers Guild members have been on strike against the producers of “Fashion Police” since April 17 in an effort to secure union wages and benefits.

Rivers is a host of the show and is member of the East Coast guild.

“We are distressed by reports that Joan Rivers, who worked so hard to create an illustrious career, turned her back on other writers who are still building careers of their own,” said Michael Winship, WGAE president.

“We cannot prejudge the outcome, but we can say that it is a very serious matter when a member is accused of writing and show-running on a non-covered show, and continuing to do so after the other writers have decided to go on strike for reasonable pay and benefits.”

Rivers was not immediately available for comment.

A trial board of three WGAE members will be appointed shortly. Rivers will be given the opportunity to present her case directly to the trial board, which will also hear evidence, including from the striking writers, the guild said.

Earlier this week, the Writers Guild of America, West, released a series of video testimonials from Guild members asking Rivers, a host of the show, to resolve the dispute.

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