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Cheyenne Jackson divorce; 'Downton' return; Kelly Clarkson situation
Entertainment news: Special to the online edition of Windy City Times

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Broadway and TV veteran Cheyenne Jackson, 38, has confirmed that he is divorcing husband Monte Lapka, according to Entertainment Weekly. "Cheyenne Jackson and his husband Monte Lapka have mutually decided to divorce," the two said in a statement. "The couple have been together for 13 years, and were married in New York state two years ago. It is an amicable parting and, understandably, a private matter." Jackson has also confirmed reports that he's joined Alcoholics Anonymous, noting, "I own it. I'm proud of myself," the Huffington Post noted.

PBS chief Paula Kerger has announced that the next season of Downton Abbey will debut in the United States Jan. 5, 2014, and run for eight consecutive weeks, with its finale slated for Feb. 23, 2014, according to . Kerger said that airing the next season months behind the shows U.K. run creates "promotional buzz" for the franchise because "word of mouth travels." The fourth season will feature various guest stars, including Shirley MacLaine, Tom Cullen and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

American Idol/pop singer Kelly Clarkson is such a big fan of author Jane Austen she spent nearly a quarter-million dollars to own the writer's ring (an oval cabochon turquoise set in antique gold) at an English auction. However, Britain has at least temporarily blocked Clarkson from taking the gold-and-turquoise bauble home to the United States, according to USA Today. As is common in Britain (but not the United States), the national culture minister put a temporary export ban on the ring today, hoping to encourage a Brit to buy it and keep it in Britain as a national cultural treasure.

Pornography studio Caballero Video has agreed not to release products with titles and packaging inspired by Ben & Jerry's ice-cream flavors, according to the Huffington Post. The Los Angeles-based video company has agreed to stop marketing titles such as Boston Cream Thigh and Peanut Butter D-Cup. According to Ben & Jerry's lawsuit that was filed last year, 10 titles in Caballero's "Ben & Cherry's" series besmirched the ice-cream maker's name and infringed its trademark.

Months after Cissy Houston's book, Remembering Whitney, hit shelves, the Grammy-winning goospel singer is extending an olive branch to her estranged granddaughter, Bobbi Kristina, according to the Hollywood Reporter. In an open letter released to the press, Cissy tells Bobbi Kristina she hopes "one day you'll read [the book] and understand that I just wanted to let the world see some of My Nippy." Cissy also addresses Bobbi Kristina's engagement to Nick Gordon, often called the granddaughter's adopted brother; Cissy says she doesn't approve but adds, "I'm supposed to worry about you."

Singer Rihanna has won a legal battle to stop Topshop from selling T-shirts bearing her image, according to Digital Spy. She sued Arcadia Group Brands Ltd, seeking a reported $5 million in damages for selling an unknown quantity of T-shirts in Topshop through 2011 and 2012. In a hearing at London's High Court, the judge ruled that while there is "no such thing as a general right by a famous person to control the reproduction of their image" and "the mere sale by a trader of a T-shirt bearing an image of a famous person is not an act of passing off," he considered Topshop to be at fault in this case.

At least one American Idol judge is now known. According to, Keith Urban is returning next season. Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly made the announcement during the Aug. 1 Television Critics Association panel. Talks with former judge are Jennifer Lopez reportedly ongoing, added. Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Randy Jackson—who sat on last year's panel—all confirmed they were departing the veteran singing competition

Out gay actor John Barrowman was reportedly bombarded with anti-gay messages on Twitter after he married his longtime partner, Scott Gill, on July 2, according to the UK Mirror. "I don't get it," Barrowman told the Mirror. "Some of the comments were outrageously vile. Quoting lines from the Bible." He then added, "I won't tolerate it. People like that are banned on my Twitter account. I tell them to f*** off." The Scottish-American Barrowman and Gill, a British architect, spend a lot of time in the United States, living in Palm Springs, Calif., with dogs Jack and Harris.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin sent a letter to the heads of the six major U.S. film studios and the Motion Picture Association of America regarding the new Russian law criminalizing "homosexual propaganda," according to a press release. "There are few industries better positioned to help bring justice to LGBT Russians than yours," Griffin wrote in the letter. "You have never failed to lead in the past. Now, I'm asking you to act again and to act quickly—before even more Russians have their lives destroyed by an unjust law." Foreigners, such as those visiting Russia for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, will not only be fined but also face arrest and up to 15 days in jail, according to the new law.

