News, Feb. 25: Judge To Settle Michael Jackson Family Matter; Janet Jackson Out of TV Movie; “She Bangs” Guy To Make “Idol” Appearance; More…

Top Story: Judge To Settle Dispute With Michael Jackson, Ex-Wife

According to court documents made public Tuesday, Michael Jackson and his ex-wife Debbie Rowe have agreed to let retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen Lachs mediate an unspecified family dispute. The papers, published on the Smoking Gun Web site (, do not specify the nature of the dispute but according to the syndicated show Celebrity Justice, Rowe, a medical assistant who was married to Jackson from 1996 to 1999, is seeking formal custody of their two children, Prince Michael I and Paris. Celebrity Justice reports that Rowe decided to seek custody of the children in part because members of the Nation of Islam, a Black Muslim group, were advising the 45-year-old singer. Jackson is charged with seven counts of lewd acts on a child under the age of 14 and two counts of giving the boy alcohol in order to seduce him. Lachs and attorneys for both Jackson and Rowe declined comment on the dispute or the documents, which were signed by Rowe and Jackson, Reuters reports.

Janet Jackson Won’t Play Lena

Janet Jackson and the producers of a planned ABC TV movie about the life of Lena Horne bowed out of the project after the singing legend balked at Jackson‘s casting. “Janet is no longer part of the (project) because Lena didn’t want her in it,” Jackson spokesman Stephen Huvane told Reuters Tuesday. “ABC and the producers were supporting Janet, and Janet realized this wasn’t going to change, so she needed to bow out, and then the producers bowed out with her. According to published reports, Horne, 86, a veteran entertainer who helped break Hollywood racial barriers in the 1940s, was offended by Jackson‘s infamous halftime show performance with Justin Timberlake during the Feb. 1 Super Bowl.

Justin Timberlake Out of Motown Special

Justin Timberlake, meanwhile, is out as co-host of ABC’s upcoming Motown 45 special. According to, Timberlake‘s camp cited a scheduling conflict, but the announcement follows a campaign launched by a coalition of black organizations protesting Timberlake‘s involvement in the special. “The selection of Timberlake as co-host of this Motown special is a cultural insult to the black community,” Project Islamic HOPE executive director Najee Ali said in a statement last week. “This special, celebrating the success of the legendary music label, should not be compromised in the pursuit of a crossover audience.” But Motown 45 executive producer Jeff Margolis said Timberlake‘s commitment to the feature film Edison forced him to withdraw. It was not immediately clear whether Timberlake, who was to have co-hosted the show with Lionel Richie, will be replaced.

William “She Bangs” Hung To Make Idol Appearance

American Idol hasn’t seen the last of William Hung, the most famous contestant who never made it to the stage. The Associated Press reports Hung, who attracted national attention with his “She Bangs” audition and has since landed several gigs, is slated to guest-appear on American Idol: Uncut, Uncensored & Untalented, a Fox special that will also feature yet more show outtakes, bad auditions and live appearances by contestants and wanna-bes. The one-hour special hosted by Ryan Seacrest airs Monday on Fox.

Jolie To Carry Olympic Torch

Angelina Jolie‘s latest role is one of Olympic proportions. The Lara Croft star has agreed to be one of the final torchbearers at the Athens Olympics the day before the lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony on August 13. Jolie, who is also a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, will carry the Olympic torch for a few hundred meters on the afternoon of August 12, as the international relay comes to a close in the Greek capital after crossing all five continents, Reuters reports. Jolie, 29, is the first high-profile torchbearer to accept an invitation to run in the relay on its return to Greece.

Sex Finale Big for HBO

The series finale of HBO’s Emmy-winning comedy Sex and the City nabbed 10.6 million viewers when it aired Sunday night–the biggest audience of the show’s six-season run, Reuters reports. The episode also drew the highest household rating on HBO (21.8) since the September 2002 premiere of the fourth season of mob drama The Sopranos, which averaged 13.4 million viewers to then rank as the most watched original program in the history of the cable channel. The 45-minute telecast, however was paled in overall audience by ABC’s return of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, with 17.5 million viewers overall, and NBC’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which garnered 14.5 million viewers overall.

Prince Returns to Pop Life

Let’s go crazy! Maybe it was his performance of Purple Rain with Beyonce at this month’s Grammy ceremony that inspired him–the Purple One is returning to the stage with his first national tour in six years. According to the AP, the 45-year-old Prince, who dropped out of the mainstream in the ’90s, will perform classic hits including When Doves Cry and Little Red Corvette. “It’s older music, but it’s going to be played in a newer way,” Prince said Tuesday. The normally media-shy singer followed his announcement with a half-hour concert in Los Angeles backed by his eight-piece group, the New Power Generation Band, and performed the title song from his upcoming album Musicology. Prince is currently in negotiations with various record labels since parting with Warner Bros. in 1996 after a highly publicized feud. The tour begins March 29 in Los Angeles and will hit at least 38 cities.

Role Call: Downey, Kilmer in Kiss, Kiss; IFC Acquires Metallica Pic

Lethal Weapon scribes Shane Black and producer Joel Silver are reuniting for Warner Bros.’ Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, a buddy actioner to star Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan. According to Variety, Down