The Fix

Drudge vs. Rock -- settling an old score? Reality show contestant commits suicide. Plus: Kobe to take the stand for Michael?

By Salon Staff
Published February 15, 2005 11:23AM (EST)

Turn On:
You could make Tuesday night a PBS evening and watch "Nova: Saving the National Treasures" and "Independent Lens: On a Roll: Disability and the American Dream" (check local listings). Or you could punish yourself for eating all those Valentine's chocolates by watching "A Dr. Phil Primetime Special: Romance Rescue" (CBS, 9 p.m. EST).

Morning Briefing:
Rock on: Chris Rock apparently needn't worry that his Oscar hosting gig is in jeopardy after all. Academy Awards producer Gil Cates says he's none too concerned about the comedian's recent riff on the show in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, in which he said he rarely watched awards shows and called them "idiotic." "The Academy is excited about Chris Rock hosting this year's Oscar telecast and looking forward to a very funny evening with him," Cates said on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. "Chris' comments over the past few weeks are meant to be humorous digs at the show that some people, obviously including Chris himself, think may be a bit too stuffy." On Monday, the Drudge Report claimed that certain members were plotting to have Rock booted as emcee, but Cates insisted, "The Academy has heard no grumbling from its members and has no intention of even suggesting that Chris step aside." The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has also issued a statement in defense of Rock, lambasted by Drudge for saying "What straight black man sits there and watches the Oscars? Show me one." According to GLAAD executive director Joan Garry, "Chris Rock isn't making fun of gays -- he's poking fun at the Oscars. It's shtick ..."

Also, gossip followers with long memories will recall that Drudge and Rock have clashed before, which raises the possibility that the whole Rock brouhaha could be an attempt to settle an old Drudge grudge. Back in March 2003, when Rock was promoting "Head of State," Drudge reported that the studio behind the film, DreamWorks, forbid him to diss President Bush in interviews, which both Rock and DreamWorks denied. Rock later said that if he ever met Matt Drudge, he would "take my red-blooded American foot and put it up his un-American backside." Ouch. (Reuters, the Fix archives)

The dark side of reality: A contestant in the upcoming Mark Burnett/NBC boxing reality TV show "The Contender," set to begin airing next month, has committed suicide. But the show's producers insist that the death of the 23-year-old contestant, Najai Turpin, a middleweight from Philadelphia whose girlfriend and 2-year-old daughter also appear on the show, will not affect the show, though it will likely be acknowledged in an on-screen message at the end of an episode somewhere along the line. "Nothing changes. I'm not even going to make any edits because it's real," Burnett told the press. NBC is setting up a fund to aid Turpin's family. (N.Y. Times)

Roll out the red carpet: Are Michael Jackson's attorneys planning to pack the witness box and dazzle the jury with big-name stars? During jury selection for Jackson's child-molestation trial on Monday, defense attorneys rattled off a list of potential witnesses for their client, including Kobe Bryant, Quincy Jones, Larry King, Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor, Stevie Wonder, David Blaine, Deepak Chopra, Steve Harvey, Nick Carter, Maury Povich, Steve Wynn, Martin Bashir and Ed Bradley. Jackson's two eldest children, Paris, 6, and Prince Michael, 8, may also be called in to testify on behalf of their father. "You can't buy a ticket for performances like that," Laurie Levenson, a professor at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, told the New York Times. (N.Y. Times)

Eason down the road: Former CNN exec Eason Jordan may be out of a job after holding forth in Davos, Switzerland, but he may be plus one girlfriend: Sharon Stone. Rumor has it that Jordan and Stone hooked up during the World Economic Conference in Davos, Switzerland, at which Jordan made the controversial comments that led to his resignation from CNN last week. Jordan recently split from Mariane Pearl, the widow of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl for whom Jordan left his wife of 16 years, and was said to be "psyched" about his relationship with Stone, whom he's been referring to as his "girlfriend." But Stone rep insists that the two are just "friends." (Lloyd Grove's Lowdown)

Also: Alan Keyes' 19-year-old lesbian daughter, Maya, spoke out at a gay rights rally in Maryland yesterday, and said that, though her conservative father had condemned Vice President Cheney's gay daughter, Mary, for what he labelled her "selfish hedonism," she knew her parents "are still always going to love me." They have, however, stopped paying her college tuition. (Rush and Molloy) ... Ashley Olsen is suing the National Enquirer for a story in which it claims she's been caught up in a "drug scandal." (Rush and Molloy) ... Split or no split, Brad Pitt threw Jennifer Aniston a big 36th birthday party over the weekend at the Beverly Hills home they still share, with guests including Gwen Stefani, Mel Gibson and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Rush and Molloy) ... The Grammy Awards may have been a critical hit, but they got their worst ratings in a decade; the show's estimated 18.8 million viewers constitutes a 28 percent drop from the 2004 Grammys. (Associated Press) ... Mattel is marketing a Barbie-like doll in the likeness of Lindsay Lohan, complete with red-carpet attire, velvet rope and director's chair. (Associated Press) ... Janis Joplin's estate has announced that it will participate in "Search for the Pearl," a reality TV talent show in which vocalists across the country vie to be the next Joplin, set to air sometime this year. (Associated Press) ... You know how yesterday we told you that former teacher Mary Kay Letourneau was set to marry the former student she went to prison for raping when he was 12? Well, we neglected to link to the couple's bridal registry, which can be found here. ( via Seattle Post-Intelligencer) ... "Apprentice" contestant Tara Dowdell is dating Matt Dillon, and has been on and off for more than a year now. (Page Six) ... Former New York Times movie critic Elvis Mitchell and producer Deborah Schindler have been tapped as executive production consultants heading up Columbia Pictures' New York development and production office. (Movie City News)

-- Amy Reiter

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