Dustin Lance Black, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter for Milk, will write a semi-autobiographical eight-hour miniseries for ABC about his background in gay-rights activism and his Mormon upbringing, according to the Huffington Post. This will actually be a return to the small screen for Black, who began his writing career on the HBO series Big Love, which also dealt with Mormon life. Black is also currently working on an adaptation of Jon Krakauer's book Under the Banner of Heaven, which deals with a mass murder within the Mormon church, as well as a forthcoming earthquake disaster movie with J.J. Abrams.

Four months after revealing she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, actress Valerie Harper has started working on a new TV movie, according to US Weekly. UP cable channel confirmed to The Associated Press that Harper is filming The Town That Came A-Courtin' in Canada. Harper announced to the public in March that she had been diagnosed with the rare condition leptomeningeal carcinomatosis in January.

Denzel Washington is returning to Broadway, in a revival of Lorraine Hansberry's beloved drama A Raisin in the Sun—and he'll be joined by Diahann Carroll, making her first appearance on the Great White Way in more than 30 years, according to USA Today. Carroll last appeared on Broadway in a 1982 production of Agnes of God. The cast will also feature Anika Noni Rose as Walter's sister, Beneatha; Sophie Okenedo as his wife, Ruth; and Stephen McKinley Henderson as his colleague Bobo.

Anthony Rapp—who starred as Mark in the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Rent—will join former Rent cast member Idina Menzel in the new Tom Kitt-Brian Yorkey musical If/Then, which will premiere in Washington, D.C. this fall prior to a 2014 Broadway arrival, according to . He also joins Tony Award winner LaChanze (The Color Purple, Once On This Island, Ragtime), who will portray Kate, "an elementary school teacher and new neighbor of Elizabeth, played by Menzel."

Tony and Academy Award winner Catherine Zeta-Jones will receive the Ambassador for the Arts Award Sept. 29 at the NYC Dance Alliance Foundation's Bright Lights Shining Stars Gala at NYU's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, noted. Zeta-Jones won the Tony Award in 2010 for her performance in A Little Night Music and the Oscar in 2003 for her performance in the film adaptation of Chicago.

The View's Joy Behar made her exit from the show in a pre-taped final episode airing Aug. 9, according to the New York Post. The tribute show, hosted by comic Mario Cantone, was called, "This Was Your Life on 'The View," with Behar's most memorable clips playing and her best friends showing up to surprise her. Spoiler: Among those who appeared were former View co-host Meredit Vieira, Alan Alda, Joan Rivers, Susie Essman and Regis Philbin.

Oprah Winfrey has made it clear where she stands regarding the N-word, according to USA Today. She told Parade magazine, "You cannot be my friend and use that word around me. It shows my age, but I feel strongly about it. I always think of the millions of people who heard that as their last word as they were hanging from a tree." Lee Daniels—who directed the new movie The Butler, which stars Winfrey and Forest Whitaker—said he had used the word "quite a bit, until Oprah sat me down and talked to me about its power."

Russia has been in the news quite a bit lately—and now Lady Gaga is connected. According to Digital Spy, the "Bad Romance" singer has been accused of breaching immigration law during a recent visit to the country. The singer performed in Saint Petersburg last year on her world tour, prompting accusations from Russian politicians of promoting "gay propaganda" during the show. Local politician Vitaly Milonov—who previously unsuccessfully targeted Madonna for the same charge—has requested the prosecutor general launch an investigation into Gaga's stay in Russia.

Sacha Baron Cohen will not be portraying Freddie Mercury in an upcoming biographical film, the New York Tiimes reported. The project, which was announced in 2010, would have seen Cohen play Mercury, the flamboyant rock star and front man of Queen, in the era surrounding that band's performance at the 1985 Live Aid benefit concert. Cohen has withdrawn from the project, citing creative differences: He wanted a grittier treatment of Mercury, who died of AIDS in 1991, while the surviving Queen bandmates were reportedly hoping for a film with a lighter feel.

