- The Washington Times - Monday, June 8, 2009

Comeback near

Arista Records says the date for singer Whitney Houston’s comeback has been set for Sept. 1. Although this will be her first compact disc in seven years, there’s no word so far on a title for the album.

The 45-year-old superstar is one of the best-selling artists of all time, but in recent years, she has been defined more by drug problems, marital woes and erratic behavior than by her Grammy-winning voice.

Lately, Miss Houston has appeared to return to her pop-princess form. She wowed the crowd when she performed at her mentor Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party in February.

Attacker sentenced

A woman who attacked Terri Seymour, Simon Cowell’s former girlfriend, outside the “American Idol” finale in Los Angeles has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery.

Janice Thibodeaux, 33, entered the plea Thursday and was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to take anger-management classes.

Miss Thibodeaux also was ordered to stay away from Miss Seymour, who is a correspondent for the “Extra” entertainment program.

Miss Thibodeaux told RadarOnline.com that she attacked Miss Seymour on May 19 as revenge for Mr. Cowell playfully choking fellow Idol judge Paula Abdul on the “Idol” show a week earlier.

Police arrested her after seeing her try to choke Miss Seymour, who is seeking a lengthy civil restraining order.

Sweet Tweet

Kimora Lee Simmons didn’t keep her thousands of followers waiting for long.

The former-supermodel-turned-CEO tweeted about the arrival of her son with boyfriend Djimon Hounsou, following with the baby’s name on Wednesday, according to the New York Daily News, which cites a report from People.com.

Kenzo Lee Hounsou was welcomed by the couple, older sisters Ming Lee, 9, and Aoki Lee, 6, and Kimora’s 18,000 followers on Twitter. Kenzo is the couple’s first child together; she was born May 30 and weighed 8 pounds.

Franco cancels

Actor James Franco says he cannot give a commencement speech Friday at the University of California at Los Angeles because of conflicts with preproduction demands for his next film.

The “Pineapple Express” star, however, had been the object of opposition from students who said he was not the right fit for the commencement speech. Mr. Franco, 31, is perhaps best known for his supporting role in the “Spider-Man” films.

“The problem with him as a speaker comes down to the fact he was a peer for so many of us,” UCLA senior Erin Moore said. “He was in our class. He’s not a role model. And he hasn’t had time to accomplish anything with his degree.” In March, Miss Moore set up a Facebook page called “UCLA Students Against James Franco as Commencement Speaker.”

So who is filling the void? The answer is Linkin Park lead guitarist and UCLA alumnus Brad Delson. He received a bachelor of arts degree in communication studies in 1999.

Beyond ‘Slumdog’

The child stars of the Oscar-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire” said Sunday they still hoped to emulate the success of Hollywood’s top names.

Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, who played the younger versions of the three key characters in the rags-to-riches tale set in Mumbai, sang and danced at a Community Chest event on their first visit to Hong Kong.

Ayush, who played the child version of Jamal, said he wanted to be an actor when he grew up, just like his father. He thinks Brad Pitt is the best actor in the world. “He’s very cute, and he’s a very nice actor.”

Rubina, who played the young Latika, said her idol was Angelina Jolie, the “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” star who is Mr. Pitt’s partner.

For Azharuddin, who played Jamal’s elder brother, his hero in the movie industry is prominent Bollywood actor Salman Khan.

The trio attracted a large crowd in a shopping mall as they sang “Jai Ho!” the movie’s theme song. One teenage bystander broke into tears when she was allowed to pose with the three for a photograph.

A first in Riyadh

A few hundred Saudis — men only — braved a small band of religious hard-liners to take part in a historic event in Riyadh on Saturday night: the first public showing of a commercial film in decades in the Saudi capital.

With bags of popcorn and soft drinks in their laps, more than 300 men in Riyadh’s huge King Fahd Cultural Centre cheered, whistled and clapped when the first scenes of the Saudi-made “Menahi” hit the screen and the film’s score erupted in surround sound.

Businessman Abdul Mohsen al-Mani, who brought his two sons to the film, was ecstatic after being denied public cinema for about three decades.

“This is the first step in a peaceful revolution,” he told Agence France-Presse. “I don’t want my two sons to grow up in the dark. … I told them that in the future, they will talk about today like a joke.”

No one is certain that it will launch a thriving public cinema industry, as there is strident opposition from clerics who regard film, music and other entertainment as violating Islamic teachings.

• Compiled by Richard Slusser from wire, Web and staff reports

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