News, Sept. 16: Roy Horn gives first interview, Walters Exits “20/20,” Johnny Ramone Dies at 55, More…

Roy Horn publicly describes attack for the first time

Roy Horn, one-half of the illusionist duo Siegfried & Roy, described for the first time his memories of being mauled by a tiger in an interview with Maria Shriver that aired Wednesday on the NBC special, Siegfried & Roy: The Miracle. Asked by Shriver what he was thinking at the time, Horn answered: “Dear God, let this be just a bad nightmare.” Horn also told Shriver he remembers having a near-death experience on the operating table. “I saw a bank of white light, and then I saw all my beloved animals … For a moment I stepped out of my body,” said Horn, who now uses a motorized wheelchair. The magician was attacked by a 380-pound tiger named Montecore during a live performance at The Mirage hotel-casino in Las Vegas. The 7-year-old tiger bit into Horn’s neck and dragged him off stage–until a show employee broke the animal’s grip using a fire extinguisher.

Walters exits 20/20

Barbara Walters is giving up her role as co-host of the ABC newsmagazine show 20/20 after 25 years–and 740 interviews. Walters, 72, became a fixture on 20/20 in 1979 when she joined forces with then-host Hugh Downs. She has since interviewed the famous and infamous, including Richard Nixon, Michael Jackson, Erik and Lyle Menendez, Margaret Thatcher, Moammar Gadhafi, Monica Lewinsky, Bing Crosby, Robin Givens and Mike Tyson, Elton John and Ronald Reagan. But the veteran anchor says she is not retiring. “I’ll be doing specials that I can pick and choose. I might even do an interview for 20/20 from time to time,” Walters tells The Associated Press. “But in terms of anchoring 20/20–I’m done.” Elizabeth Vargas will step in to replace her at the anchor desk next to John Stossel. On Friday, Walters will host a two-hour retrospective of many of her past interviews with 20/20. Then on Sept. 24, ABC will air Walters‘ last interview, a conversation with Mary Kay Letourneau, the former sixth-grade schoolteacher who went to prison for having sex with a student.

Johnny Ramone dies at 55

Ramones’ guitarist Johnny Ramone died today following a five-year battle with prostate cancer, Reuters reports. He was 55. According to the group’s Web site, Ramone died in his sleep at 3:03 p.m. at his Los Angeles home, surrounded by his wife, Linda Cummings, relatives and friends. Ramone, whose was born John Cummings, performed with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame punk band from its initial concert at New York City’s Performance Studio March 30, 1974 to its 2,263rd and final show at the Lollapalooza festival at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater Aug. 6, 1996. Ramone is survived by his wife and his mother. His body will be cremated during a private ceremony.

Zeta-Jones’ stalker to stand trial

Superior Court Judge Patricia M. Schnegg yesterday ordered a woman accused of stalking actress Catherine Zeta-Jones to stand trial, the AP reports. Dawnette Knight, 33, was arrested June 3 at her Beverly Hills, Calif., home and pleaded not guilty to one account of stalking and 24 counts of making criminal threats. The judge ordered Knight held on $1 million bail and to return to court Sept. 27 for arraignment. The charges involve more than 24 letters sent to Zeta-Jones‘s husband, actor Michael Douglas. In one letter, Knight said: “We are going to slice her up like meat on a bone and feed her to the dogs.” In another letter, she allegedly apologized, claiming she had been in love with Douglas. Dwight’s case had been halted July 30 pending a psychiatric evaluation after she suffered from an overdose of barbiturates, but a judge found her mentally competent to stand trial.

Madonna goes to Israel for spiritual guidance

Following her concert tour Re-Invention, Madonna (or should we say Esther, her given Hebrew name) is heading to Israel for a little spiritual cleansing, Reuters reports. The pop diva, whose itinerary was kept under wraps for security reasons, arrived at a luxury hotel in Tel Aviv late Wednesday to join about 2,000 fellow Kabbalists from the Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Center to celebrate the start of the Jewish New Year. The Catholic-bred singer’s interest in the religion has raised some controversy among some ultra-Orthodox Jews who are afraid the growing popularity of the movement among non-Jews is nothing more than a trend that demeans their religious beliefs. But Madonna has said she takes the belief in Jewish mysticism very seriously and is irritated by accusations. Madonna‘s schedule was to also include a visit to graves of Jewish sages in northern Israel as well as shrines such as the flashpoint Rachel’s Tomb on the edge of Bethlehem, traditional burial place of the biblical matriarch Rachel, Reuters reports.

Bobby Brown heads to Bravo

Cable network Bravo has ordered 10 one-hour episodes of Being Bobby Brown, a reality series about the troubled singer. The show, set to debut in the second quarter of next year, will chronicle the R&B singer’s efforts to clean up his life after his numerous run-ins with the law. Brown’s wife Whitney Houston will appear, as well as his children from their marriage and previous relationships. “Being Bobby Brown will allow the public to see Brown outside the context of a pop icon and bad boy, rather, they’ll witness an artist striving to clean up his life for his future and the future of his family,” Bravo president Lauren Zalaznick said.

John Lennon musical in the works

Lennon, a musical about the former Beatle John Lennon’s life, is set to open on Broadway next summer, in time for the 25th anniversary of his murder at the hands of a crazed fan, Variety reports. The project will include such post-Beatle songs as “Imagine,” “Instant Karma,” “Give Peace a Chance,” “(Just Like) Starting Over” and “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.” The play was written and will be directed by TV veteran Don Scardino. No cast is set as yet.

Kennedy Center honors John, Beatty

Elton John and Warren Beatty will be among six entertainers to receive the annual Kennedy Center honors this year, the center told Reuters on Wednesday. The other recipients will be the husband-and-wife team of actors and producers Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, soprano Joan Sutherland, and composer and conductor John Williams. The 2004 honorees will be feted at a gala performance in the Kennedy Center’s Opera House on Dec. 5.

Kit Bowen contributed to this report.