For The Record: Quick News On Mary J., Mariah, 50, Smashing Pumpkins, Benji Madden, Ashanti, Nelly & More

Blige, Carey visit Oprah's South African school; 50 Cent to sign books in New York; Madden pops the question.

Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Tina Turner, Spike Lee, Chris Tucker and Sidney Poitier were among the stars who turned out in South Africa on Tuesday for the opening of Oprah Winfrey’s leadership academy for girls, The Chicago Tribune reports. “These people have the power to do things,” Winfrey said of her invited guests. “They have voices which can be heard in the U.S. and across the world.” The $40 million school — located in Henley-on-Klip, a town south of Johannesburg — aims to prepare poverty-stricken girls for powerful careers. Winfrey said she plans to open another school for boys and girls in the KwaZulu-Natal province this month. …

Heads up, New York-area readers: 50 Cent will be signing copies of G-Unit Books’ releases — “hip-hop novellas that dare to tell the truth about The Life,” according to a blurb on the books’ back covers — at the Columbus Circle branch of Borders on Thursday at 6 p.m. Co-authors Nikki Turner and K. Elliott will join the rapper/author to sign copies of “Death Before Dishonor,” “The Ski Mask Way” and “Baby Brother.” Bracelets guaranteeing a spot in line will be handed out at the store (located at 10 Columbus Circle in Manhattan) at 9 a.m., and fans are asked to limit their autograph requests to G-Unit Books titles. …

Billy Corgan has updated fans on the progress he’s been making with the forthcoming Smashing Pumpkins comeback LP. In a post on the band’s MySpace page, the singer promised that the reunited act would be touring in 2007 in support of a new album, which will also be in stores this year. He didn’t provide any additional details on the Pumpkins’ plans but did seem excited about his work. “This year for us will see a new album of songs and a world tour of tears, and we truly look forward to playing again for fans young, old and missed,” Corgan wrote. “So yes, tunes are being dusted off, while others are being asked to kindly submit to an upstart millennia and all its asking. … When we opened the lid on this music box, we were pleasantly surprised at the music that played: familiar yet unknown, welcoming but not sentimental, and that is all we can ask.” While Corgan has recruited drummer Jimmy Chamberlin for the revival, it remains to be seen whether former Pumpkins guitarist James Iha and bassist D’Arcy Wretzky will be involved. …

Good Charlotte‘s Benji Madden popped the question to actress Sophie Monk (“Date Movie”) on Christmas Eve while the two were visiting her native Australia. “They are very excited and enjoying this time with family and friends,” a spokesperson for Monk told People magazine. … Ashanti, on the other hand, insists she isn’t heading down the aisle. The R&B songstress issued a statement Tuesday denying Internet reports that she and rapper Nelly were engaged. While the rapper and singer have been a rumored item for two years, they have yet to acknowledge any relationship publicly. Ashanti’s rep confirmed that the singer is not engaged but made no mention of Nelly. … Swedish rockers the Hives are back in work mode, having entered a recording studio to finish the follow-up to 2004′s Tyrannosaurus Hives. The record’s tentative title is said to be The World’s First Perfect Album, but no official announcement on the album’s name or release date has been made. …

A White Zombie box set is in the works, according to Rob Zombie‘s MySpace page. The collection will include “everything we ever recorded … as it was originally recorded,” Zombie wrote in a blog post. There’s no firm release date yet for the effort, but Zombie said it will be “the final word on [White Zombie].” Zombie will begin shooting his upcoming remake of John Carpenter‘s 1978 horror film classic “Halloween” this month, and the film is scheduled for release in August. Zombie recently cast Malcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange”) for the role of Dr. Sam Loomis, the psychiatrist who tries to track down masked serial killer Michael Myers. Tyler Mane, the professional wrestler who portrayed Sabretooth in 2000′s “X-Men,” will play Myers as an adult. … Underoath and Taking Back Sunday will launch a 32-date North American tour in State College, Pennsylvania, February 22. The trek will run through April 6 in Lowell, Massachusetts. …

Guitarist William Tell, who left Something Corporate back in 2004 to pursue a solo career, could end up being the next Daniel Powter. His song “Slipping Under (Sing Along to Your Favorite Song)” will be used in promotional ads for the upcoming sixth season of Fox’s “American Idol.” Tell will release his solo debut, You Can Hold Me Down, March 6. … DJ Jaguar Skills is taking listeners on a trip through hip-hop’s history, stuffing 800 songs from 1979-2006, in order of release, into one 48-minute track. Lord Basis Supreme hosts the mix, which features classics including Grandmaster Flash‘s “The Message” through Redman‘s breakout hit “Time 4 Sum Aksion” and right up to Nas‘ “Hip Hop Is Dead.” The extended track is available for download on Jaguar Skills’ MySpace page (MySpace.com/JagSkills). …

According to a report in The Washington Post, a detainee at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was forced to listen to satanic black-metal music for several hours before an interrogator, dressed as a Catholic priest, performed a faux baptism on him. FBI documents released Tuesday claim some agents also observed possible mistreatment of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, and one agent was told that, while questioning male prisoners, female interrogators would sometimes wet their hands and touch detainees’ faces in order to disturb their daily prayers — an act that would lead some Muslims to consider themselves unclean and unable to continue praying. A Pentagon spokesman told the paper that “the issues and facts raised” in the released documents “are not new” and that a dozen reviews of prisoner treatment at the facility have shown there were no Defense Department policies that condoned such abuses.

