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Bad Bette ...
Bette Midler labeled modern female pop singers characterless Wednesday in Sydney at the start of her first Australian tour in 26 years, and criticized them for lip-synching, reports Agence France-Presse.

The 59-year-old singer-actress said she found it difficult to relate to recent rap-dominated chart music and expected many modern female pop stars to "fall by the wayside."

"It's a strange time," she said. "I don't want to say it's the dark ages for music but a lot of people have put that forward and said it's not such a great time. ... Certainly it's not a great time for rock and roll and for popular music in general -- it's kinda hard to tell the characters apart," she added.

Midler, who performs her show Kiss My Brass with a full horn section, said she would never lip-synch her way through performances. "I just can't do that ... I guess because I came up singing and dancing at the same time, to me it's not so frightening. For a lot of kids it is -- for the younger ones it's scary." She also dismissed reports she would co-star with Britney Spears in a comedy film called "In the Pink," saying the project had disappeared into the "abyss" of project development.

Bargain crib ...

For sale: $7.3 million, 6,000-square-foot apartment. Excellent West Village location. Comes with a very clean refrigerator.

Michael Pagnotta, attorney for Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, confirms that the child-star twins never lived in the place. "It turned out to be too much space, along with the fact that the renovation was going to take far longer than anyone expected. It just didn't make sense anymore."

The 18-year-old Olsens, who both attend New York University, bought the penthouse before moving to New York. As for reports that Mary-Kate will not return to NYU, Pagnotta says: "It's absolutely not true. She will continue to be enrolled in NYU in the fall. They both will continue to be enrolled in the fall."

Raising funds ...
Pamela Anderson is the newest face of the VIVA GLAM V lipstick and lipglass, the primary fund-raising tools for the M.A.C. AIDS Fund.

The former "Baywatch" actress joins the roster of an ad campaign that includes Christina Aguilera, Missy Elliott, Chloe Sevigny and Boy George. "I feel privileged and empowered to help raise funds and awareness of the importance for getting tested," Anderson said in a statement. "After being diagnosed with hepatitis C, I knew the importance of knowing your status. Only then can you make informed and wise decisions for your health and life."

The M.A.C. AIDS Fund, created by the professional cosmetics company in 1994, has raised more than $44 million, according to the fund's Web site. The company says 100 percent of the sales of the lipglass and lipstick directly benefits the fund.

Forbidden fruit ...
Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank has been fined $163 for bringing fruit into New Zealand, after getting thumbs down from judges in an appeal.

Swank was issued notice of a fine for breaching New Zealand's strict quarantine laws when she failed to declare an apple and an orange when she arrived at Auckland International Airport Jan. 15 on a flight from Los Angeles. Swank had written to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry seeking a court hearing to have her fine expunged. "After my 20-hour flight I simply forgot I had one orange and one apple. I do apologize sincerely," Swank said in her handwritten letter.

New Zealand is largely free of insect pests that cause billions of dollars in damage to crops and livestock in other parts of the world.