NEWS BRIEFS: Prince Picks Up New Label

03/24/2004 AT 01:55 PM EST

LABELED: Prince, 45, who once carped that he was a "slave" to his former record label, has signed with Columbia Records after several years as an independent artist, both parties have announced. The worldwide deal initially covers just the veteran pop star's upcoming album, "Musicology," which Columbia will release in the U.S. on April 20. Said Prince in a statement: "I am really an artist and musician at heart, that's what I do. 'Musicology' has no boundaries or formats. It is long overdue to return to the art and craft of music -- that's what this album is about. School's in session."

DIAGNOSED: Aretha Franklin remained in Detroit's Sinai-Grace Hospital Tuesday, the Queen of Soul's physician, Dr. Claud Young, told WXYZ-TV. "It was an allergic reaction to some antibiotics that she took just shortly before ... and it gave her a rather severe reaction," Young said. "She is really doing well. ... It's nothing that's lasting as far as we can tell at this time." Franklin, who turns 62 on Thursday, released her own statement saying, "I am resting comfortably and responding very well."


QUOTED: "I'm never working this show again." -- Kelsey Grammer, 48, at Tuesday's final taping of "Frasier," which ends its 11-year run with a two-hour finale on May 13


CAST: "Lost in Translation" star Scarlett Johansson, 19, will voice a new character, Mindy, in "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie," a big-screen spinoff of the popular Nickelodeon show, say trade reports. Jeffrey Tambor will play Johansson's father, the fussy King Neptune, and Alec Baldwin will play Dennis, a hit man out to keep SpongeBob from the King. The movie is due for a Nov. 19 release.

SENTENCED: Rapper Busta Rhymes (real name: Trevor A. Smith Jr.), 31, was given six months probation and was fined $300 after pleading no contest to a charge that he assaulted a woman during a concert, reports AP. The incident happened at a Massachusetts show in 2002, when fan Celine Giguere allegedly touched Rhymes's chin. Rhymes claimed he grabbed her hand and politely asked her not to do it again. A police report said he pushed her head into a table and threatened her. Rhymes also filed an assault charge of his own against Giguere, who is scheduled to appear in court on that charge on Wednesday.

ANNOUNCED: Hollywood lobbyist Jack Valenti, 82, who has represented the studios in Washington for 38 years, told movie theater owners on Tuesday that he will retire within the next few months, say reports. Valenti, who worked with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, established a search committee two years ago to seek a successor to take over the film industry's trade group, the Motion Picture Association of America. No one has been named yet as a replacement.

RATED: HBO's new Western "Deadwood" kicked into town Sunday night with just under 5.8 million viewers, the biggest audience ever for an HBO series premiere, edging out previous record-holder "Carnivale" (which had 5.3 million last year) and "Six Feet Under" (just under 5 million in 2001), according to preliminary Nielsen numbers. On Bravo, Barbra Streisand, 62, attracted 1.14 million viewers in her two-hour interview with James Lipton on "Inside the Actors Studio" Sunday night, the highest rating for the first telecast of a "Studio" interview in the series' 10-year history.

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