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Monitor

Diane Sawyer’s promotion, the Tila Tequila-Shawne Merriman feud, and the ”Spider-Man” musical made news the week of September 11

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BIRTHS
Private Practice actor Taye Diggs, 38, and his wife, actress Idina Menzel, 38, had their first child, son Walker, on Sept. 2…. Actress Marley Shelton, 35, and her husband, movie producer Beau Flynn, 39, welcomed their first child, daughter West, on Sept. 6 in Los Angeles.

EXPECTING
Singer Lisa Loeb, 41, and husband Roey Hershkovitz, 31, announced Sept. 2 that they are expecting their first child this winter…. The Young and the Restless star Michelle Stafford, 43, is expecting her first child, a girl, in December via a surrogate.

RECOVERING
Cate Blanchett, 40, suffered a minor head injury Sept. 2 while acting in a preview performance of A Streetcar Named Desire in Sydney, Australia. Costar Joel Edgerton accidentally hit Blanchett in the head when he threw a prop radio during a fight scene. The rest of the night’s show was canceled, but Blanchett, who felt fine shortly afterward, returned to work the following evening.

WEDDING
Former American Idol finalist Jim Verraros, 26, wed entrepreneur Bill Brennan, 42, on Sept. 6 in Oak Brook, Ill.

HIATUS
Starting this month, Grey’s Anatomy star Katherine Heigl, 30, will be taking a five-episode break from ABC’s medical drama to shoot the movie Life as We Know It, sources confirmed to EW on Sept. 2.

SPLIT
Dancing With the Stars’ Karina Smirnoff, 31, and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, 29, parted ways last weekend after getting engaged in December.

COURTS
Reality star Tila Tequila, 27, whose real name is Tila Nguyen, signed a citizen’s arrest warrant on Sept. 6 accusing her boyfriend, NFL linebacker Shawne Merriman, 25, of choking and restraining her when she tried to leave his residence in Poway, Calif. Merriman, who plays for the San Diego Chargers, was arrested that morning and released the same day after posting bail. Merriman said that he did not harm Nguyen, who he claimed appeared to be intoxicated at the time. Police say Nguyen had no apparent injuries, and no charges have been filed against Merriman so far…. A lawsuit between the trustees for author J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate and New Line Cinema (a division of Time Warner, which also owns EW) has been resolved, the respective parties announced Sept. 8. The settlement paves the way for New Line to produce two new movies based on the author’s novel The Hobbit. The films, which are being directed by Guillermo del Toro, are tentatively scheduled to be released in 2011 and 2012…. On Sept. 4, an L.A. judge sentenced A League of Their Own‘s Lori Petty, 45, to five years’ probation for running into a 14-year-old skateboarder while driving under the influence in May. The boy’s injuries were minor…. Simon Cowell, 49, is being sued by private chef Meeshell Block, who’s accusing the American Idol judge’s staff of stealing or throwing away her shoes, according to papers filed Aug. 25 in L.A. The chef claims she visited Cowell’s Beverly Hills residence in July for a ”test cooking” to become his personal chef. Block says she accidentally left her sneakers behind at Cowell’s home and has since been unable to retrieve them. She is seeking $661 for the shoes and orthopedic insoles. Cowell could not be reached for comment.

DEATH
Longtime Variety reporter Army Archerd, 87, whose 52-year-old ”Just for Variety” column became famous for breaking Hollywood gossip, died Sept. 8 of cancer at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

MEMORIALS
On Sept. 3, Michael Jackson was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif. The outdoor service was reportedly attended by about 200 guests, including Macaulay Culkin, Elizabeth Taylor, and the late singer’s ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley. Jackson’s three children — Prince, Paris, and Blanket — placed a crown on their father’s coffin to honor his status as the King of Pop…. Adam ”DJ AM” Goldstein, who was found dead in his New York City apartment on Aug. 28, was buried Sept. 2 during a small funeral in L.A. A memorial service was held the following night at the Palladium concert hall in Hollywood.
Additional Reporting by Stewart Allen


Can Diane Sawyer Save the Evening News?
The quest to keep network news relevant took a promising turn last week when ABC announced that Good Morning America‘s Diane Sawyer would take over for the retiring Charlie Gibson, 66, as World News Tonight‘s anchor in January. Though the 63-year-old Sawyer tried to play it low-key by saying ”There is no one like Charlie Gibson and it is an enormous honor to be asked to join the terrific broadcast he and the great team of journalists have built at World News,” her promotion has shaken up the ailing industry. For the first time ever, two of the three broadcast networks’ evening news programs will be anchored by women (the other being CBS’ Katie Couric, 52). Naturally, the speculation has already begun as to whether Sawyer can beat Couric and close the gap on NBC’s Brian Williams — to say nothing of the sexist chatter about claws and catfights that is sure to arise once the battle begins. In the end, it’s probably too much to ask these women to fix what so many men before them couldn’t. Viewership for the three nightly news programs is disappointingly low (all three shows are down by 14 percent or more versus five years ago), with more Americans trusting entertainers like The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart or killjoys like Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly to serve as a primary source of news. Granted, that could be because there was never anything good happening on the Big Three news shows. Come January, however, that may be about to change.
Lynette Rice


Spidey Swings Back to Broadway
Looks like the Broadway adaptation of Spider-Man is crawling back to life. Nearly a month after production on Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was halted due to monetary setbacks, a rep for the musical has confirmed that it’s again on track. According to industry buzz, Bono, who co-wrote the score, enlisted the help of wealthy pals to jump-start production. As for the cast? Evan Rachel Wood (Mary Jane) and Alan Cumming (the Green Goblin) were rumored to have been released from their contracts, but Wood’s rep says she’s still on board and denies she was ever set loose. (Cumming’s rep was unavailable for comment.) Our Spidey sense tells us the show’s troubles aren’t completely over, but for now, we’re just glad Turn Off the Dark is back on.
Kate Ward