News, June 2: Ryan Seacrest To Host “American Juniors,” Hayek Takes Top Honors at Imagen Awards, Richard Chamberlain Comes Out, More…

Top Story: Ryan Seacrest To Host American Juniors

American Idol host Ryan Seacrest has been tapped to host American Juniors, set to premiere Tuesday. The show, a kiddie spin-off of the Fox’s American Idol talent competition, will start with two weeks of hour-long audition episodes, while the audience voting will begin with the June 17 episode, the AP reports. Fox will follow the Junior series’ summer edition in the fall in the 8 p.m. Tuesday slot. The show’s success had definitely opened leads for Seacrest. He is developing a daytime talk show for Fox’s 20th Television syndication arm that is set to debut in January 2004 and also hosts the radio show Ryan Seacrest for the Ride Home in the Los Angeles area.

Richard Chamberlain Talks About Being Gay

Actor Richard Chamberlain, who captured the hearts of women on the 1960s TV series Doctor Kildare, has come out of the closet. “I’m not a romantic leading man anymore so I don’t need to nurture that public image anymore,” the 69-year-old actor said in an interview to air Sunday on Dateline NBC. The interview coincides with the publication of Chamberlain‘s new memoir, Shattered Love, which will be released Tuesday by ReganBooks, The Associated Press reports. Chamberlain, 69, now lives in Hawaii with his longtime partner, Martin. “I love my life just the way it is. I’m proud of my relationship. I’m actually proud of myself,” Chamberlain said.

Frida, Hayek, Take Top Honors at Imagen Awards

Salma Hayek, Robert Rodriguez and George Lopez received two awards each at the 18th annual Imagen Awards, which celebrates positive portrayals of Hispanics and promotes the advancement of Hispanics within the entertainment industry. Frida earned a best picture win, and Hayek and Alfred Molina were named best actress and actor. Hayek also received the Imagen Foundation’s Creative Achievement Award. Hayek said she valued her creative achievement award because there are many worthy actresses to consider for such an honor. “I hope that next year the competition is tougher and there are even more projects (to nominate),”she said.

Penn Defends Trip to Baghdad in New York Times

Sean Penn published a 4,000-word open letter in the front section of the New York Times Friday defending his December trip to Baghdad and criticizing the U.S.-led war on Iraq, Reuters reports. In the letter, Penn questioned whether rebuilding the nation would benefit the people of either Iraq or the United States. He also said U.S. claims that an invasion was necessary over fears of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were false. This is the second time the actor has placed such an ad in a major newspaper. In October 2002, Penn wrote an open letter to President Bush published in The Washington Post expressing his views against the war.

Posh Spice Kidnapping Trial Collapses

Prosecutors ruled Monday the evidence of a key witness in the trial of five men accused of plotting to kidnap former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham was unreliable, the AP reports. The men, four Romanians and one Kosovo Albanian, were facing charges of conspiring to kidnap the singer, who is married to Manchester United soccer star David Beckham, after a story about the alleged plot appeared in the News of the World tabloid. But the Crown Prosecution Service said it had decided not to pursue the case after deciding that evidence from a 27-year-old Kosovar parking attendant, who was paid by the newspaper, was unreliable.

Group Claims Trailers Depict Too Much Smoking

The anti-smoking group American Legacy Foundation said Saturday youngsters are seeing too much smoking in movie trailers, the AP reports. According to the group, tobacco use was found in 14 percent of the 216 movies that were advertised on TV between August 2001 and July 2002. The group’s aim is to have any movie depicting any scene with smoking slapped with an R rating from the Motion Picture Association and to curb the onscreen appearance of brand names, such as the Winston brand featured so prominently in the 2001 Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind.

Role Call: Snow Dogs Director To Helm Ice Cube Pic

Snow Dogs director Brian Levant will helm the Ice Cube starrer Are We There Yet? for Revolution Studios. Ice Cube will also rewrite the script and produce the project alongside Matt Alvarez in their CubeVision banner. In the pic, Ice Cube is dating a divorced mother of two kids, who never like their mom’s boyfriends. As a favor, he offers to drive the kids for her from Washington to New York during the Christmas holidays, and the youngsters do everything in their power to ruin the trip.