NEW YORK – A hot dog vending cart was wheeled back and forth. Cocktail waitresses hurried past with trays full of beer. Vice President Joe Biden led New York Yankees great Yogi Berra by the arm.

Such was the bizarre, red-white-and-blue circus backstage at comedian Stephen Colbert’s celebration of U.S. troops’ return from Iraq, the first part of his two-episode special, “Been There: Won That: The Returnification of the American-Do Troopscape.”

It was a somewhat rare show of exultation to what President Obama has called the end of combat operations in Iraq. Some 50,000 troops remain in the country, where local forces have a tenuous hold on security.

Those truths were never far from “The Colbert Report” on Wednesday, but Colbert made the evening’s tone clear at the start.

“I’m not going to debate this war,” said Colbert, in mock pundit character. “It’s been seven years. Who can remember who invaded who?”

Instead he declared: “Tonight is for the troops.”

The show’s studio audience was packed with active troops and veterans, whom Colbert lavished with hot dogs, beer and ice cream. Biden played the part of hot dog vendor. And Gen. Ray Odierno, the outgoing U.S. military commander in Iraq, donned a toupee of Colbert’s hair. (Odierno famously shaved Colbert’s head — on Obama’s orders — when the comedian broadcast four episodes of “The Colbert Report” from Baghdad last year.)

Willow Smith signs recording deal

NEW YORK – Call her the Fresh Princess.

Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s 9-year-old daughter, Willow Smith, is making her debut as a recording artist. She has signed a deal with Jay-Z’s label, Roc Nation.

Her first song was released this week. It’s called “Whip My Hair.”

Jay-Z says it’s rare to find an artist with such talent and creativity at Willow’s age.

Will Smith first gained fame as a rapper, but unlike her father, Willow is singing on her record.

Like her father, she’s a double threat: Willow appeared in the movie “I Am Legend,” with her dad.

Britney Spears denies bodyguard’s charges

LOS ANGELES – Britney Spears is denying a bodyguard’s accusations that she sexually harassed him and abused her children.

A statement posted to Spears’ website Thursday said the pop singer and her attorneys expect Fernando Flores’ case to be dismissed.

Flores sued the 28-year-old Wednesday, claiming she repeatedly exposed herself to him and that he witnessed her abusing her young sons.

Spears’ statement said the Department of Children and Families investigated the allegations and took no action.

An attorney for Spears’ ex-husband, Kevin Federline, said Flores’ allegations of child abuse are “baseless” and appeared to be motivated by money.

The first hearing in the case is scheduled for January.

Motley Crue singer accused

LAS VEGAS – Police are investigating a woman’s claim that Motley Crue singer Vince Neil grabbed her arms in an elevator at the Las Vegas Hilton.

Officer Barbara Morgan said Thursday that police took statements Sunday from the unidentified woman and two other people regarding a misdemeanor battery complaint against the 49-year-old rock singer.

Neil wasn’t arrested. There’s no indication that Neil knew the woman, who didn’t report being physically injured.