Here’s how much Reese Witherspoon is really worth

Reese Witherspoon is one of the most beloved and successful actresses of all time, thanks to star-making turns in movies and TV shows, from Legally Blonde to the sitcom Friends. Aside from her celebrated acting career, Witherspoon is also a force to be reckoned with behind the scenes, working as a producer and entrepreneur in her own right. She’s been in the business for decades at this stage, but the Big Little Lies star is so prolific, it’s impossible to imagine her fading into retirement any time soon.

In keeping with her high-ranking position as one of the most in-demand performers in Hollywood, Witherspoon has amassed a considerable fortune over the years. She’s established herself as a powerful creative voice for women, in particular, ensuring their projects get pushed to the highest echelons. Witherspoon works incredibly hard and she’s got the equally bulging resume and bank account to prove it.

Reese Witherspoon built a production empire

Fox News reports Witherspoon actually nabbed her first producing role on the 2003 sequel to Legally Blonde, after the first film banked over $140 million at the global box office. She built her media companies, Pacific Standard and Hello Sunshine (Pacific Standard is now its subsidiary), from the ground up with a view to creating content for women, by women. Her co-owner is media giant AT&T WarnerMedia and, together, they’ve produced the likes of Wild and Hot Pursuit, both starring Witherspoon, and David Fincher’s Gone Girl. On TV, they handled Big Little Lies, on which Witherspoon features alongside big names including Laura Dern and Meryl Streep.

The actress has made it clear she did not receive any funding or investment from Hollywood studios when building Hello Sunshine, which gives her total creative freedom to pursue whichever projects Witherspoon feels best suit her outlook (via Inc.). The Oscar winner’s keen eye has led to development deals with Apple TV, on hit series The Morning Show, and on Hulu with Little Fires Everywhere, which Variety reports nets Witherspoon a minimum of $1 million per episode.

Hard work truly paid off for Reese Witherspoon

Elsewhere, Witherspoon founded clothing company Draper James, as if she wasn’t busy enough. She also partnered with JW Marriot for her insanely popular book club, as well as internet comedy troupe Rooster Teeth, with a view to expanding their women-focused podcasting content.

Having her fingers in so many pies has made Witherspoon a very rich lady, with Forbes putting her as 77th on their list of America’s richest self-made women, thanks to an estimated net worth of $240 million. Celebrity Net Worth estimates Witherspoon’s net worth slightly lower, at $200 million, which is still hardly small change, but also noting she’s been one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood since her career took off with Legally Blonde. This movie also marked the star’s first multimillion dollar paycheck. Witherspoon also owns several properties in Nashville and the Bahamas, most recently purchasing a $6.25 million home in Malibu.

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Lilly Wachowski on how ‘The Matrix’ was inspired by rage, oppression before transition

“The Matrix” trilogy is beloved for its’ many layers and it turns out that the dystopian film series has even more subtext.

“‘The Matrix’ was born out of a lot of anger and a lot of rage,” co-writer and co-director Lilly Wachowski recently told The Hollywood Reporter. “And it’s rage at capitalism and corporatized structure and forms of oppression.

Wachowski, who was was previously known as Andy before transitioning, explained that the “bubbling, seething rage within me was about my own oppression, that I (was forcing) myself to remain in the closet.”

Wachowski, 52, now realizes the impact her films have had on the trans community.

“Now that I’m out and a living example of someone who can grow old being a trans woman, [trans people] can see those films through the lens of my transness and their transness,” she said. “They’re able to go, ‘Oh my God, these films were such an important part of my coming out and my own journey.’ I’m extraordinarily grateful that I could offer that to people.”

Wachowski came out as a transgender woman in 2016. Her “Matrix” co-writer and sibling, Lana, who was formerly known as Larry, transitioned in 2008.

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How to run safely and responsibly as the coronavirus pandemic continues

Tensions between runners and pedestrians have soared during the coronavirus lockdown as pavements became battlegrounds for a new culture war.

Walkers are complaining that joggers are hogging paths and putting them at risk of infection as they pant their way past.

But runners face our own dangers – just as we could theoretically infect pedestrians, those passersby could infect us, as we run along, inhaling deeply.

The Times says it is ‘inevitable’ that tensions between the ‘two tribes’ will ‘boil over’ and The Guardian says there is now a ‘battle for our pathways’.

