It may put a crimp on your Friday night plans, but tonight George W. Bush and John Kerry meet for their second debate, town-hall style, at Washington University in St. Louis (9 p.m. ET, networks and cable news channels). If you get desperate for air, you can always click over to "Take My Kids, Please!" a new reality show that lets parents and singles swap lives for a weekend (10 p.m. ET, WE).
Sneaking into prison under cover of night ... a good thing? Martha Stewart asked for special permission to sneak into the minimum-security prison in Alderson, W.Va., where she will serve her five-month sentence hours before the check-in deadline of 2 p.m. today in order to avoid the throngs of photographers and reporters she knew would be gathered outside. She'd spent the past few weeks visiting with family and friends and lining up visitors to cheer up her stay, which will last until March 8. "Like anybody in this situation, this is not one of her happiest days, but she's ready for this, and I think she'll handle it with grace," one of her lawyers told the press. Stewart herself wrote a note to fans posted on her Web site: "Dear Friends, By the time you read this, I will have reported to a minimum-security prison in Alderson, West Virginia, to begin serving my five-month sentence... While I am away, my updates here will be less frequent, if not altogether impossible. But please know this change is only an unfortunate reflection of my current circumstances, and in no way diminishes my commitment to my life's work or to the friends, colleagues, customers and supporters who make it possible." (N.Y. Daily News, MarthaTalks.com)
L is for large outcry ... maybe lawsuit? Abercrombie & Fitch's T-shirt designers might want to consider the joys of the plain, slogan-free T. The company is in hot water again over the message on one of its shirts: "L Is for Loser" ... illustrated with an image of a gymnast making an L with his body on the rings. USA Gymnastics is asking the store to remove the shirts from their stores -- and is threatening a boycott until it does. "No individual, regardless of race, gender, age, intelligence or athletic ability, can or should be deemed a loser," the organization's president wrote in a letter of complaint to Abercrombie & Fitch's CEO, adding that his sport "provides a great foundation in physical fitness and offers skills for a lifetime." (Associated Press)
Yes, there will be a "Simple Life 3": Nicole Richie has overcome reported misgivings about sharing the spotlight with Paris Hilton for another season of "The Simple Life." (Friends say that the two got into a bit of a feud during the filming of "The Simple Life 2.") Alas, the partying pair will not be able to don political kneepads in Washington, D.C., as the show's producers had hoped. The reality show's creators had petitioned lawmakers on Capitol Hill in hopes of securing internships for Richie and Hilton, but, alas, no one nibbled. The show's third season will be shot in New York instead. So much for the whole "fish out of water" concept. (Rush and Molloy)
Also: Lindsay Lohan's father has been ordered to check into rehab in order to avoid going to jail for assault (Newsday) ... The Source magazine has ripped into Russell Simmons after he pulled out of the magazine's Hip-Hop Voter Education Rally in Miami this weekend: "Russell Simmons has been exploiting hip-hop for years ... Russell is a serious threat to the advancement of the black community and hip-hop culture because he exploits the perception in corporate America that he represents the views of the hip-hop community when he does not" (Page Six) ... Meanwhile, Simmons' wife, designer Kimora Lee Simmons, is celebrating the release of the Baby Phat/Motorola cellphone: poochy pink plastic, encrusted with real diamonds, and selling for a mere $699.99 (MobileTracker) ... Mary-Kate Olsen has been caught smoking -- or at least it looked like her scrawny hand sticking out of a black SUV clutching a ciggie (Page Six) ... Melissa Etheridge has announced that she has breast cancer, and will cancel her tour to get treatment (Associated Press) ... Tommy Lee is filming a reality show in which he attends University of Nebraska (Associated Press) ... Andie MacDowell and her husband of three years, businessman Rhett Hartzog, who was her high school sweetheart, are getting divorced (Associated Press) ... And J.K. Rowling says she's planning to kill off yet another "Harry Potter" character (The Telegraph)
-- Amy Reiter