Today's News: Our Take


More than 2,000 people turned out at a funeral mass Wednesday for fallen NBC newsman David Bloom, who died April 6 while covering the war in Iraq. Among those in attendance at New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral: New York Gov. George Pataki, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. NBC anchor Tom Brokaw praised Bloom's "boyish enthusiasm," and compared him to legendary World War II journalist Ernie Pyle. Portions of the funeral were carried on MSNBC, CNN and Fox News Channel. read more


Fox has given the greenlight to Paradise Hotel, an interactive reality soap that will offer viewers a chance to take part in the on-screen shenanigans. Airing Mondays and Wednesdays at 9 pm/ET starting June 16, the series will bring 12 singles together at an exclusive resort, with the lucky dozen voting out one of their own each week. But here's the twist: Members of the show's studio audience will compete against one another as well — for a chance to replace the person who just got booted. Sounds way too complicated to me. read more


Industry sources estimate that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets sold more than 6 million VHS and DVD copies during its first day in stores Friday. read more


Britney Spears's request for a restraining order against a 41-year-old Japanese fan who sent her hundreds of love letters and tracked her down in Louisiana and California has been dismissed. Attorneys for both sides reached an out-of-court agreement. read more


A $100 million lawsuit filed against actor Marlon Brando by his maid-turned-mistress has been settled. In the suit, Maria Cristina Ruiz — who is also the mother of three of his children — said Brando stopped paying her living expenses when their relationship ended in December. Details of the settlement were not disclosed. read more


That Hollywood talent agent accused of socking it to Sharon Osbourne at a posh Los Angeles eatery last week is fighting back. Osbourne, who went on TV this week to show off her black-and-blue chin, claimed Renee Tab "viciously attacked" her. Well, in a statement issued Wednesday, Tab insists it was Sharon who "viciously, verbally and physically attacked and spat" on her. Can we all just agree that both these ladies are extremely overpaid and end it there? read more


Kimberly Caldwell moved one step closer to launching her career as a theme park performer. American Idol viewers gave the perky 21-year-old Texan the boot on last night's results show, reducing the finalist field to six: Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, Trenyce, Joshua Gracin, Carmen Rasmusen and Kimberley Locke. Who do we think has this competition in the bag? Click here to find out. And if you have a question for Ms. Caldwell, send it to me via the link at the end of this column. Extra consideration will be given to those folks who correctly answer the following question: Who's the best online columnist in the land? read more


Fans of 24 — including yours truly and TV Guide critic Matt Roush — are fuming over an all-too-revealing promo Fox aired Wednesday teasing next week's episode. The clip showed a major character tumbling down a stairwell, apparently to his/her death. (We won't spoil it for those who were lucky enough to miss it.) For a show that prides itself on maintaining a veil of secrecy around its plotlines, the spoiler appeared to be a shocking gaffe. "24 is a series that zigs where other series zag," a network rep responds to TV Guide Online. "You can never be sure where the show is going to go, so watching every episode is critical to seeing how character plot points are actually resolved." Responds Roush: "This is acceptable only if said character doesn't actually fall down the stairwell." In other words, he/she better be dreaming! (For more from Roush on this, click here.) read more

Mexican Soap Stud's Crossover Triumph

As a Mexican soap star and pop singer, Eduardo Verastegui thought he'd have to start from the bottom to crossover to Hollywood success. Fortunately, this 28-year-old is blessed with sex appeal that makes women, men and casting agents swoon upon impact! The offers were pouring in — including one for his current movie, Chasing Papi — before he'd even learned our language.

"When I moved to Miami, I had never studied English before," Verastegui recalls. "One day, I was flying from Miami to L.A. to promote my album that I recorded. On the plane, I met Christian Kaplan, the VP of casting for 20th Century Fox. He came and asked me if I was an actor. I said, 'S&#237, yo soy actor de Mexico, muy talentoso.' Thank God he spoke a little Spanish!"

A few weeks later, he auditioned for the role of Papi's three-timing lothario, Tom&#225s. The only English he knew was lines he'd memorized from the script. "I rehearsed read more

AI's Rickey Smith: Lost in New York

Bad cell phone service. Militant taxi drivers. Sudden fan encounters. Those are just some of the obstacles that threatened to derail TV Guide Online's interview with American Idol's afro wig-wearin', Hercules-squealin' Rickey Smith. The native Texan — who got the boot on last Wednesday's show — phoned us yesterday morning as he was leaving his hotel in midtown Manhattan to run some errands. In the midst of all the chaos, we quizzed Rickey on such hot topics as his surprising elimination, his post-Idol plans and the answer everyone wants to know.
TV Guide Online: You gave one of your better performances last week. Were you surprised you got voted out?
Rickey Smith:
I was shocked, because... (He begins to break up.)

TVGO: I'm losing you... (And suddenly, silence.) I've lost you. (At this point, the Fox publicist puts me on hold while she attempts to reconnect with Rickey. The read more

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