Bravo is renewing the series Million Dollar Listing: New York for a third season, according to . The reality show about a trio of real estate agents closed out its second season last night with a viewership and demo high. The second season's real-estate agents included Ryan Serhant, Fredrik Eklund and Luis D. Ortiz; Eklund, who is openly gay, is a former gay-porn star, according to .

Jamie Lee Curtis was rushed to the hospital after getting into a serious car accident in Venice, Calif., according to Fox News. Curtis was a passenger in a car that crashed into another vehicle. The accident sent one other passenger to the hospital, but Curtis was released a short time later with minor injuries. After the crash, Curtis reportedly called Jodie Foster, who came to her aid before the ambulance arrived.

Actor-singer Darren Criss remembered late Glee co-star Cory Monteith while appearing on the talk show Conan, according to the Huffington Post. "We're picking up the pieces now," Criss told Conan O'Brien. "Cory ... was a really funny guy, had a great sense of humor and he loved life, and he always took care of his friends and wanted his friends to be happy, so it's only right that we, you know, try to start and smile again, try and laugh again. It's something that he would've wanted." Season 5 of "Glee" kicks off Sept. 26 with a two-part Beatles-themed story, followed by the tribute to Monteith's Finn Hudson in the third episode.

Broadway and Beyond! Celebrating Theatre & Dance—Career Transition For Dancers' 28th Anniversary Jubilee will be held Oct. 8 at New York City Center, noted. A highlight of the event will undoubtedly be four-time Tony winner Liza Minnelli presenting the 2013 Rolex Dance Award to Ann-Margret. In addition to the Tonys, Minnelli has won an Oscar, a special "Legends" Grammy, two Golden Globe Awards and an Emmy, and is the recipient of the 2012 Rolex Dance Award.

Ellen DeGeneres confirmed that she'll host the Academy Awards for the second time, noted. She previously hosted the 2007 Oscars, which earned her an Emmy nomination. Paul Lee from ABC, which broadcasts the awards, said DeGeneres "is the consummate entertainer, equally beloved by her peers in the industry, movie fans and television viewers." Another individual from the LGBT community, Neil Patrick Harris, hosted this year's Tonys and will host the Emmys. The Oscar show will be telecast live March 2, 2014, on ABC.

Some reports say that actress Raven-Symone recently came out, voicing her support on marriage equality via Twitter Aug. 2 and saying she's thrilled to finally be able to wed, according to US Weekly. She tweeted, "I can finally get married! Yay government! So proud of you." Symone also retweeted a fan who wrote, "She been out, momma just didn't have time for bullshit." Last year, she addressed rumors about her sexuality by posting, "I'm living my PERSONAL life the way I'm happiest. I'm not one, in my 25 year career to disclose who I'm dating."

Actress Kathy Bates railed against her experience on the canceled NBC series Harry's Law at the Television Critics Association press tour, declaring, "I think they treated us like shit," according to . Asked if it took a special project to get her back on a series after her experience on Harry's Law, Bates replied, "I think they treated us like shit," adding, "they kicked us to the curb."

Transgender filmmaker Lana Wachowski is collaborating with brother Andy on the new film Jupiter Ascending, according to the Huffington Post. The sci-fi movie stars Mila Kunis, Eddie Redmayne and Channing Tatum, who is blond and who sports pointy ears in the role. "I'm a splice. Splices are essentially built in a test tube," he told Collider about his role. "I'm a hybrid wolf and human. And half-albino, so I'm a little defective."

As the CBS show Big Brother goes on, the contestants utter more offensive comments, according to the Huffington Post. House guest Amanda Zuckerman made a "nappy-hair" reference to African-American housemate Candice Stewart, and has also called herself a "fag hag" and used the term "retarded" repeatedly. Host Julie Chen recently vented her frustrations on her show The Talk, saying, "Am I the only one who feels so enraged? This is the third time I've watched that clip, and it does not get any easier."

Adding men has seemingly boosted the ratings for the show America's Next Top Model, according to . The reality series premiered to its largest audience in two years recently, and also gave The CW its best Friday ratings in more than a year. Tyra Banks continues to host the show.

The '90s band Backstreet Boys began its U.S. tour in Chicago—with a hitch. Fans were confused and angered when the act's concert at Northerly Island ended abruptly at 11 p.m. However, according to a Live Nation press release, the ending was connected to a deadline: "Getting this new, state-of-the-art show ready ... caused the doors to be delayed and the beginning of the show to be pushed back. FirstMerit Bank Pavilion has a strict curfew of 11 p.m. Given the [artists were] running behind on setting their production up, the show had to end before the set could be finished." There is yet no word of a return date.

