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Effi Barry 'In Remission' After Leukemia Diagnosis

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Friday, July 21, 2006; C03

When Effi Barry went to the emergency room on Feb. 26, she thought it was a bad reaction to sinus medication. Instead, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia -- a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

"It was quite a shock," she said yesterday. "I feel very blessed -- I am in remission."

Washington's former first lady, 62, spent a month in intensive care at Howard University Hospital, where she underwent chemotherapy and wasn't allowed many visitors because her immune system was compromised. Her ex-husband, D.C. Council member Marion Barry , was allowed to visit a couple of times, as was their son, Christopher. Friends quietly went into "prayer mode" for the intensely private Barry, sending e-mails and creating prayer circles for her. "Prayer works," she said. "I live by faith."

After more than a decade out of the spotlight, she moved back to the nation's capital two years ago, supported her ex's council bid (they're "friends") and worked as a consultant until joining the D.C. Department of Health's HIV/AIDS administration on special projects. The illness shifted her priorities: "Your whole perspective changes. I have learned to cherish every day. My values about what is important have changed."

She recently returned to work, and said she's looking for ways to help others with leukemia. "I will try to use any celebrity I have to help others who have also encountered this disease, especially children. That's the mission for me now."

Gee, Hilary Duff Must Really Have It In for the Sticks

Oh, it's on now, Hilary Duff ! It . . . is . . . ON! Just weeks after the pop singer/starlet called her boyfriend's hometown of Waldorf " a pretty ghetto place ," Duff has wounded our region's pride again -- this time by firing her drummer, D.C. native Shauney "Baby" Dandy .

Actually, it was Duff's momager, Susan Duff, who wielded the ax, according to a statement from Dandy's publicist: "Shauney was shocked and disappointed by the actions of being terminated by Hilary's mother. It came as a surprise and with no explanation."

Surprising, considering many critics viewed the energetic drummer -- a D.C. go-go veteran trained at UDC and Duke Ellington School of the Arts -- to be a highlight of Duff's live shows. Dandy's "steady, driving backbeat and machine-gun-like snare brightened even the most antiseptic moments," said the Toronto Sun. "Duff may be a pop-star actress playing at being a rock 'n' roller, but her drummer could hold her own in just about any contemporary rock band you care to name."

Okay, maybe not so surprising. "There's sort of a competitive thing there," said one insider from the Dandy camp, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing future paychecks. But the 18-year-old frontwoman has always been friendly with Dandy and seemed to have no idea of her mom's plans, the insider added.

Duff's publicist (who has said the star was misquoted about Waldorf) did not return calls. Dandy also declined an interview. "Shauney is focused now on her instructional DVD," said her rep, "and wishes Hilary all the best."

DC Cowboys Will Kick Up Their Heels at Gay Games

The theme from "Brokeback Mountain" is slow and -- face it -- kinda sad. But the remix . . . Washington's own DC Cowboys , an all-male dance group , will kick the song into high gear at tomorrow's closing ceremony of the Gay Games , the quadrennial sports and culture festival. The 18-member group is the only dance troupe invited to perform along with Cyndi Lauper at Chicago's Wrigley Field.

"We're really excited," said Kevin Platte , who founded the all-volunteer company 12 years ago. His "Brokeback Meets Broadway" guys (Washington professionals by day, dancers on weekends) perform all over the country -- free for HIV/AIDS charities -- but this is their first big stadium gig. Wearing bluejeans, cowboy hats, boots, bandannas and shirts, the group will open its act with a high-energy take on "Brokeback's" theme, followed by Josh Gracin's "Nothin' to Lose" and Big & Rich's "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)." Yee haw!

© 2006 The Washington Post Company