BEATING IT: A day after agreeing to pony up back wages to his Neverland Ranch employees to avoid a state lawsuit, Michael Jackson lays some workers off and partially shutters the estate. The entertainer remains shacked up in Bahrain.
TRAPPED IN THE CLOSET? A week after Isaac Hayes asked to be released from his South Park contract due to the show's mocking of Scientology, Variety reporting that Viacom-owned Comedy Central refused to air a rerun Wednesday night of the infamous Tom Cruise/Scientology-skewering episode, Trapped in the Closet, after the star threatened not to promote Mission: Impossible 3. Cruise's reps deny he ever made such a threat.
HEALING UP: Bob Woodruff moved from a naval hospital in Maryland to a facility closer to his New York home as he continues to recuperate from injuries suffered in a roadside bombing in Iraq, ABC says.
EVERY DAY IS A WINDING ROAD: After scrapping a spring tour to undergo successful surgery for breast cancer, Sheryl Crow kicking off a series of rescheduled dates in Indianapolis June 12 and wrapping up at Boston's Fenway Park with the Dave Matthews Band July 8.
CALLING BOSS HOGG: Tom Wopat, who played Luke Duke on TV's The Dukes of Hazzard, arrested for drunken driving in Ringwood, New Jersey.
LET'S START A HEARING: Oscar winning rappers Three 6 Mafia may be deposed in a Pittsburgh court as early as next month as part of a lawsuit filed by a fan who was badly beaten during one of their 2003 shows.
B.I.G. UPDATE: Per the Los Angeles Times, the LAPD assigning a new team of detectives to investigate the 1997 murder of rapper Notorious B.I.G. in response to his family's lawsuit against the city alleging corrupt police officers played a role in his death.
TUPAC ETERNAL: Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Las Vegas putting a Tupac Shakur wax figure on display at the Venetian Hotel beginning April 5, nearly ten years after the rapper was killed in a drive-by shooting.
THEY CAN GO FOR THAT: The mayor of their hometown of Philadelphia declaring Saturday Daryl Hall and John Oates Day in honor of the soul-pop duo's musical and charitable contributions.
POST-OSCAR HIGH: Jon Stewart's gig hosting this month's Academy Awards boosting The Daily Show's numbers from 1.5 million to 1.6 million viewers in the six episodes after his appearance, according to Nielsen Media Research.
NO CAN DO: Pioneering rockers The Smiths nixing a $5 million offer to reunite for next year's Coachella festival, former lead singer Morrissey told reporters Thursday at Austin's South by Southwest music conference.
ON A ROLL: Lionsgate snagging the worldwide rights to Tyler Perry's next flick, Daddy's Little girl, which starts shooting in June for a February 2007 release.
CODE TALKERS: A lawyer for Random House, the publisher of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, wrapping up the defense's closing arguments by telling London's High Court that the lawsuit brought by a writer accusing Brown of copyright infringement was "in tatters."
WANNA BE A ROCK STAR? Supernova, featuring Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted and ex-Guns N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke, tapped as the new band in need of a singer on CBS' Rock Star. The second season premieres this summer.
NOT CAUGHT ON TAPE? A judge saying Thursday she needs more information before issuing a decision as to whether to toss a $20 million libel lawsuit filed by Britney Spears against Us Weekly claiming the tabloid printed a false story that she and Kevin Federline had made a sex tape.
DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME: Per Variety, Universal optioning Drive, a novel by James Sallis for Hugh Jackman to star. The film follows a Hollywood stunt driver who discovers a contract has been put out on his life after he moonlights as a wheelman for a bunch of robbers.
BABY TALK: Shaquille O'Neal and wife Shaunie Nelson expecting a baby girl, their fourth child together. The couple celebrated with 150 of their closest friends Saturday during a baby shower at their Miami home. O'Neal and Nelson each have one child from a previous relationship.
WEDDING BUZZ: Rampant speculation flying that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt plan to tie the knot in Italy this weekend at George Clooney's Lake Como estate. Pitt's rep declined to comment, while Clooney's rep says, "Rumors are rumors."
LIKE A VIRGIN: Per the Hollywood Reporter, Whale Rider star Keisha Castle-Hughes set to star as the Virgin Mary in Nativity, directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen).
STEPPIN' OUT: Budding R&B star Ne-Yo set to make his feature debut in Stompin', an urban dance film about a troubled 19-year-old who enrolls in a black university in Atlanta and applies his tough street-style dance moves to win a national step-show competition.
HERE'S AN ORIGINAL MOVIE IDEA: Demi Moore in talks to star with Kevin Costner and William Hurt in the psychological thriller Mr. Brooks, about a detective (Moore) who forms a symbiotic relationship with the serial killer she's hunting.
RFK: The Weinstein Co. snagging domestic rights to Emilio Estevez's ensemble drama, Bobby, following various characters at the Ambassador Hotel the night Robert Kennedy was assassinated. The film stars Anthony Hopkins, Sharon Stone, William H. Macy, Elijah Wood and Lindsay Lohan.
INSTANT RIP-OFF? Without the approval of Yoko Ono, Starcast Productions organizing a pay-per-view seance that will attempt to contact late Beatle John Lennon from the grave on Apr. 24. The special costs $9.95 to watch.
HEART OF GOLD: Neil Young officially launching the annual South by Southwest music industry conference Thursday with a keynote address at the Austin Convention Center discussing his creative process and career.
BIG PROMOTION: NBC Universal's vice chairman Marc Shmuger and former Focus Features copresident David Linde both replacing Stacey Snider as head of Universal Pictures after her move to rival DreamWorks.
SOAP DISH: SoapNet announcing on Thursday it will air episodes of CBS' The Young and the Restless the same day they run on the network beginning Apr. 24.