All mocking aside, the four-hour extravaganza is for a worthy cause: It will raise money for child centers in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Rwanda and the West Bank. (Get it? Children are our future!)
* More bewilderment and consternation among the TV faithful Wednesday night as Vegas oddsmakers were proven wrong yet again: La Toya London, who had been the hands-down favorite walking windpipe to win American Idol, was voted off the show.
The 25-year-old Oakland, Calif., native, who totally has that polished star package look, sparked a scandalous wave of antidemocratic feelings among judges.
"I think America got this one wrong this week," Paula Abdul said. The bespectacled Randy Jackson wasn't far behind, with, "I think it's a travesty." The stupefied plebeians who populated the studio audience weren't feeling the love for the home voters' plebiscite either: They booed as a smiling La Toya (always the urbane professional!) reacted to the abominable miscarriage of justice with a (carefully rehearsed) show of grace: "I just want to thank you so much, thank you for believing in me."
Guess fealty doesn't get one too far when voting rights are so horribly abused. We'd advise the nation to keep on its toes: The show's perspicacious judges play only an advisory role in these, the show's final rounds. The fate of the show's final three - Fantasia Barrino, Diana DeGarmo and Jasmine Trias - is up to voters.
* While word circulates that The Simple Life 2 costars Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie got along so badly on the set of the reality series that the show's producers had to come up with creative editing to make it look like the lovable simpletons are rilly, rilly good friends, Star magazine reports that Nicole is like, uh, loose. In a hard-hitting expose, the mag says Nicole's been seen "stepping out with two different guys." We pray her dad, Lionel Richie, has some Valium on hand.
Star says Nicole, who's been dating Los Angeles' DJ A.M., known to his grade school teachers as Adam Goldstein, also has been seen squired around town by Matthew Felker. In fact, the pair "were spied getting hot and heavy at L.A. hot spot Twist." The disquiet doesn't end there. We learn from that mag that Felker is the selfsame feller making out with Britney Spears in her Toxic video. Pass the Valium, Lionel.
An unnamed source close to Felker tells Star that Matt and Nicole are just buds, nothing more.
* In a tiresome bid to create controversy (read: free publicity), rocker Marilyn Manson, who has dubbed himself the "Antichrist Superstar," has signed to play Jesus in Diamond Dead, a dark comedy by the master of cheesily creepoid horror movies, George Romero. According to MSNBC.com's The Scoop, the flick is about a rock band that makes a pact with the devil, and perhaps most shocking of all, it'll portray Jesus smoking pot.
* In a foretaste of award season, black cable network BET has announced nominees for its '04 BET Awards, which honor musicians, actors and athletes. The honors, which will be bestowed in a televised extravaganza June 29, will go to winners chosen from the likes of Beyonc, nominee for video of the year, female R&B artist, musical collaboration, and actress (heck, give it to her for citizen of the year, while you're at it!); Denzel Washington for actor; Venus and Serena Williams for female athlete (the males include LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal, but not our own Allen Iverson, who was, arguably, asleep at the wheel this year).
BET also announced it would present the Isley Brothers with a lifetime achievement award and honor actor Danny Glover for his humanitarian work.
* As NBC was preparing to launch last night's final Frasier episode, just a week after it bid adieu to Friends, we'd like to congratulate the network's prominent news magazine, Dateline NBC, for its integrity. On Tuesday, the show did not cave in to the media's craven obsession with fad and fashion by airing an episode about the current prison scandal in Iraq, but stuck to its guns with a special "Farewell Friends" episode. Kudos to Katie Couric! Bravo, Matt Lauer!
Make art, not war?
* How can the arts act as an agent for political change? In two free events open to the public and sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, panelists will explore the question. They include Jerry Sorkin of Wayne, who has brought Israelis and Palestinians together in a number of musical events; Marwan Kreidie, president of the Arab-American Community Development Corp.; Leah Purcell, an Australian theater director who applies the arts to conflict resolution; and Itzik Becher, who manages Israeli artists. Both hour-long discussions are at the Kimmel Center, at 6 p.m. The first one, tomorrow, precedes the Kimmel concert by Israeli singer Chava Alberstein; the second, on May 29, comes before a concert by Arab composer and musician Simon Shaheen and the Near Eastern Music Ensemble.
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Staff writer Howard Shapiro contributed to this report. This column contains information from Inquirer wire services.