Tamyra Gray may not have earned the title of American Idol after her shocking exit from the series last week, but she has become the very first contender to sign a music biz deal. MTV.com reports that 19 Entertainment, founded by show producer Simon Fuller--who has guided the careers of the Spice Girls and Annie Lennox--has picked up an option to manage the 23-year-old singer, once considered by both fans and the judges to be a shoo-in for one of the final slots. Gray's debut won't hit shelves until next year; finalists are barred from releasing any music until three months after the winner's CD is released, likely in September. The show's producers have three months after the Sept. 4 finale to pick up contracts on any of the 10 finalists, who will mount a U.S. tour in October and sing tunes from the show on a compilation album due later this year. Gray told MTV.com leaving Idol was "like stepping out of a bubble and not knowing what to do with yourself."
Country legend Johnny Cash was hospitalized Monday after suffering an allergic reaction to either food or medicine, The Associated Press reports. The Grammy-winning singer's manager, Lou Robin, said the 70-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer may remain at Nashville's Baptist Hospital overnight, but that his doctors didn't think the problem was anything serious. "They're always cautious with any trouble he might have," Robin said. Cash suffers from autonomic neuropathy, a disease of the nervous system that makes him susceptible to pneumonia. He was hospitalized twice last fall for treatment of bronchitis.
American Pie actress Natasha Lyonne pleaded guilty Monday to a DUI charge, the AP reports. The 23-year-old actress will have her driver's license suspended and her car impounded for 10 days, has been fined $255, was sentenced to six months probation plus 50 hours of community service, and must take part in a Mothers Against Drunk Driving panel. Police arrested Lyonne around 2 a.m. on Aug. 28, 2001, after she crashed her rental car. The actress, who was driving with passenger Adam Goldberg (A Beautiful Mind), spent eight hours in the county jail before being released on $2,000 bond, charged with careless driving, leaving the scene of an accident and DUI.
Variety reports commercial and television director Matthew Penn, who's directed everything from Shaquille O'Neal hawking Radio Shack to Tony Soprano's therapy sessions, will make his feature directing debut early next year with The Root, a low-budget, Faustian drama about a chop shop operator whose relationship with a crooked police detective prompts him to try to get out of the stolen parts biz. The Emmy-nominated Penn, who directed the regional theater production of The Root, will direct David Strathairn, Gregory Hines, Karen Allen and Eli Wallach in the film.
Boot Camp returns this fall, but this time celebs will take on the mental and physical challenges set by the show's two former Marine Corps drill instructors. In a two-hour Fox special, Celebrity Boot Camp, the recruits--including rapper Coolio, onetime pop idol Tiffany, Married...With Children's David Faustino, ex-Milli Vanilli member Fabrice Morvan; Baywatch babe Traci Bingham, singer Vitamin C; Lorenzo Lamas; Kato Kaelin, Brady Bunch star Barry Williams and Price Is Right spokesmodel Nikki Schieler Ziering will be eliminated one by one until two are left to compete in a series of eight competitions called the "Gauntlet." Taped at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, the show will air on Sept. 30, according to Variety.
Grab your peroxide: ABC has greenlit a two-hour TV movie prequel to the 1997 feature film Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, Variety reports. The project, tentatively titled Romy and Michele: Behind the Velvet Rope, takes place in the early 1990s. The TV movie will recast the titular blondes, played in the film by Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow, and follow them as they head to Hollywood after graduating high school. The teleflick, which is likely to air this coming season, may lead to a series.
A charred guitar set alight onstage by rock legend Jimi Hendrix could become the most expensive guitar ever sold when it goes up for auction in London on Sept. 24, Reuters reports. Hendrix's 1963 Fender Stratocaster is being offered for sale by Dweezil Zappa, son of rock guitarist Frank Zappa, who used it on his own 1976 album "Zoot Allures." London auction house Cooper Owen said the instrument was expected to fetch between $534,000 and $610,000. The Zappas had restored the guitar, which still bears the scars of flames, so it would play. Dweezil, who is selling the guitar to help fund the refurbishment of his father's recording studio, told the Cooper Owen Web site: "Just by looking at the guitar you can sense the history behind the music. It's very inspiring."
Gwen Verdon, a four-time Tony Award winner from Broadway's Golden Age, has died at age 75 from natural causes at her daughter's Vermont home. The petite, redheaded performer captivated audiences in musicals such as "Damn Yankees," "Chicago" and "Sweet Charity."
Verdon was married to director-choreographer Bob Fosse, whom she married in 1960, and the couple worked together on "Anna Christie" and "Redhead" along with "Chicago" and "Damn Yankees." Her last Broadway appearance was in "Chicago" in 1975 with Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach.
Broadway theaters dimmed their lights at 8 p.m. Wednesday in honor of the legend.
ACTRESS JULIE LONDON DIES: Julie London, nurse Dixie McCall of television's "Emergency!", died Wednesday of cardiac arrest in Los Angeles. London, who had been in poor health since suffering a stroke five years ago, was married to "Dragnet" actor Jack Webb, then jazz composer and actor Bobby Troup, who portrayed resident brain surgeon Dr. Joe Early alongside his wife on "Emergency!"
In her youth, London appeared in films with Hollywood legends such as Rock Hudson, Edward G. Robinson and Gary Cooper, and Billboard magazine voted her one of the top female vocalists of 1955, 1956 and 1957.
PRODUCER WALTER SHENSON DIES: Walter Shenson, who produced "Help!" and "A Hard Day's Night" for the Beatles and 12 other films, has died from complications from a stroke in Los Angeles. He was 81.
Shenson worked as a publicist for Paramount Pictures on the films "The Caine Mutiny" and "From Here to Eternity" before turning to producing. Among Shenson's other films: "The Mouse That Roared" with Peter Sellers and "Reuben, Reuben" with Tom Conti.
ACTOR RICK JASON DIES: Rick Jason, who portrayed Lt. Gil Hanley on the 1960s TV series "Combat!", committed suicide at his in Moorpark, Calif., home officials said Tuesday. Jason was 74 and had been depressed over personal matters, officials told Reuters.
Before becoming a household name on "Combat!", Jason starred in the short-lived series "The Case of the Dangerous Robin" and a TV movie, "The Fountain of Youth," directed by Orson Welles. Other TV appearances include "Murder, She Wrote," "Wonder Woman," "Fantasy Island" and "Dallas." Jason also had regular appearances on the soap opera "The Young and the Restless."