Top Story: CBS Says They Didn't Pay Jackson for Interview
Both CBS and Michael Jackson have denied reports that the network paid the pop singer for his exclusive interview on 60 Minutes. According to Reuters, a New York Times report on Wednesday, based on an anonymous source described as a disgruntled former business associate of Jackson's, said that the network landed the Ed Bradley interview by agreeing to pay $1 million extra to license their previously shelved music special celebrating Jackson's career, which airs Jan. 2. CBS and two of Jackson's closest representatives, however, told Reuters the terms of Jackson's entertainment special and his 60 Minutes interview were negotiated separately. "This was not a package deal," CBS spokesman Chris Ender told Reuters. "These were two parallel projects. They were being developed and worked on independently." Enders did admit, however, that the two projects became "linked" in the aftermath of the allegations against Jackson "when we told Mr. Jackson's representatives that we couldn't broadcast the entertainment special if he wasn't addressing the situation on a CBS News program." Jackson's defense lawyer, Mark Geragos, conceded the prospect of reviving Jackson's music special likely weighed in his decision to go on 60 Minutes, Reuters reports. "I think that's a fair statement," he said when asked if Jackson did the interview to get the special back on CBS.
Rush Guitarist Arrested New Year's Eve
Alex Zivojinovich, the lead guitarist for the rock band Rush and better known by his stage name Alex Lifeson, was arrested Wednesday night for drunken and violent behavior after attacking sheriff's deputies at the Naples, Fla., Ritz-Carlton hotel, AP reports. Deputies said they used a stun gun on Zivojinovich, 50, who faces six charges that include aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting an officer with violence, and disorderly intoxication after a scuffle broke out when Zivojinovich's son Justin refused to leave the stage. Justin, 33, and his wife Michelle Zivojinovich, 30, were also arrested.
Imbruglia Gets Hitched
Actress-turned-pop singer Natalie Imbruglia, 28, and Daniel Johns, 24, frontman of the Australian band Silverchair, exchanged vows Wednesday in a private ceremony at an exclusive resort on Australia's northeastern coast, The Associated Press reports. It's the first marriage for both.
Screenwriter Dunne Dies
Author-screenwriter John Gregory Dunne, best known for his screen collaborations with wife Joan Didion, including The Panic in Needle Park and the 1976 remake A Star is Born, died Tuesday in Los Angeles after suffering a heart attack, Reuters reports. He was 71.
French Author Says Disney Copied Nemo
Franck Le Calvez, a French children's book author, claims Finding Nemo closely resembles his book Pierrot the Clown Fish, in which his hero, a wide-eyed, orange-striped fish, gets separated from his family, AP reports. In February, a court will hear his case against Disney and Pixar Animation, the French newspaper Le Monde reports. The case is for breach of copyright and trademark, and Le Calvez also wants Nemo merchandise taken off the shelves of French shops.
Norway's Idol Wins World Title
Norway's Pop Idol Kurt Nilsen picked up the World Idol title Thursday, beating 10 other Idol competitors from across the globe including American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, AP reports. Nilson, a 25-year-old plumber, won the Norwegian version of Pop Idol in May. His single, "She's So High," went straight to No. 1 in the Norwegian singles chart and is the country's biggest-selling single to date.
Irwin Introduces Baby to First Croc Feeding
Animal Planet's wacky Crocodile Hunter host and animal activist Steve Irwin took his infant son to his first crocodile feeding Friday, AP reports, offering a chicken to the snapping croc while holding the baby, Bob, in his other hand. "He's one month old, so it's about time Bob got out there and did his first croc demo," the Australian celebrity told the crowd at the Australian Zoo. Irwin's wife Terri, who gave birth to her second child Dec. 1, also attended the show, billed as the baby's "croc feeding debut."
Willie Nelson To Debut Antiwar Ballad
Country singer Willie Nelson plans to debut his new song, the antiwar ballad "What Ever Happened to Peace on Earth," at a fund-raising concert Saturday for Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich in Austin, Texas. "Now, I haven't played it for Toby (Keith) yet," a laughing Nelson told the Austin American-Statesman on Tuesday. Although the two are close friends, the sentiments of Nelson's song are the polar opposite of Keith's angry-American anthem "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue," with its call to arms. "Toby wrote that song in reaction to 9/11, which was a totally different thing than watching U.S. soldiers die in Iraq," Nelson said. "Toby's said he's not a Republican or a Democrat; he's a Christian. So we're coming from the same place."
Role Call: Mostow Counts Seconds; Woody Allen Robs Pierre
Terminator 3 director Jonathan Mostow has signed to write and direct a remake of John Frankenheimer's film Seconds for Paramount Pictures. According to Variety, the original 1966 film starred John Randolph as an older man who gets a new lease on life with a new face and identity. Even though he's reconstituted in the handsome visage of Rock Hudson, the change brings its own problems. No one has been cast at yet. Seconds becomes the second film by the late Frankenheimer that is being remade by Paramount…Jonathan Demme will direct Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep and Liev Schreiber in The Manchurian Candidate…Director W