In short, runners are in danger of replacing cyclists as everyone else’s pet hate. With divisions widening, it feels like a manifesto is needed so we can run safely, considerately and responsibly – a highway code for running in the coronavirus era. 

Visit our live blog for the latest updates: Coronavirus news live

Don’t suddenly whizz past a pedestrian

It’s always been scary when a runner appears out of the blue. There is now the added fear that such a runner could be passing on a potentially deadly virus as they pant past. So it’s never been more important that runners don’t suddenly stomp past people who didn’t hear them coming.

To avoid alarm and the risk of infection, when you pass someone give them as wide a berth as you safely can, and don’t return on to the path until you are at least 10 metres ahead.

‘Infected droplets can stay in your slipstream, which has low pressure so they hover a bit longer in it,’ explains Bert Blocken, professor at Eindhoven University in the Netherlands and KU Leuven in Belgium, who specialises in wind engineering and sports aerodynamics.

Stay alert

One of the joys of running is that it can take you into a hypnotic state. A study I quote in my book, Running: Cheaper Than Therapy, found that more than half of runners experience a trance-like experience as they pound the pavements.

Running can be blissful but during the pandemic it’s very important to stay alert as you trot.

If you accidentally bump into a pedestrian you put both of you at the risk of infection and the health service can’t afford to treat unnecessary injuries from runners who switched off and tripped over an obstacle.

Take it easier

The public is anxious about infection and vulnerable groups are taking their first steps back outside after months of shielding. Going at a faster pace often seems to make runners less considerate and more unsettling for those they dash towards.

You might feel like a heroic athlete but in these scary times you can look like a speeding bullet to others. Is it really worth frightening other people to make sure we complete our 5k in less than 20 minutes or beat our 10k personal best?

Time your run sensibly

During recent heatwaves a lot of runners took to setting out before dawn or in the late evening, so they could run in cooler conditions. Running at those times during the pandemic is a good idea too.

If it’s possible for you to run when the streets are less busy, do that and avoid the crowds and the problems they bring.

Don’t spit or snot

There’s no polite way of putting it: some people like to spit and fire out snot bombs when they run. This habit is ‘very dangerous,’ says professor Blocken, particularly when it involves mucus, which can have a ‘high dose’ of the virus.

‘If someone is running or walking close behind you and you spit our saliva or mucus then you are putting them at risk,’ says professor Blocken.

And look, it’s also a really unpleasant habit at the best of times, so maybe runners could cut it out completely.

Be the change you want to see

At the heart of the new culture war is a simple question: should the onus be on runners or pedestrians to make space? But what we all want in the end is a world where everyone is considerate. So don’t get caught up in the power games – just take a lead and be the nice one.

Communicate your intention

If you are heading for a direct confrontation with a pedestrian, signal clearly who should move where. It’s better to communicate clearly what needs to happen rather than starting a game of chicken.

Likewise, if you are about to run past someone you could (calmly) call out “passing on your left” so they know you’re approaching.

Don’t touch anything

The chances of you inadvertently touching your face during running are high, so wherever possible, avoid touching any door handles, traffic light buttons or other shared objects while you are out.

Run alone

Social distancing advice has ruled out running with people from other households but as we do start to run with other people, take into account that any of them may be infected without knowing it.

‘You can run next to other people at a two-metre distance but it would be wise not be in their slipstream,’ says professor Blocken.

Don’t panic

Some joggers worry that the deep breathing involved with running puts them at greater risk of infection. Relax, the risk of transmission in the open air without close direct contact with another person is still relatively low and early research suggests that running doesn’t make a huge difference.

‘The amount of droplets you will get from another person would be more or less the same whether you are inhaling normally, or deeply and intensively,’ says Professor Blocken. ‘You might inhale them more deeply into your respiratory system, but on the other hand, runners are generally in better shape and with a better immune system.

‘I think having a better immune system is more important than how deeply you’re breathing.’

So keep calm and enjoy your run.

Running: Cheaper Than Therapy by Chas Newkey-Burden is out now. (Bloomsbury, £9.99)

Do you have a story to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]

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How to watch Premier League: Live stream FREE and TV channel with games on BBC, Sky Sports, Amazon Prime, and BT Sport

THE return of the Premier League is set to provide sport-starved fans with a TV feast of football.

After more than three months away and with no prospect of supporters being able to go to stadiums any time soon, England's top-flight is set to become a TV-only sport.

