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Grammys 2019: Alicia Keys Finds the Humor in Hosting



Unlike the Academy Awards, which is set to hold this year’s ceremony without a host for only the second time in its history, the Grammy Awards have done without a dedicated emcee on 16 past occasions.

But, not in 2019.

Taking the hosting reins at the Grammys—in contrast to what has seemingly become a thankless gig hosting the Oscars following Kevin Hart stepping down and no replacement being named—is 15-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys. “I know what it feels like to be on that stage, and I’m going to bring that vibe and energy,” Keys said in a statement Tuesday.

Keys will join a diverse list of previous Grammy hosts that includes John Stewart, Garry Shandling, Queen Latifah, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, Andy Williams, John Denver, Kenny Rogers, Paul Simon, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Paul Reiser, Ellen DeGeneres, Kelsey Grammer, Rosie O’Donnell, LL Cool J and most recently James Corden.

Julie Cordeiro Photography/Getty Images

Of the two ceremonies the Grammys is perhaps best suited to go without a host. More freewheeling than the Oscars but not as shock-worthy as the MTV Video Music Awards, the Grammys are as much about the performances as the winners. Notable performers deliver their biggest hits­—many of which are nominated—to a worldwide audience eager to see such songs showcased in a live environment.

Yes, the Oscars also has performances, but only a handful. The usually obscure songs nominated in the original song category are hardly a big audience draw. And though Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper are set to perform the nominated song “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” during the Feb. 22 Oscar telecast, such star power pales in comparison to Sunday’s Grammy lineup which will features performances by Diana Ross, Post Malone, Shawn Mendes, Dua Lipa, Kacey Musgraves, Miley Cyrus, Little Big Town, Ricky Martin, Yolanda Adams, Young Thug, Janelle Monae, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Lady Gaga, among others.

In the lead up to Sunday, Keys has already shown she understands the importance of having fun in the host role. Something the Academy Awards should note is a huge audience pleaser, like the time DeGeneres descended into the audience and created perhaps the most famous selfie of all time.

In an almost 10-minute announcement video uploaded to YouTube three weeks ago, Keys let fans come along for the ride as she discovered she got the Grammy gig, excitedly broke the news to her mom over the phone, woke husband Swizz Beats to tell him, received a suitably underwhelming reaction from her two small children, and then took us along to a Grammy promo shoot where she perused a few questionable outfits behind the scenes. All while sporting a beaming smile and a knowing wink at the camera.

Further proof Keys—only the fifth woman to host the Grammys and the first to do so in 14 years following Queen Latifah in 2005—knows how to have a good time in the role arrived Wednesday when she appeared on “The Late Late Show with James Corden” and asked the former host for a few tips on how to navigate the big night. Rather than sit and chat, the pair performed a parody cover version of Gaga and Cooper’s ballad “Shallow,” which is nominated for song and record of the year.

Standing by an upright piano with Keys providing musical accompaniment, Corden sang of the importance of wearing “comfy shoes” and warned that after four hours “you’ll find yourself drinking cheap booze / Stealing from gift bags, a candle for free.” Other advice from Corden included, “Try not to be scared,” and “act like you’ve been there,” to which Keys belted back: “You know I’ve won 15 times!”

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All of which signifies that the safest gamble concerning Sunday’s ceremony would be to bet on Keys. Not to win an actual award, she isn’t nominated, but to deliver an entertaining show buoyed by humor and respect for the craft being honored. Such expertise she has already shown in abundance.

The 2019 Grammy Awards are set to air live Feb. 10 on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Top nominees are Kendrick Lamar and Drake with eight and seven nominations respectively.

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‘RHONY’s’ Luann de Lesseps Ordered Back to Jail Over Probation Violation




A Florida judge has ordered “Real Housewives of New York” star Luann de Lesseps back to jail for allegedly violating her probation, according to court documents. 

The reality TV star turned cabaret singer is accused of failing a breathalyzer test on April 21, court records indicated. 

“The Money Can’t Buy You Class” singer admitted to her New York-based probation officer that she drank two mimosas after a performance of her cabaret show, Countess and Friends, in Chicago. 

Famous Mug Shots: 'Empire' Actor Jussie SmollettFamous Mug Shots: ‘Empire’ Actor Jussie Smollett

The probation officer offered de Lesseps different treatment options to address her relapse and she declined “the opportunity to immediately enroll in outpatient treatment” or be fitted for an alcohol ankle monitoring device because of her cabaret touring schedule, according to court documents.

De Lesseps also reportedly failed to attend her twice weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, a requirement of her plea agreement. 

Luann de Lesseps poses for her booking photo after being charged with battery of an officer, public intoxication and resisting arrest on Dec. 24, 2017.

Photo credit: Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office

Her probation officer accused de Lesseps of not taking her probation seriously and she was summoned back to court last month. At the time, her lawyers asked prosecutors to turn over all evidence related to their accusations and de Lesseps said she “looked forward to her day in court to present evidence clarifying these allegations.” 

