January 15, 2004 11:15 AM

BOOKED: “American Idol” vets Kelly Clarkson, 21, and Clay Aiken, 25, will kick off a 30-date arena tour on Feb. 24 at North Carolina’s Charlotte Coliseum, reports Billboard. Tickets go on sale Jan. 24. The other “Idol” presence, Ruben Studdard, is expected to launch his own tour this spring, likely in March or April, according to Jeff Frasco, the responsible agent for “Idol”-related tours at Creative Artists Agency.

BUSTED: Veteran actor (“The Larry Sanders Show”) Rip Torn, 72, was arrested on drunken-driving charges after rear-ending a taxi in Greenwich Village early Tuesday morning, police tell New York’s Daily News. Witnesses tell the paper that Torn was handcuffed and refused to take a breath test. His car, a 1990 Volvo, was reportedly seized. There has been no comment from the Torn camp.

QUOTED: “If Les Moonves was (sic) a contestant … he would have been fired by the third episode.” — Real-estate developer and newly minted TV star Donald Trump, 57, on how the head of CBS would fare on his new NBC show, “The Apprentice”

HIRED: CNBC has signed former tennis champion-turned-TV analyst John McEnroe, 44, for a nightly 10 p.m. talk show to begin in the spring, in the hopes of using his outspoken and acerbic personality to give the network visibility at night, says the Hollywood Reporter. Network executives described McEnroe’s new show as “an unpredictable and spontaneous” look at the top stories of the day. Says McEnroe: “CNBC is trying to do something different.”

BOUGHT: “Today” show news anchor Ann Curry, 47, and her husband, software developer Brian Wilson, have purchased a $2.9 million townhouse on a tree-lined block of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, reports the New York Observer. The 6,000-sq.-ft. residence will require extensive renovations before the couple and their two children can move in, says the paper, adding that the brownstone (and its garden) dates back to 1894. The Wilsons’ neighbors will include Jerry Seinfeld and his family and Rosie O’Donnell and hers.

SUED: Hip-hop mogul Damon Dash, 32, is being sued for $15 million by a former model who claims he raped her at a party in Brazil on New Year’s Day 2003, the New York Post reports. In her civil suit, Kirstie Thompson, 32, alleges that Dash attacked her. Dash’s spokeswoman Amanda Silverman called the allegations “ludicrous.”

DIED: Norwegian billionaire Arne Naess, 66, the former husband of Diana Ross, has fallen to his death while mountaineering in South Africa, reports the BBC. Naess apparently died as he tried to climb down a cliff after turning back due to thick mist. Naess, who was married to Ross for 13 years (they had two children together before divorcing in 2000), was an experienced climber and had climbed Mount Everest in 1985.

CREDITED: She may have won the National Board of Review’s award as breakthrough actress (for her role as a killer in “Monster”) but at the awards dinner in New York this week, an obviously nervous Charlize Theron threw the spotlight on another actress, reports PEOPLE. After reading a list of thank-yous to people involved in her film, Theron, 28, ended her acceptance speech on a spontaneous note: “I’ve never done this before, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance. There’s a woman here tonight who’s been extremely inspirational to me as an actress: Frances McDormand. Thank you for showing us women that it’s okay to have balls. You are so incredible and when I grow up I want to be you.”

REVIVED: The 1960s cartoon icon Astro Boy, a retro Japanese robot, will take to the airwaves anew on the WB network starting this Saturday morning, reports the Wall Street Journal. (The WB, like PEOPLE, is part of Time Warner.) The spiky-haired superhero, who in 1963 — and in black and white — was the first Japanese show imported to the U.S., has long battled for peace between humankind and machines, notes the Journal. A colorized — and kitschy — version of the original series surfaced in the ’80s, only to die a quiet death. Now he’s back with fresh adventures. Go, Astro Boy, go.

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