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ABOUT THOSE FREE OPRAH . . . The 276 audience members who got free Pontiac G6s at the season premiere of Oprah Winfrey's talk show are still jumping and screaming about the gift.

But for very different reasons. Because, in the end, nothing in life really is free.

The recipients, who were chosen based on need, have learned that they have to report the cars to the Internal Revenue Service as income. That means many will have to pay thousands of dollars more in taxes, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Besides donating the cars and agreeing to pay for upgrades, Pontiac paid for most local charges, including state sales tax and licensing fees. But the company isn't helping with the IRS.

"It's not really a free car. It's more of a 75 percent-off car," recipient Susan Nelson told the Sun-Times.

The value of each car was $28,500. Adding that to an income can push a person into a higher tax bracket, meaning she would have to pay at least 25 percent of the car's value in taxes. For a nearly $30,000 car, most recipients probably will have to pay $7,125.

Some recipients will wait a few months before picking up their car so they can figure out how to pay for the taxes, the Sun-Times said.

BUT HE GOT AT LEAST ONE REALLY GOOD SONG OUT OF IT: Part of the legend of Sting, at the Ford Amphitheatre on Oct. 22, is how he was an English teacher in England before the Police made him a world famous rock star, sex symbol, yoga enthusiast and environmental activist.

On a recent visit to Sting at his villa in Tuscany, entertainment columnist Roger Friedman writes that the singer's other guests included two teachers, a married couple, he knew back in the day. When asked what kind of teacher Sting was, they responded that he wasn't very good.

Sting heard that. Laughed. And agreed.

THE TRUTH WAS JUST AS SHOCKING: Saturday Night Live's Tina Fey, asked to autograph DVD copies of her movie Mean Girls at a New York City Borders, showed up to find a thousand people waiting outside. She looked shocked, New York's Daily News said. And then she was told that most of them were there for another in-store appearance: Court TV's Psychic Detectives.

IF NEW YORK CITY'S MAYOR CAN PLAY HIMSELF ON "LAW & ORDER' ... California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is in negotiations for a movie appearance, Daily Variety says. There is interest in having him play a limited role in Terminator 4, which is ready to start filming. But he wouldn't be the main Terminator, the show biz trade paper says. A new model probably will be introduced.

Sharon Fink can be reached at (727) 893-8525 or

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