Actor Ben Whishaw (Skyfall; Cloud Atlas) has confirmed speculation that he is gay and happily married to composer Mark Bradshaw, according to . The pair tied the knot in Sydney in 2012, and will celebrate their first anniversary this month. Whishaw had never spoken publicly about his sexuality before, insisting that he wanted to remain quiet about his private life.

Sir Elton John is recovering at his home in Nice, France, after undergoing surgery to remove his appendix, according to the BBC. John, 66, underwent the operation at Monaco's Princess Grace Hospital. Last month, the "Crocodile Rock" singer was forced to cancel a series of summer shows after being diagnosed with appendicitis, including a headline gig in London's Hyde Park. John is next set to receive the inaugural Brits Icon award in September, and is also part of the lineup for the second annual iHeartRadio musical festival that kicks off in Las Vegas Sept. 20.

Out rapper, singer/songwriter and producer Solomon has released a statement regarding Russia's recently passed law banning LGBT propaganda. In part, he says, "It is my hopes that [Russian] President Vladimir Putin puts on a shirt and realizes that there are far more crucial and real issues in his country that needs to be fixed. Bullying and oppressing people is what cowards do. And in my eyes he is a coward. This law is very disgusting." Solomon has toured with singers such as Deborah Cox and Kelly Rowland.

Openly gay singer Levi Kreis has started a campaign for Knoxville, Tenn., not-for-profit service agency Positively Living that revolves around his single "Love Revolution (feat. QBoy)," according to a press release. The campaign involves a remix competition of the song, which is a tribute to a young gay boy caught in the middle of the Stonewall Riots. Submissions are due Sept. 3; see . Positively Living provides housing and care for persons that are homeless and suffering with HIV/AIDS, mental illness, addiction, or physical disability.

Montreal's Osheaga Music Festival drew more than 135,000 people with acts such as The Cure and Beck—but it was the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis show that really had people talking, according to the Huffington Post. Before they began their marriage-equality hit "Same Love," Macklemore (real name: Ben Haggerty) introduced his special guests for the song, lesbian twins Tegan and Sara, to sing the chorus for the song, which is usually reserved for singer-songwriter Mary Lambert.

Italian author Marco Mancassola has written the novel Erotic Lives of the Superheroes, which depicts Batman and Robin as a bickering gay couple whose sex life has gone flat, the Independent reported. The book also imagines the erotic obsessions of Superman, Mister Fantastic and Mystique as the aging process as seemingly dulled their heroic powers. Grant Morrison, who wrote Batman stories for DC Comics, claimed that "he's intended to be heterosexual, but the basis of the whole concept is utterly gay." In addition, George Clooney, who played the crime fighter in the poorly received 1997 film Batman & Robin, said he intended the character to appear gay.

Campus Pride ( ) and Wolfe Video ( ) announced the updated 2013 edition of their annual LGBT Youth Movie Guide ( ), according to a press release. The guide showcases a selection of recommended LGBT movies on DVD and digital for college and university students, including Edge of Seventeen, Were the World Mine, Leave It on the Floor, The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love, But I'm a Cheerleader, Bully, Stonewall Uprising, Boys Don't Cry and XXY, among others.

Meryl Streep is poised to join Jeff Bridges and a fast growing cast in The Giver, an adaptation of the Lois Lowry novel that Phil Noyce will direct, according to . Streep will play the chief elder, the authoritarian charged with keeping order in a society that seems utopian. That control is endangered when a young man (Brenton Thwaites) is chosen to be the receiver of memories of life before the "sameness" movement that numbed the population and created conformism.

Lucy Lawless recently talked about how she'd bring her famous TV character Xena the Warrior Princess back to life, according to . Lawless said, "In my dreams it would be that Renee [O'Connor, who played Gabrielle] and I, and Ted [Raimi], who played Joxer, would come back and basically stick Xena's head back on her and go on a quest. At the end you introduce this new Warrior Princess, hand it over and let them run with it." The show ended its sixth and final season with a shocking beheading of its title character.

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