The league is planning to restart on Wednesday June 17, with Man City vs Arsenal and Aston Villa vs Sheffield United getting things going again.

How can I watch every Premier League game?

What that does mean is there is set to be a huge amount of football coming your way from mid-June.

And that's been recognised by bosses, who are capitalising on the nation's football thirst by taking many of the matches free-to-air.

You will be able to watch EVERY Premier League game on the box right up until the end of the season, available through four different services.

And with staggered kick-off times, you'll be able to watch every minute without the worry of missing out on other games.

BBC Sport

  • The Beeb is showing live Premier League matches for the first time since its inception in 1992.
  • A total of four matches will be shown on the BBC and their online platforms, with the dates and fixtures still to be decided.
  • As well as live games, Match of the Day will return on Saturday nights for those of you who prefer a highlights show.

Sky Sports

  • Sky have the rights to show a whopping 64 matches for the remainder of the season.
  • Of these, 25 will be shown on their free-to-air Pick channel – dates and fixtures are still to be confirmed.
  • You can add all Sports channel to your Sky package for £23-a-month, or select individual ones from £18-a-month.
  • While you can also grab a NOW TV pass from just £9.99 to stream on a number of devices and avoid going into a contract.
  • Existing Sky Sport customers can also live stream by downloading the Sky Go app.

Amazon Prime

  • Amazon are a streaming only service and if you're already a Prime member, you have access to all of their live games through their app and online.
  • They made their first foray into showing Premier League games earlier this season.
  • Four matches will be shown on Amazon Prime for the remainder of the campaign.
  • They will be FREE to watch here in the UK.

BT Sport

  • In total, BT Sport will show 20 Premier League matches before the end of the season.
  • If you're an EE customer, you can get a three-month trial to BT Sport mobile and watch them all by texting SPORT to 150.
  • As well as their TV packages, BT Sport is also available as an app to download on your mobile, tablet, PC or games console.

 

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How Shaquille O'Neal Spent His Whole L.A. Lakers Paycheck In Two Days

Shaquille O’Neal has had a diverse portfolio. He made most of his money with the NBA, but also made a few movies, rap albums, a video game and lots of other endorsements. Now he’s reportedly worth $400 million thanks to managing his money well. Shaq had a steep learning curve though, as evidenced when he joined the Los Angeles Lakers.

RELATED: Shaquille O’Neal Earns Way Less Money Than You’d Think as a DJ

O’Neal appeared on the Wild Ride! With Steve-O podcast on May 21 in which he discussed how he learned to manage his money. Here’s the story of how he blew through his first $20 paycheck from the L.A. Lakers.

Day one of Shaquille O’Neal’s $20 million L.A. Lakers paycheck

O’Neal signed to the L.A. Lakers in 1996 after playing for the Orlando Magic and the U.S. Olympic basketball team. On his first day in L.A. after cashing that check, he went car shopping.

RELATED: Shaquille O’Neal Missed out on Millions Because He Believed That ‘Black People Don’t Drink Coffee’

“When I first got to L.A., I forgot who FICA was,” O’Neal told Steve-O. “So when I first got to L.A. I got a check for $20 million. So I go in the Rolls Royce store, I got on sweat pants and I looked at the guy, and I was like ‘Hey, how much does this cost?’ $250[,000]. In my mind, I don’t want to spend $250 for a car. So the guy says to me, ‘Can you afford it, sonny?’ I buy three cars right there which is a million dollars which was a waste of money.”

Day two of Shaquille O’Neal’s $20 million L.A. Lakers paycheck

The next day, O’Neal went house hunting. He saw a home he liked and paid for it up front.

“Then I’m riding through Beverly Hills, I see a house in the mountains worth $7 million,” O’Neal said. “I buy the house cash. So I spend $8 million probably in two days.”

His accountant broke the news that he had little money left

Day three or thereabouts, O’Neal’s accountant broke the news to him about how far $20 million goes in California. O’Neal said he forgot who FICA was. That’s the Federal Insurance Contributions Act that mandates withholding for income taxes. 

RELATED: Shaquille O’Neal Made $7 Million Appearing in an Infamously Awful Movie

“So then my guy calls me and says, ‘You know you spent your whole check,’” O’Neal said. “In my mind I’m like no, I’m getting $20 million. He’s like, ‘No, in California, $20 only comes out to $10.5. You just spent $8 million in two days. You only have two million left.’”