01.02.2007

She’s a film, fashion and music superstar now, but it wasn’t so long ago that Jennifer Lopez was making her living as a dancer. The former “In Living Color” Fly Girl and backup dancer for New Kids on the Block told MTV Tres that with the MTV reality show “Dancelife,” she’s out to show the world how hard dancers work. “I really know what it is to be a dancer, and what those struggles are and what it is, day to day, to be auditioning and have your feet hurt and your legs aching,” Lopez explained. “It’s a real hard life, and it’s really underappreciated as an art form. … We’re following different dancers and their struggles and their lives.” “Dancelife” premieres January 15 on MTV. …

She may have already ditched partying partner and best-pal-for-a-minute Paris Hilton, but despite vowing to clean up her act, Britney Spears began 2007 much as she left 2006: in a nightclub amid controversy. Spears was the host of New Year’s festivities at Las Vegas’ Pure club, and, according to reports on gossip sites, she collapsed shortly after midnight and was carried out by bodyguards. Spears’ manager Larry Rudolph, however, told The Associated Press that the singer “was not drunk. She was just tired and falling asleep.” He denied reports that she passed out or had to seek medical attention. …

Having reached an agreement regarding how to split their assets, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey have taken the final step in their divorce proceedings, People magazine reports. While the couple were legally free to marry other people as of June, this resolution brings the couple’s marriage to an official end. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. … Will Ferrell‘s wife Viveca Paulin gave birth to the couple’s second son, Mattias, early Saturday morning, AP reports. …

Ashley Parker Angel is joining the Broadway cast of “Hairspray,” a representative for the show confirmed. In a post on his MySpace page, the singer announced that he’ll be playing heartthrob Link Larkin. “At a very young age I discovered my love of performing through the experience of live theater, so I am totally thrilled to be moving to New York and getting back to my roots!” the singer wrote. “This new direction has made me feel inspired in a way that I have not felt in a long time. … This last year has brought me much success and I expect 2007 to be even better.” Parker Angel will participate in the production from January 19 through April 15. …

Don’t send a wedding gift for Kate Moss and Pete Doherty just yet. A representative for the supermodel has denied reports that Moss married the troubled rocker on New Year’s Day. Britain’s Daily Mail had reported that the couple married in a Buddhist ceremony in the private garden of their $11,000-a-night luxury seaside villa in Phuket, Thailand, in front of a few family members and friends. “Contrary to various entirely false media reports today, there has not been any kind of marriage ceremony in Thailand,” the model’s representative said in a statement. “She is on holiday.” British tabloid The Sun, which also reported about the Phuket ceremony, claimed the wedding was not legally binding and named January 18 as the couple’s official wedding day. …

Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and drummer Abe Cunningham will serve as guest DJs Tuesday night (January 2) on Sirius Satellite Radio’s Octane channel, beginning at 6 p.m. … Guitarist Jason Truby has left P.O.D., according to the band’s MySpace page. Truby, who replaced Marcos Curiel back in 2003, said his “decision to depart as a member is personal” and preceded last month’s announcement that Curiel would rejoin the band. “I believe in P.O.D. and will be a part of P.O.D. forever,” he wrote. “They are lifelong friends. Sometimes you have to follow the wind even when you don’t know where it’s leading.” P.O.D. performed with Curiel for the first time in four years on New Year’s Eve in New York as part of a “Jimmy Kimmel Live” broadcast. … Victory Records has confirmed that frontman Mat Bruso has indeed left Massachusetts metalcore act Bury Your Dead “for personal reasons.” The label claims there are “no bad feelings” over the move, but the departure has forced the band to pull off a U.K. tour with Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall. Bury Your Dead, who have had three singers within the last five years, plan to begin their search for a replacement soon. …

George Michael will appear in a London court January 11 to answer charges that he was operating a vehicle while unfit to drive, AP reports. The singer was arrested October 2 after being found passed out inside his car, which was blocking an intersection in north London. The singer, who was released on bail for the unfit-to-drive charges and was also cited for possessing marijuana, had previously received a warning for marijuana possession in February, and hit three parked cars in an April driving incident. … The sons of two music legends are going at it in court. In a complaint filed last week, Lou Rawls Jr. claims four large dogs owned by Marvin Gaye III attacked him when he visited Gaye’s Hollywood home in 2005, according to AP. In the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Rawls Jr. says the dogs “bit, clawed and physically and mentally injured.” He is seeking unspecified damages. …

Hinder are stretching out their early 2007 a little longer. The band, which sets out with a January 13 show in Ketchum, Idaho, will now be on the road through March 3 in New Orleans. … The Queers have posted two new tracks — “Houston We Have a Problem” and “I Think She’s Starting to Like Me” — on the band’s MySpace page. The tunes will appear on the punk act’s forthcoming album, Munki Brain, due next month. … Florida hard-rock act Endo have split due to “drama” within the band, according to frontman Gil Bitton‘s MySpace page. Endo performed on the second stage during Ozzfest 2003, and released their last LP, Songs for the Restless, in 2003, before being dropped by Columbia Records.