Long Arm of the Lawman

Sheriff Shaq? Okay, he's a deputy, but still . . . . Shaquille O'Neal, the Miami Heat's 7-foot-1 center, plans to report Monday to the Bedford County (Va.) Sheriff's Office for law enforcement training.

Don't worry, sports fans -- he's not giving up basketball. Shaq, who yesterday signed a new $100 million, five-year contract with the team, is preparing to become national spokesman for the Safe Surfin' Foundation, which educates the public about sexual predators on the Internet.

The NBA star has plenty of attachments with law enforcement. According to foundation spokesman Connie Coopersmith, Shaq was given an honorary U.S. deputy marshal badge in March, became a Los Angeles County reserve police officer when he lived in the city and is training to become a Miami Beach police reserve officer. The 33-year-old is set to participate in the "rigorous" two-day training program in Virginia, where he will focus on cyber investigations and firearms.

Out of the Frying Pan . . .

He's been to hell and back: Michael Wray, the 27-year-old sous-chef from Fort Collins, Colo., emerged as top chef Monday night in the Fox reality drama "Hell's Kitchen."

Wray was one of 12 contestants -- including an executive chef, an office assistant and a mother of six -- competing for the chance to run a world-class restaurant headed by outspoken (and occasionally devilish) award-winning chef Gordon Ramsay.

"It was exhilarating. I had the best time," says Wray, who has been designing chef knives for a company since filming wrapped up late last year. "We worked so hard and put so many hours in."

Conditions were grueling: Contestants were usually waked in the wee hours by an air horn or the sound of clanging pots and pans. They slept in dorms, with little entertainment, and weren't allowed to contact their families. Ramsay trashed competitors for everything from sticky risotto to bad technique.

"It was tough," says Wray. "We weren't even given a deck of cards in the dorm."

Wray motivated himself in a slightly odd way: Halfway through the series, he was shown talking to himself (and a billboard of Ramsay) in the middle of the night. "I would just think and walk and plan," he says. "It's a total game. I had to vocalize my thoughts every single night." It seemed a little weird to us, but he won, didn't he?

Wray next heads to London to train under Ramsay and hopes to open his own restaurant in a few years. But don't expect him to be as abrasive in the kitchen as his mentor: "I wouldn't be able to go to that extreme."

Creature Feature

It's an age-old debate: Cats or dogs? When you have an art gallery in Washington, you've got to be nonpartisan.

Dog lover Kathleen Ewing has been hosting the "Dog Days Dog Show" in her art gallery for several years, featuring canine paintings, sculptures, pictures -- you name it, it was there. This year (under pressure from cat lovers), she decided to do something different and displayed "Birdhouses," an exhibition designed to benefit man's other furry, four-legged friends at the Washington Animal Rescue League.

"People were getting on my case," she says. "They thought the cats deserved some attention, too." The exhibit features birdhouses from local and national artists, as well as pictures of the structures. Ewing, who says she's "not a cat person," seems surprised by the success of the show: "We're selling birdhouses left and right. I had no idea they were so popular."

Regardless of her pet preference, this Washington resident says all creatures are welcome in her gallery: "Cats, dogs, children -- everybody can come."

-- Compiled by Korin Miller

from staff and wire reports

For his suffering, contestant Michael Wray (left, with hellacious head chef Gordon Ramsay) emerged victorious on Fox's "Hell's Kitchen."