News, April 18: Luther Vandross Suffers Stroke, HBO Pulls Castro Documentary, Diet Guru Dr. Atkins Dies, More…

Top Story: “Love Doctor” Luther Vandross Suffers Stroke

R&B singer-songwriter Luther Vandross suffered a stroke Wednesday, just days before his 52nd birthday, his label J Records said on Thursday. The singer, who has battled weight and health problems for years, is undergoing medical treatment at an undisclosed hospital. “Vandross is under medical care, and his family and friends are hopeful for a speedy recovery,” Carmen Romano, the entertainer’s business manager, told Reuters. The five-time Grammy winner became a frequent fixture on the urban music charts, but mainstream success eluded him until 1989, when he enjoyed his first Top 10 pop hit with “Here and Now,” from the compilation album, “The Best of Luther Vandross … The Best of Love. ” The song has since become a classic wedding ballad.

Couric and Leno Trade Places for a Day

NBC’s Today show co-host Katie Couric and Tonight Show host Jay Leno will switch jobs for a day on May 12, Reuters reports. “People like her, she has an infectious personality, and she’s so cute that if she bombs, she can get away with it because she’s cute,” Leno told Access Hollywood. Leno will interview U.S. officials on the reconstruction of Iraq while Couric will talk to Joan Rivers about the comedian’s latest plastic surgery.

“Friends” Stars Design Recliners for Charity

Friends stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer have teamed up with La-Z-Boy to design six unique versions of the popular reclining chair, a spokesman for the company said. The recliners will be auctioned on eBay from May 12- 22, with proceeds going to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

Pam Grier’s “Wilder” Gets DVD Release

Wilder, a never-released action film starring Pam Grier as a tough single-mom cop, will come out on video on May 13. Produced by Canadian-based Cinequest Films three years ago, the film will be distributed on DVD and VHS by Florida-based firm MTI. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the company has come on strong in the home video market during the past year by digging up little-known pics with popular stars and developing a brand of twisted B-horror films with outrageous plots that border on comedic insanity.

HBO Pulls Oliver Stone’s Castro Documentary

HBO has pulled director Oliver Stone‘s documentary about Cuban President Fidel Castro from its May schedule because of Cuba’s recent crackdown on dissidents. “In light of recent events, we felt unless Oliver Stone can return to Cuba and interview Castro…it was somewhat dated and incomplete,” an HBO spokeswoman told Reuters Thursday. Comandante was made in February 2002 with Stone and his crew taping some 30 hours of conversations with Castro over a three-day period.

Dr. Robert Atkins Dies

Dr. Robert C. Atkins, who endured decades of criticism over his low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet, died Thursday at the New York Weill-Cornell Medical Center after suffering a severe head injury during a fall, The Associated Press reports. He was 72. Atkins’ book, Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, was dismissed as nutritional folly by the American Medical Association when it was first published in 1972, but his approach was finally vindicated earlier this year when a half-dozen studies showed people on the Atkins diet lost weight without compromising their health.

Detroit Preps for Hip-Hop Summit

Eminem and hip-hop veterans Rev. Run (Run D.M.C.) and Doug E. Fresh are among those who will take part in the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network’s (HSAN) April 26 Detroit summit, reports. The event, which will take place at the city’s 13,000-capacity Cobo Hall, will focus on youth empowerment and will operate under the theme “Remix: Rebuilding, Refocusing, Reinvesting, Resurgence.” Tickets, which are free of charge, are available on a first come, first served basis.

Role Call: Willis Forgets Amnesia Pic

Bruce Willis has dropped out of the amnesia thriller Me Again two months before it was set to shoot. According to Variety, producer-distributor Intermedia, which recently laid off employees and slashed production deals, could no longer afford Willis‘ $25 million price tag and the actor did not want to renegotiate his salary. Willis was also due to collect nearly $5 million more for the producing efforts of his partner in Cheyenne Enterprises, Arnold Rifkin, and his brother, producer David Willis. Diane Lane remains in the pic’s female lead.