News, Dec. 22: Crowe, Wife Have a Baby; Internet Users Still Love Britney; 50 Cent, Beyonce Top “Billboard” Year-End Charts, More…

Top Story: Crowe Becomes a Father

Russell Crowe and his wife, Danielle Spencer, who were married on Crowe‘s Australian cattle ranch in April, welcomed their first child Sunday in Sydney, Australia, Reuters reports. Their son, named Charles Spencer Crowe, is “a healthy, bouncing baby boy looking forward to Christmas,” Crowe‘s publicist Wendy Day said. Crowe recently received a Golden Globe nomination for best actor for his performance in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

Jackson May Go to U.K., Friends Gather at Neverland

Pop singer Michael Jackson prepares for a Christmas trip to Britain this week, although given the charges of child molestation against him he may not receive a very warm welcome. The Associated Press reports a spokesman for the embattled King of Pop confirmed the singer would fly to Britain, but stayed tight-lipped over details of the Christmas trip. Some British politicians questioned the logic behind the star’s visit. “I must confess I was a little bit surprised that someone in America can be released from their [bail] condition of not traveling abroad in order to launch a CD,” British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott told the BBC Sunday. “I wonder whether that would have happened to an ordinary person who said ‘I want to go to visit my mum’. But that’s their decision, not ours.” Meanwhile, friends and family gathered Saturday at Jackson‘s Neverland ranch in Santa Barbara to show support for the pop singer. The gathering–titled “You Are Not Alone,” after a Jackson song–drew about 600 people, including celebrities such as tennis star Serena Williams, rapper MC Hammer and comedian Eddie Griffin.

Actress Lange Dies

Actress Hope Lange, best known for starring in the 1957 film Peyton Place and winning two Emmys for playing the lead in TV’s The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, died Friday in Los Angeles after suffering an infection caused by an intestinal inflammation known as ischemic colitis, AP reports. She was 70.

Spears Still Sought After on Web

Even though it seemed earlier this year that Britney Spears’ popularity as an Internet search term was fading, a couple sexually provocative magazine covers, a new album and an infamous smooch with pop queen Madonna sent the pop princess back to the top of link lists. According to the Hollywood Reporter, year-end statistics compiled by Lycos and Yahoo! showed Spears finished in the No. 2 spot overall at Lycos for the year, right behind song-swapping service Kazaa, while at Yahoo! she finished sixth on the overall list of searched-for terms. The only celebrity ahead of her there was rapper Eminem.

50 Cent, Kelly, Beyonce Rule Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Charts

Coming as no surprise, rapper 50 Cent top Billboard‘s R&B/Hip-Hop charts, according to the magazine’s year-end statistics. Eminem protégé 50 Cent’s chart achievements include the No. 1 position on the year-end recaps for Top R&B/Hip-Hop Artists–Male, Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Artists and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album. R. Kelly ran a close second behind 50 Cent, while Beyonce was tapped as the No. 1 New R&B/Hip-Hop Artist.

Bachelor Bob Sued

Producers of the ABC show The Bachelor sued contestant Bob Guiney for breach of contract in a lawsuit filed Friday, AP reports. According to the suit, stars of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette series sign contracts with exclusivity clauses, which prohibit them from promoting any other products without permission. Show producers allege that Guiney and his record company, Wind-up Records, promoted his new CD, 3 Sides, and music video in violation of the exclusivity clause. The producers also are asking for unspecified monetary damages.

Clarkson Competes for World Idol

A two-part special World Idol will see American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson compete with winners from 10 other countries–including Germany, South Africa, England, Canada and Poland–for the title of worldwide pop star, AP reports. Fox will air the first part Christmas Day at 8 p.m. and the second part New Year’s Day at 9 p.m. Viewers worldwide will vote for their favorite.

Role Call: Black Joins Thornton on Lights

Young actor Lucas Black, currently in the Oscar bait Cold Mountain, will join Billy Bob Thornton in the football drama Friday Night Lights. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the story chronicles the 1988 football season of the Odessa (Texas) Permian High Panthers, capturing the struggles and hopes of a financially troubled town that pins all of its dreams on the team’s Friday night games. Black also worked with Thornton in the Oscar-winning indie Sling Blade (1996) and All the Pretty Horses (2000).