Shaquille O’Neal helps new NBA players manage their money

O’Neal was able to make the remaining $2 million last until his next paycheck. Over the years he’s also supported his mother and made smart investments. 

After that I really had to slow down. A lot of times, we get these big numbers and we focus on the big numbers but don’t focus on reality like tax, family, employees but also spending and wasting. It’s really easy to say, ‘If I get a million I’m going to keep it.’ No, because one, a million’s not a million. It’s $500,000. You’ve still got to live your life. You’ve just got to be smart with it. Some guys are smart. Some guys aren’t.

RELATED: Shaquille O’Neal Coping With Multiple Tragedies in Recent Months; Won’t Watch 2020 Hall of Fame Ceremony

O’Neal can teach new NBA drafts not to make the mistakes he made when he signed his big contracts.

“I try to talk to ‘em and let ‘em know,” O’Neal said. “A lot of times, for example, I had a contract that was worth $100 mil. But in real life it was not worth $100 mil. It was worth $50 mil.”

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How Lady Gaga always gets by with a little help from her friends

Lady Gaga has a lot of friends with musical benefits.

“Chromatica,” her highly anticipated new album, drops on Friday, and for her fifth solo studio LP, she’s signaling a return to the dance-pop power moves that launched her to superstardom. She’s also continuing to collaborate with an array of musical artists, including new clubby collabs with Ariana Grande (“Rain on Me”)  and K-pop girl group Blackpink (“Sour Candy”).

Here’s a look back on Gaga’s history of playing well with others — from Beyoncé to Tony Bennett.

Colby O’Donis

Mother Monster’s breakout hit, 2008’s “Just Dance,” wasn’t just about Gaga. The track features vocals from her fellow New York native O’Donis, who hasn’t come close to matching those heights again. But for being a part of Gaga’s debut single, he’ll surely always have a special place in her heart.

Beyoncé

You knew that all eyes were on Gaga when Beyoncé — who had already been around for years — took notice and paired up with pop’s new It girl for a remix of B’s “Video Phone” in 2009. They clearly hadn’t lost each other’s numbers, because they went on to team up for 2010’s hit “Telephone,” which, for sheer diva power, was the most fabulous thing since Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer did “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)” in 1979.

Tony Bennett

After the disappointment of 2013’s uneven “Artpop” — which, frankly, wasn’t as bad as the haters made it out to be — Gaga needed a reset. And having struck up a friendship with Bennett, now 93, she formed an unlikely musical alliance with the classic crooner on the jazz-pop throwback “Cheek to Cheek.” Their 2014 set of standards won them a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.

Florence Welch

“Joanne” — Gaga’s 2016 country-pop detour — didn’t get the same love that her early albums got. But “Hey Girl” was an Elton-esque show of sisterly support with the voice of Florence + the Machine. Welch is one of the few female singers around who could keep up with Gaga on this girl-power pairing.

Bradley Cooper

Gaga may not have won the Best Actress Oscar for “A Star Is Born,” but winning Best Original Song for “Shallow” is a pretty good consolation prize. The romantic rendezvous with her leading man Cooper also scored two Grammys, while becoming the singer’s first No. 1 single since 2011’s “Born This Way.”

Ariana Grande

The “Thank U, Next” singer is feeling the collaborative spirit these days. First she teamed up with Justin Bieber for their No. 1 single “Stuck With U.” Then she threw down with Gaga for “Rain on Me.” It wants to be “Telephone 2.0,” but it doesn’t quite get there. Still, anything that brings the Little Monsters and the Arianators together is too much fun to resist.

Elton John

We hadn’t heard “Sine From Above” — Gaga’s diva-on-divo duet with Sir Elton featured on “Chromatica” — at press time. But we know that although these two pop titans may be generations apart, they are close enough for her to be the godmother of his two kids. And they recently joined forces for the “One World: Together at Home” benefit during the coronavirus quarantine.

Blackpink

A global superstar such as Gaga is too savvy not to know the international appeal of this cross-continent collaboration with the Korean girl-group sensations. And their deep-house dive on “Sour Candy” — a “Chromatica” track released the day before the album — is just the thing to bring some club vibes to your living-room dance floor.

