American Idol judge Simon Cowell, 50, revealed Jan. 11 that he plans to leave the show after the current season. The music mogul instead will lend his grumpy commentary to his U.S. version of The X Factor, a talent competition he created in his native England, set to air in fall 2011. “I’m thrilled that we have put a date on the launch of the U.S. version of The X Factor and delighted to be continuing to work with FOX,” he said. “We have a fantastic relationship, a great team and are all very excited about this.” The news comes five months after judge Paula Abdul announced her departure from Idol, which replaced her with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.
30 Rock star Jane Krakowski, 41, will head down the aisle with British clothing designer Robert Godley, her boyfriend of more than a year. “She is very, very happy,” says the actress’s rep. • R&B singer Keyshia Cole, 28, and Daniel Gibson (inset), 23, a guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers, are planning to marry. The couple have also confirmed, after months of speculation, that they are expecting their first child this spring.
Scrubs star Sarah Chalke, 33, and her fiancé, Jamie Afifi, an entertainment lawyer, became first-time parents Dec. 24 with the arrival of son Charlie Rhodes. • It’s a boy for country star John Rich, 36, and wife Joan, 40, who welcomed their first child, Cash—yes, Cash Rich—in Nashville Jan. 10. • Country singer Clay Walker, 40, and wife Jessica, 27, had their second child together, daughter Mary-Elizabeth, in Houston Dec. 27. The couple have son William Clayton, 17 months, and Clay has two girls, MaClay DeLayne, 14, and Skylor ClayAnne, 10, from a previous marriage.
The Hills’ Stephanie Pratt, 23, was sentenced Jan. 7 to three years informal probation after reaching a plea deal in her DUI case. The reality star must complete a 12-week alcohol education program, attend three Alcoholics Anonymous meetings per week for eight weeks and pay a fine for her October arrest.
Singer-actress Liza Minnelli, 63, announced Jan. 10 that she plans to undergo knee-replacement surgery within a week at a New York hospital. “She is expected to make a full recovery,” says a rep for the Oscar winner, who will not be able to attend the Jan. 31 Grammy Awards, where her CD Liza’s at the Palace is nominated for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
Animator Art Clokey, 88, creator of the jolly green character Gumby, died in Los Osos, Calif., Jan. 8. Fashioned from clay, Gumby—who could bend himself into any shape he wanted—made his TV debut on The Howdy Doody Show in 1956 and over the next 30 years starred in numerous series. Eddie Murphy famously portrayed him as a cigar-smoking grouch, quipping, “I’m Gumby, dammit!” on Saturday Night Live in the early ’80s. Art’s son Joe told the New York Times his father was a fan of the spoof, but was glad no child was awake to see it.