Walking the Line . . .

As the Republican National Convention kicks off in New York, controversy is heating up over the Tennessee delegation and American Gas Association's tribute to the late Johnny Cash tomorrow at Sotheby's auction house, where many of the country music legend's personal effects will go on the block next month. Many Cash fans are disturbed by this partisan co-optation of the Man in Black's legacy and classic country songs, most often depicting the hardships endured by the common man.

Singer Steve Earle declared to Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!" host Amy Goodman last week: "John is rolling over in his grave. I promise you. Describing Johnny Cash as a Republican or Democrat is . . . not appropriate. . . . He was always an outsider."

"He wouldn't say if he had any political affiliation," said John Carter Cash, the sole offspring from his father's marriage to the late June Carter Cash. Yet Cash's daughter from his first marriage to Vivian Liberto, singer Rosanne Cash, says the Cash estate has no qualms with the Sotheby's party, and that the tribute has more to do with the her family's personal relationship with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) than it does with the "Republican agenda."

Nevertheless, lefty Cash fan club Defendjohnnycash.org plans to defend the honor of the legend with a singing protest outside the exclusive event. Black attire required.

She Said See Ya Later Boy

It's hard enough being a teenage girl, much less a Canadian pop star. But what about being that Canadian teen-pop diva's parents? A 30-year-old Lynnwood, Wash., man was charged last week with felony stalking after allegedly harassing pop singer Avril Lavigne's parents as well as violating a court order by trying to contact her.

The accused, James Speedy, had been writing Lavigne religiously since last year, but to no avail. After finding out where her parents lived, he started writing them, too, say authorities in Washington, who began investigating after being contacted by Canadian police. In one letter to Lavigne's parents in Ontario, Speedy even acknowledged that his own behavior could be considered stalker-like. According to Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Janice Albert, in another letter Speedy called a "courtesy notification," he promised not to do a drive-by of Lavigne's parents' house or do "anything creepy."

Earlier this year, he e-mailed Lavigne's agent declaring his intent to attend the 19-year-old singer's Seattle area mall appearance and "knock fists" with her despite a Canadian anti-harassment order. On the day of Lavigne's April 7 concert, Speedy was arrested after police searched his house and found a pistol, a shotgun and an AR-15 assault rifle.

Speedy, who was released on bail after the April arrest, is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 17.

Noted . . .

Hollywood actor Matt Damon's 70-year-old uncle George Brunstad became the oldest person to swim the English Channel yesterday. After training for a year, the retired American pilot took 15 hours 59 minutes to steal the title from a 67-year-old . . . Remember that incident a few weeks ago when "60 Minutes" veteran Mike Wallace was cuffed and accused of disorderly conduct for arguing with New York inspectors because they questioned his double-parked driver? (He was worried that his takeout dinner of meatloaf was getting cold.) Now the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has apologized to Wallace. Commission spokesman Allan Fromberg says the inspectors used "poor judgment" and have been placed on desk duty. Wallace received a call from Commissioner Matthew Daus, who told him charges would be dropped.

. . . and Quoted

"As the commodity in the interview, you'd be crazy not to get compensated."

-- Monica Lewinsky, speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival about a woman's right to gainful compensation for interviews based on hard-won notoriety.

-- Compiled by Allison Wolfe

from staff and wire reports

Out & About will return.

A group says Sotheby's and the GOP looked at the Man in Black (here with wife June Carter Cash in 1999) and saw green.Told to stay away from Avril Lavigne, a man is now accused of harassing her parents.