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How Russian pilots took tea with a Duke, writes RICHARD PENDLEBURY

The Soviet squadron in the heart of Britain: How a group of diehard Russian pilots came to train in the country they’d been taught to despise… and even took tea with a Duke, writes RICHARD PENDLEBURY

His Grace the 6th Duke of Montrose was hosting a squadron of airmen at a discreet afternoon tea in Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh. His guests were all crack frontline pilots who had flown against the Nazis in some of the most dangerous operations of the war.

Yet while their new uniforms had been made by the best tailor – a Mr Novak – in the nearby city of Dundee, there was something alien about their appearance and conversation.

Nor were they the only unusual aspects about this gathering on May 9, 1943. The pilots’ very presence in the United Kingdom was – and remained – top secret.

Though their flying duties would take them from Scotland to the Channel coast, no newspaper was allowed to report on them. The mission which had brought them to Britain was a diplomatic and military hot potato. This was because the flyers were all members of the Soviet Air Force.

A few years earlier, thousands of their fellow officers had been purged – executed or sent to gulags – on the orders of Joseph Stalin, for suspected bourgeois or Western democratic sympathies.

RICHARD PENDLEBURY: Surviving photographs show British and Soviet soldiers playing chess and arm-wrestling at Errol, Scotland. They also walked in the nearby woods, where they picked wild mushrooms to cook, which reminded them of home (pictured, 1943)

Now a hand-picked few were being pitched into the very bosom of reactionary capitalism, entertained at a royal palace by His Majesty King George VI’s representative at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

For both the British and Russians, it was a case of needs must in a war of national survival. But from necessity also grew mutual respect.

The ducal tea and scones was but one episode in the wonderfully quixotic and often harrowing adventures of the only Soviet pilots to serve in Britain – or anywhere else – in a Royal Air Force unit.

The current coronavirus lockdown prevented their long-untold story being celebrated as planned on May 8 on the 75th anniversary of VE Day, in a ceremony at the village of Errol, near Perth.

An obelisk is waiting to be shipped from Russia to become a permanent memorial beside Errol’s parish church. The huge stone, mined in Russia’s north-western region of Karelia, is of the same vibrant crimson quartzite which was used for the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier in the wall of Moscow’s  Kremlin and Napoleon’s mausoleum in Paris. Largely unsculpted, the rock will look like a Soviet meteorite which has landed in a rural corner of Great Britain.

I have had a part in that falling to earth because the rock’s trajectory began at my Christmas dinner table in London in 2013, as I shall explain.

It passed through the national archives in both London and Moscow and eventually took me, at last, to the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, Crimea.

But who were the young Soviets who came so far to train alongside our own flyers?

One of the most celebrated was Peter Kolesnikov. His journey to Holyrood Palace began in the small southern Russian village of Mitrofanovka, where he was born in 1906. After the Communist revolution, the peasant farmer’s son was picked to train as a pilot and by the start of World War II he had become  one of the country’s leading civil aviators. 

When Hitler invaded in June 1941, the veteran Kolesnikov was co-opted into the air force and sent to a special operations transport unit named the Moscow Air Group. 

They flew Soviet-built versions of American-designed Douglas DC-3 aircraft – a propeller driven airliner.

The first year of the war with Germany was an almost unmitigated military disaster for the Soviet Union. The Air Group experts took part in several major operations, flying deep behind enemy lines; usually at night and in aid of lost causes.

RICHARD PENDLEBURY: This is the the Armstrong Whitworth Albermarle, the airplane that the Soviet airman were trained on at RAF Errol, circa 1943

By late 1941, the Soviets’ second city Leningrad (now St Petersburg) was encircled and the starving citizens had been reduced to a daily bread ration of 125 grams.

The only way to resupply or evacuate was by air. This task was performed by Captain Kolesnikov and his comrades, running the gauntlet of heavy ground fire and Luftwaffe fighters.

The flyers were also witness to the failed Soviet counter-offensive of January 1942, in which they dropped thousands of parachute troops behind the German lines.

The air unit’s planes were then sent south to help Crimea, where another epic disaster was unfolding. Sevastopol was about to fall to the Germans, with thousands of Soviet troops and civilians trapped with their backs to the sea.

On the evening of June 21, 1942, Kolesnikov took off with a first load of two tons of ammunition, later returning to land under direct German artillery fire. Over ten nights, the Air Group delivered 218 tons of ammunition and food, and evacuated 2,162 wounded. 

