Thursday, August 21, 2003

Oscar hits Rock bottom

New York -- With ratings sagging, the impresarios behind the Academy Awards show invited Chris Rock to emcee the movie industry's annual night of self-congratulation. Rock's response, as reported by the New York Post: "Not me, man. That's for old people. For maybe 10 years from now, when my career's in the toilet. When my TV life is on cable."

Rock may scorn the Oscars, but he embraces MTV. He'll once again take on host duties for the MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 28 in New York.

Law firm sues Suge Knight

Los Angeles -- A law firm has sued imprisoned rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight, alleging he fraudulently sold or gave away property to avoid paying more than $140,000 a judge had ordered him to pay the firm.

Knight, who's serving a 10-month prison sentence, was ordered to pay nearly $142,000 to the law firm of Kopple and Klinger last May for services the firm provided.

In the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the firm claims Knight hasn't paid the debt and has sold or transferred at least four properties in the Los Angeles area for little or no compensation to friends to "hinder, delay or defraud" his creditors.

The firm seeks payment for May's judgment and is trying to prevent the properties Knight allegedly transferred from being sold.

Spa to have royal touch

Somerville, N.J. -- The former estate of the late King Hassan II of Morocco will become a spa under a lease agreement Somerset County officials approved this week.

The Board of Freeholders have agreed to sign a 99-year lease with British billionaire Richard Branson and his partner, Warren Township businessman Robert Wojtowicz.

Branson, the founder of Virgin Atlantic Airlines, and Wojtowicz plan to turn the estate's 47-room Tudor mansion and 80 surrounding acres into a spa that could open by 2006.

The deal requires resort developers to preserve the mansion's historic characteristics if possible. Besides the spa, the resort will feature a 61-room hotel, a 150-seat restaurant and a conference center.

Singer given probation

Pasadena, Calif. -- Stone Temple Pilots lead singer Scott Weiland has been sentenced to three years' probation after pleading no contest to one count of possessing heroin.

Weiland was arrested May 17 after a police officer pulled him over for allegedly driving without headlights on and said he saw drugs in the car. He initially was charged with two felony counts of possessing heroin and cocaine.

The 35-year-old was entered in the state's Proposition 36 program, which allows people arrested for possessing drugs for personal use to go to treatment instead of jail. Those who complete the so-called drug diversion program have the arrests removed from their records; more than 20,000 people have qualified for treatment.