Let the benefits begin: The first of what will doubtless be many musical benefits for victims of Hurricane Katrina will be an hour-long live concert airing on NBC this Friday, with Tim McGraw, Harry Connick Jr. and Wynton Marsalis headlining. Leonardo DiCaprio is also supposed to appear, with Matt Lauer playing emcee. MTV, VH1 and CMT have also all announced concerts that will take place in the coming weeks. Louisiana native McGraw wrote that he's heartbroken by the devastation the hurricane caused. "It's at times like these that each of us must work together to provide life-saving aid to those in terrible need." And New Orleans-born Ellen DeGeneres said she's been crying a lot while watching the news come out of the area. "New Orleans is my hometown, and it's gone," she told the Daily News on Wednesday. "I literally watched CNN and sobbed all night long. ... I don't think people have grasped this, it's a million people who are homeless." (BBC, E! Online, N.Y. Daily News)
One less accessory to worry about: As of five minutes after midnight on Thursday, Martha Stewart is a free woman. Her house arrest officially ended with the dawning of Sept. 1, meaning she's snipped the tracking bracelet off her ankle with scissors and probably wrapped it -- tastefully -- to hand it over to authorities sometime later in the day. So ends what Stewart has called a "hideous" confinement, which kept her pent up on her 153-acre Westchester estate for all but 48 hours a week. A federal probation officer in New York said all offenders are allowed to take the tracking devices off themselves once house arrest is over. "We advise the offender in advance that unless they otherwise hear from us, at 12:01 a.m., they can cut the bracelet off -- it's just a rubber band," he said, and then, "all monitoring will cease." (AP)
London calling: Joining the celebrities-naming-babies-after-cities trend, Britney Spears says she's thinking about calling her baby London, if it's a boy. "Ever since I was a little girl I thought, for a boy I love Sean Preston -- or London Preston. Isn't London pretty?" London is also where she and hubby Kevin Federline started going out. And though she's doubtless had the ultrasound by now, Spears says she isn't sure what gender the baby is going to be, but she has a "feeling" it's going to be a boy. She also has some feelings about how the birth is going to go down: "I have a feeling I'm going to have an operation. I don't know why, but I hope so." (Ananova)
Model Tyson Beckford announced yesterday he's retiring from modeling, and put the blame on Sean "Diddy" Combs and his clothing line, Sean John. "He doesn't understand fashion. If he wasn't in the music business, he wouldn't be in fashion," said Beckford, who used to model for Sean John but filed a breach of contract suit against the fashion company last month. "Sean John has turned me off to the fashion world." ... In more Diddy-related news, the rapper's presence as host of the MTV Video Music Awards did nothing to attract viewers. The Nielsen ratings for the show say that viewers were down 22 percent from last year's show. ... With his new album successfully launched, Kanye West is turning his attention to some old, unfinished business. The rapper filed suit this week against Chicago DJ Eric "E-Smoove" Miller for trying to distribute songs West recorded as a teenager with Miller. The lawsuit says Miller has falsely claimed to have a contract to distribute the music. ... It turns out that Victoria Beckham, aka Posh Spice, does actually read books. After telling a Spanish magazine that she'd never read a book in her life, Beckham now says she reads, but that it's tough to go cover-to-cover as a mom: "I always start them, get distracted, and never seem to get the time to finish. I'm sure all mothers with three boys know what I mean."
Salman Rushdie on the curse of celebrity: "The problem is that when you are well known there is a desire in some bits of the media to write about you at times when you don't have a book to talk about. They talk about all kinds of nonsense. In the same way Islamic radicalism is one of the curses of our times, so is celebrity culture." (Yahoo! News)
A number of good documentaries tonight: on the anniversary of the Beslan hostage crisis, HBO has "Children of Beslan" (8 p.m. EDT); A&E, for the first time, follows the last 102 minutes of the World Trade Center in "The Anatomy of September 11th" (10 p.m. EDT); or, for somewhat lighter fare, MTV airs a behind-the-scenes look at Kanye West's new record with "Kanye West Makes an Album" (10:30 p.m. EDT).
-- Scott Lamb