Shamefully, among those flown out of the perimeter was Sevastopol’s Soviet commander and his staff, leaving the rest to perish or be taken prisoner.

Air losses also soared, and by the autumn of 1942 the Soviet shortage of transport aircraft was acute. The Kremlin turned for help to its wartime ally Great Britain.

Yet our situation was hardly less desperate. All that could be offered to the Russians were 100 examples of a new plane called the Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle. Alas it was the Austin Allegro of the skies. A ‘failed bomber’, the Albemarle had been built using parts from various existing aircraft. 

‘No wonder they were giving them away to the Russians,’ reported the Battle of Britain ace Tom Neil DSO and Bar, who took one on a terrifying test flight. 

The Albemarle would make do and mend as a Moscow Air Group transport.

There was another caveat: the RAF would not spare its own pilots to fly the planes east and train the Russians. So the Russians would have to come to the UK and, once trained, fly the planes back.

On December 7, 1942, the Soviet Defence Committee issued a decree. A top-secret joint allied operation would be launched. The specially selected Soviet crews were to be based at a remote RAF station – Errol – and collectively known as 305 Ferrying Training Unit, Royal Air Force. The Soviets were flying for the King.

In March 1943, a four-engine PE-8 bomber arrived at Prestwick airfield from Moscow carrying 20 airmen, including Captain Kolesnikov and the Air Group’s commander, Colonel Veniamin Korotkov.

On landing, they were taken by train across country to Bristol to learn about the Hercules engines which would power their new aircraft. After an outing to Cheddar Gorge, they returned to Errol to start their conversion onto the Albemarle.

What’s so fascinating about their story is not so much the flying, but the interaction these Soviets had with a country whose values they had been taught to despise. Off duty, they were sent on ‘cultural breaks’.

One such was to Blair Castle, home of the Duke of Atholl; another to a Scottish cup final at Hampden Park in Glasgow between Rangers and Falkirk.

Captain Kolesnikov particularly liked Edinburgh and took home several postcards, including one of Princes Street upon which he had written ‘second in beauty after Nevsky Prospekt’ (a boulevard in Leningrad).

Surviving photographs show them playing chess and arm-wrestling at Errol. They also walked in the nearby woods, where they picked wild mushrooms to cook, which reminded them of home.

A WAAF servicewoman recalled how she’d been tasked to make their guests borscht – the beetroot soup that is a Russian staple. They also saw how Britain was fighting the war.

Pictured: Soviet Pilot Petr Kolesnikov, courtesy of Anna Belorusova

On June 10, 1943, 13 Russians took a train from Errol to the city of York, still badly scarred by Luftwaffe raids the previous year.

At the train station they were met by officers of Bomber Command and driven to RAF Linton-on-Ouse. There they witnessed the preparation for a heavy night raid on the German city of Dusseldorf by 36 Halifax bombers. The Russians were present at the crew briefings and watched the bombers take off into the dusk, admiring the precision with which they left at one-minute intervals.

Later Colonel Korotkov would write movingly of the experience: ‘One could see that most of the flying personnel are young men who graduated from flying school in wartime… The morale before the raid was very good. No agitation or nervousness can be detected. Everybody was walking out to the mission absolutely calmly.’

Four of these Halifax crews would not return from the raid.

The Russians, too, suffered their tragedies. An Albemarle crashed on a training flight near the village of Fearnan, killing all four on board, including the unit’s Czech cook who was a passenger. An early attempt,  meanwhile, to ferry an Albemarle to Moscow via Scandinavia ended when it was shot down over Norway by a German night fighter.

This prompted the Allies to look for a southerly ferry route, via the Mediterranean. So the Soviet crews left Scotland for a new base at RAF Hurn near Bournemouth. 

On July 15, they performed a Russian folk dance at a ‘Wings for Victory’ fundraising event for the RAF, which was deemed a great success. So much for secrecy!

But for some reason the southern route was cancelled. The Russians returned to Errol where they spent Christmas 1943. A special Russian menu was produced and the station’s operations record noted the ‘joyful atmosphere of brotherhood’ between the British and Russian airmen.

The great irony in this tale is that the modest Albemarle was never to reach Russia. The tide of war had turned in the Allies’ favour, and large numbers of a superior transport plane called the C-47 were being sent from America directly to Russia via Alaska.