De Lesseps was arrested on Christmas Eve in 2017 after allegedly kicking a police officer while intoxicated at a hotel in Palm Beach. She was charged with disorderly intoxication, resisting arrest and battery on a law enforcement officer.

The Bravo star accepted a plea deal to lesser charges in August 2018. She was ordered to abstain from alcohol and attend two Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week. 

RHONY Star Appears in Court After Arrest in FloridaRHONY Star Appears in Court After Arrest in Florida

Court documents show that de Lesseps was allowed to transfer her probation supervision to New York from Palm Beach, and was allowed to travel for work purposes. 

De Lesseps checked into rehab in January 2018, following her arrest. She checked herself back into rehab in July, one month after celebrating six months of sobriety.

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Jussie Smollett Case: Judge to Rule on Whether ‘Empire’ Actor’s File Should Be Unsealed




A Cook County judge was expected to issue a decision Thursday on whether the sealed file surrounding the case of actor Jussie Smollett should be unsealed.

Judge Steven Watkins was scheduled to issue his written order in a hearing beginning at 10 a.m. He previously heard oral arguments on whether the files should remain sealed on May 16.

Media attorney Natalie Spears argued then that there was no good cause for his case to remain sealed because he was so public throughout the ordeal, and that it would be harmful to the public to keep it under wraps.

Smollett’s attorney Brian Watson contended that the “Empire” actor has a right to privacy under various statutes that are afforded to thousands of other people every year, and that the media was allowed to cover the process of the case itself, so the public was not barred from learning any new developments.

On Jan. 29, Smollett reported that he was the victim of an attack in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood, claiming to have been beaten by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs, hit him, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him, court documents show.

Chicago police initially investigated the incident as a hate crime, but alleged the following month that he orchestrated the attack himself because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.”

He was initially charged with one felony count of disorderly conduct in filing a false police report, before a Cook County grand jury then indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts.

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Smollett pleaded not guilty before all charges against him were dropped on March 28 in exchange for his forfeiture of his $10,000 bond and his performance of community service.

The file was sealed in late March when prosecutors abruptly dropped all charges, drawing criticism of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and calls for a special prosecutor to be appointed in the case. A hearing in that request was schedule for May 31.

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Philadelphia District Attorney Calls for New Meek Mill Trial, Asks Judge to Recuse Herself




Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner waded into rapper Meek Mill’s legal quagmire on Wednesday, filing an appeal with the Pennsylvania Superior Court that asked for a new trial with a new judge. 

Previously, Krasner said he supported a new trial for the rapper, whose legal name is Robert Mihmeek Williams, but had not pursued any legal action to that effect.

That all changed Wednesday with the appeal, which outlines why Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Genece Brinkley should recuse herself from the case. 

In the document, Krasner highlights the “public perception of unfairness and bias” throughout Williams’ highly public trial, and instances where Brinkley overstepped her duties as a judge. This included checking up on Williams while he was performing community service at a homeless shelter.

“Williams should be awarded a post-conviction relief in the form of a new trial,” the appeal said. “In the alternative, his recusal motion should be granted and this matter should be remanded for a violation of probation hearing before a new judge.”

Williams’ team called Wednesday’s appeal a “huge legal victory.”

“We are very pleased that the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has confirmed to the Superior Court that Meek is entitled to have his conviction vacated,” Williams’ attorney, Jordon Siev, said in a statement. “The brief is also significant in that it marks the first time the DA has publicly outlined in writing that it supports Judge Brinkley’s recusal based on her ‘appearance of partiality’ and ‘public perception of unfairness and bias.’”

Brinkley has repeatedly denied post-conviction relief for the rapper and previous demands from his legal team to recuse herself from the case.

Last year, Brinkley issued a 47-page decision denying his request. Brinkley’s 2018 ruling came a week after a two-hour evidentiary hearing during which the rapper’s lawyers asked Brinkley to reconsider the initial conviction. The judge showed skepticism over the PCRA request during the hearing.

Brinkley appeared disinclined to use the credibility of former Philadelphia police officer Reginald Graham, who is among a group of officers on an internal “Do Not Call” to testify list kept by the district attorney’s office, as a stand-alone reason to have Mill’s conviction overturned.

“We already know this is going to another court,” Brinkley said at the time.

Mill’s legal team argued that the PCRA process has not been questioned in such a way since the proceedings started in 1995. In that time, more than 1,000 cases have been thrown out. Mill’s case appears to be an anomaly, the defense said. 

Mill was originally sentenced to 11 to 23 months following his conviction on the 2007 gun and drug offenses. Last year, Brinkley found him in violation of his 10-year probation and immediately sentenced him to 2 to 4 years in prison. He served five months before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered him freed while his appeal of Brinkley’s sentence was pending.

For a complete timeline of the decade-plus court drama in and out of the courtroom involving Mill and Brinkley, click here.

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