Today's News: Our Take


THE FIGHT OF HIS LIFE

Van Halen guitarist Eddie Van Halen is battling cancer. The 44-year-old rocker — who previously denied that he had the disease — confirmed the news on the official Van Halen website; however, he did not identify the type of cancer he is suffering from. (According to The Associated Press, Van Halen underwent a preventive treatment for tongue cancer last May.) "I was told that I'm healthier than ever and beating cancer," his message read. "Although it's hard to say when, there's a good chance I will be cancer-free in the near future." read more

TENOR IN TROUBLE

Opera tenor Placido Domingo has been forced to undergo surgery due to acute pain from an undisclosed ailment. Though he's cancelled some concert dates, Domingo and his physician expect he'll be well enough to do Richard Wagner's The Valkyre in Vienna in mid-May. read more

DRIVEN TO SUCCESS

Could Sylvester Stallone's movie career be back on the fast track? Probably not, but his latest flick, the racecar actioner Driven, finished first at the box office over the weekend with a decent $13.1 million. The film's audience was 60 percent male, which explains why the female-targeted Bridget Jones's Diary continued to thrive despite its new competition. In its third weekend of release, the Renée Zellweger romantic comedy slipped to No. 2 with a still-potent $7.5 million. Rounding out the top five were Spy Kids and Along Came a Spider (tied at No. 3 with $5.7 million) and Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (No. 5 with $4.7 million). Meanwhile, the long-delayed $80 million bad-buzz magnet Town &#038 Country — starring Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn — defied the industry's already lowered expectations by opening at No. 7 with a dismal $3.1 million. Two other newcomers also read more

STRIKE UPDATE

Talks between major studios and the Writers Guild of America — whose contract expires Tuesday at midnight — continued over the weekend. Progress reportedly is being made and industry wags predict that both sides will agree to extend the deadline. Meanwhile, discussions between actors and producers are set to begin May 10. The actors' pact runs out on July 1. read more

BEST BUDS

Former child star Macaulay Culkin says Michael Jackson remains one of his "very best friends in the world." The now 20-year-old Home Alone actor told New York magazine that he and the King of Pop "had very similar experiences in childhood... We're both going to be eight years old forever in some place because we never had a chance to be eight when we actually were." Culkin — currently appearing in the Off-Broadway play Madame Melville — goes on to say that Jackson's Neverland ranch was a kid's dream, with "every kind of soda in the world there, every kind of candy. A two-floor arcade, a carnival and a movie theater... [it's] still the only place on earth where I feel absolutely, 100 percent comfortable." read more

ROLLING IN D'OH

The primary voices behind The Simpsons are this close to signing a new deal with 20th Century Fox Television that would hike their respective salaries from $70,000 to $100,000 an episode for the next two seasons, Variety reports. What's more, the pact includes a $1 million bonus as well as an option for a third season that will pay them $125,000 per episode. read more

CNN ANCHOR EXPOSED

CNN is standing by its hiring of NYPD Blue alum Andrea Thompson as its newest Headline News anchor — despite the nude photos of her circulating on the Internet. The offending images are still photos from her 1986 Italian film Manhattan Gigolo, as well as some magazine photos. "I did pose for Black and White magazine, a prestigious, artistic publication, several years ago," Thompson said. "I did this as a piece of art, and make no apologies for the creative decisions I've made as an artist in my 20-year career." Added CNN: "We accept Andrea Thompson's explanation regarding the photos in question." read more

SHORT CUTS

Sharon Stone will narrate the kids' animated series Harold and the Purple Crayon, premiering in December on HBO Family... NBC's midseason comedy Kristin, featuring Broadway actress Kristin Chenowith, has been pushed back to a summer debut on June 5... Diane Keaton and Jennifer Jason Leigh have signed on to co-star in the CBS teleplay Crossed Over, based on writer Beverly Lowry's book about her friendship with convicted killer Karla Faye Tucker, the first woman ever executed in Texas. — Daniel R. Coleridge read more

NICE GIRL FINISHES LAST

Elisabeth Filarski, the sweet-natured 23-year-old footwear designer from Boston, became the latest castaway to get booted off Survivor: The Australian Outback. But the biggest shocker was how last night's episode revolved around Colby, whose victory in a Reward Challenge earned him a Pontiac Aztek SUV, a hot shower — and a full-course meal served by a mystery guest: his very own mother! Filarski's ouster leaves the Texan stud to duke it out with Tina and Keith in next week's season finale. For more, see this week's recap. read more

Popular Finale Packs a Punch


After including in its first season's finale death, dismemberment, a double wedding and Delta Burke, Popular no longer boasts an overstocked arsenal. So, for its sophomore-year showstopper (airing May 18 at 9 pm/ET), the WB's schizophrenic high-school dramedy is unleashing its secret weapon: Tammy Lynn Michaels as Nicole Julian, the megabitch with the cruelest intentions since Winona Ryder's Heathers clique.

"In this episode, Nicole's behavior will make the rest of her actions seem angelic," the actress promises TV Guide Online. "It's out of control. At the table reading, we usually get through the scripts guffawing. This time, all you could hear was, 'Oh my God! Oh my God!'"

Alas, Popular may not merely be ending the semester with a bang; as the WB has yet to register the series for the fall, it could also be winding up its entire run — a possibility on whic read more

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