Thus the order came for the RAF’s secret squadron of Russians to be returned ‘home’. By the end of April 1944 they were gone, taking with them a single De Havilland Mosquito, a fighter bomber of infinitely greater potency than the Albemarle.

When he reached Moscow, Colonel Korotkov wrote a special report for his superiors. One wonders how well it went down, being almost a hymn of praise to the RAF.

He said: ‘Their attitude to work is extremely serious. They work methodically with no unnecessary haste, paying attention to every tiny detail. As a result, the quality of work as a rule is good.

‘The attitude to each other is polite. They are always trying to help each other. Respect to the others at work is highly developed. Professional arrogance is non-existent.’

For decades after the war, the airmen’s story remained secret. Then, at that Christmas dinner seven years ago, I found myself sitting next to a family friend from St Petersburg named Anna Belorusova. She is the granddaughter of Captain Kolesnikov, the pilot who made a home in Britain for several months with his Soviet buddies.

She told me she was intrigued by her grandfather’s wartime service – though she had never known him because he had died of a stroke in 1948. Anna’s mother only had the vaguest childhood memories of stories of her father going to ‘collect planes from the English king’ and returning with chocolates and a sack of white flour.

The family still possessed a number of unexplained postcards and menus from Great Britain. Anna had also first learned English using four grammar books which contained cartoons from the satirical magazine Punch and a written inscription in English: ‘Good luck and may you visit England again under better conditions. England & Russia…..V (for victory)!’

What did this memorabilia indicate? My own grandfather was a wartime service RAF officer and I had an interest in the subject. So together we decided to dig into the past. Anna showed me some old maps of the UK marked with her grandfather’s Russian annotations.

The airfields of Hurn – XEPH in Cyrillic – then Errol were identified. The first steps on the trail had been uncovered.

Today, Anna’s diligent work in archives in Britain and Moscow has uncovered the full, fascinating picture. As a result of her efforts there has been a permanent exhibition at Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, on the site of the UK’s oldest military airbase.

She has also produced a book on the whole saga, published only in Russian for the moment. Anna says she wants the stone at Errol to be a symbol of ‘peace and friendship’ at a time when Anglo-Russian relations have been tense.

This was a message I heard repeated in the military museum at Sevastopol when I visited recently for the launch of the book. The audience included an admiral and sailors of the Black Sea Fleet, the colonel in command of a local naval aviation regiment and two other descendants of the RAF’s Russians.

Colonel Nikolai Musienko is the director of Sevastopol’s military museums. An artillery veteran of one Afghan and two Chechen wars, he declared: ‘Anyone who has fought in a war will know that war is terrible. We who have fought are the strongest opponents of any future war.’

As I left, a veteran of the Black Sea Fleet, Commodore Vladimir Kluev, gripped my hand and said with passion: ‘The knot which was tied by our countries’ friendship in the War will never be undone by today’s politicians. Never!

‘They come and go, but our shared history will remain.’

That history, until recently buried, includes the touching story of the RAF and their Russian comrades.

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'The Eternals': How 'Black Widow's' Taskmaster Could Help Set Up Kit Harington's Black Night

Black Widow’s Taskmaster might help set the stage for Kit Harington’s Black Knight inThe Eternals. The villain will be one of the newest antagonists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and fans believe he will play a role in introducing Harington’s character in The Eternals. Here’s a look at how Black Knight and Taskmaster are connected and what fans can expect to unfold in both films.

Inside Marvel’s plans for ‘Black Widow’

Marvel was originally set to release Black Widow, the first film in Phase 4 of the MCU, in May. The coronavirus pandemic delayed those plans and Marvel was forced to push back the entire Phase 4 by several months.

Black Widow is now scheduled to open in theaters inNovember while The Eternals will not be out until February of 2021.Although Black Widow is still a few months from hitting theaters, Marvelhas already revealed a lot about its storyline.

For starters, we know that the movie is set between the events ofCaptain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. We alsoknow that Taskmaster will be the film’s main villain, though we still don’tknow who will be portraying the character.

RELATED: How Marvel Just Made History Again When They Pushed Back ‘Black Widow’ and ‘The Eternals’

Black Widow is also expected to set the stage for the rest of Phase 4, especially when it comes to Taskmaster. In the first full trailer for the movie, Taskmaster is shown mimicking the fighting styles of Black Panther, Captain America, and Hawkeye.

And a few eagle-eyed fans noticed that Taskmaster is alsowielding a sword in the trailer, which might connect him to Black Knight in thenext Phase 4 film.

This is how ‘The Eternals’ Black Night and Taskmaster are connected

Up until now, there has yet to be a signature sword in a Marvel film. That will change, of course, when Black Night makes his big debut in The Eternals.

According to Screenrant, in the comics, the character’s main weapon is a sword known as the Ebony Blade. The sword has magical powers and is widely considered one of the most powerful weapons in the Marvel world.

Given his ability to copy any fighting style, Taskmaster mirrors the Black Knight and his Ebony Blade in the comics. Marvel has not confirmed this link, but if Taskmaster is wielding a sword in Black Widow, then this could be a subtle way to set up Black Knight.

RELATED: ‘The Eternals’ Set Leak Reveals Exactly Who Will Be the Main Villain

It is unclear if Marvel will make this link obvious in Black Widow or if it will be an Easter Egg that only some fans will discover. Either way, it will be interesting to see how the studio handles introducing the characters.

Black Widow is set to open in theaters on November 6,2020, barring any further details related to the pandemic.

What is Black Knight’s connection to ‘The Eternals’?

Black Knight is a lesser-known hero in the comics who is along-time member of the Avengers. But one of his bigger claims to fame was hisrelationship with Sersi, who also happens to be one of the Eternals.

The Eternals is expected to feature Black Knight’s romance with Sersi, though it remains to be seen if the studio plans on staying true to the storyline or tweaking it a little. Marvel is known for adjusting stories from the comics so there is a good chance that changes will be made.

RELATED: New Marvel Theory Explains Why ‘The Eternals’ Did Not Show Up to Take Down Thanos in ‘Avengers: Endgame’

Apart from his romance with Sersi, the decision to include Black Knight in the movie remains a mystery. After all, the character has no other ties to the superhero group, which might indicate that Harington will play a small role in the film.

We do know, however, why Marvel cast Harington for the part. The actor gained plenty of sword fighting experience playing Jon Snow in HBO’s Game of Thrones, skills that will readily translate to his new role in the MCU.

Fans can watch Harington in action when The Eternals hitstheaters on February 12, 2021.

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Kyle Richards Showed Off How She’s Relaxing During the Quarantine

Celebs were keeping busy this week, from Kyle Richards relaxing while using Blue Ribbon Hemp CBD Tincture Oil, to Anna Kendrick celebrating the virtual premiere and afterparty for HBO Max’s new romantic comedy series Love Life, to Gabrielle Union enjoying a CÎROC Summer Watermelon Spritzer over Memorial Day weekend. Read on to find out more of what the stars have been up to!

Kyle Richards relaxed by using Blue Ribbon Hemp CBD Tincture Oil.

Gabrielle Union enjoyed a CÎROC Summer Watermelon Spritzer over Memorial Day weekend.

The 17 Best CBD Products Right Now, From Creams to Bath Bombs

— Playboy interviewed Reggie Bush and his wife Lilit Avagyan where they spoke about spreading positivity with the wildly popular reality show, Celebrity Watch Party and more.

Alessandra Ambrosio has been using Thrive Market, a mission-driven lifestyle membership e-commerce brand, for her go-to healthy essentials during quarantine. Some of her favorite picks include the Thrive Market Coconut Sugar and Alaffia Coconut Face cream available on ThriveMarket.com.

— HBO Max hosted a virtual premiere and afterparty to celebrate the the network‘s new romantic comedy anthology series, Love Life, starring Anna Kendrick where guests watched the first two episodes of the show follow by a virtual after party hosted by producer Paul Feig, a dance party with DJ Michelle Pesce, live-stream karaoke and relationship advice from top NYC  matchmaker Amy Van Doran.

HBO Max Announces Launch Date: What Will Be Available on Day 1?

— Korres hosted a virtual Escape to Greece event on Zoom to celebrate the brand’s latest launches.

Moses Sumney opened up about his new record, masculinity, gender and race, isolation and life in L.A. in an interview with Playboy.com

Stars — They’re Just Like Us!

— HBO Max hosted a virtual premiere and live ball to celebrate the network’s new competition TV series Legendary starring MC Dashaun Wesley, DJ MikeQ, Law Roach, Jameela Jamil, Leiomy Maldonado and Megan Thee Stallion.

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