Plus: Britney's "mind-blowing" pregnancy, Lance to wed Sheryl, and more

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated September 09, 2005 04:55 PM

OPRAH OFF-GUARD: Oprah Winfrey devoted two shows this week to the wake of Hurricane Katrina, saying: “I think … this country owes these people an apology” referring to the survivors for their treatment after the disaster struck and to those who were left to die as help failed to arrive. “This makes me so mad. This should not have happened,” said a tearful Winfrey, who wore a gas mask inside New Orleans’s vacated Superdome, where she was overcome by the stench. “Nothing I saw on television prepared me for what I experienced on the ground,” she said on the program, which focused on stories up and down the Gulf Coast.

JUSTICE DIES: U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died of cancer at his home in suburban Arlington, Va., Saturday night. He was 80. “The Chief Justice battled thyroid cancer since being diagnosed last October and continued to perform his duties on the court until a precipitous decline in his health the last couple of days,” court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said in a statement. Rehnquist, whose wife died in 1991, was surrounded by his three children at the time of his death. He served on the highest court in the land for 33 years, and his passing leaves President Bush with the second court opening within four months (confirmation hearings for nominee John Roberts are due to begin Monday) and the first simultaneous high court openings in 34 years.

BRITNEY’S BABY: Britney Spears revealed that the thought of having a baby – something she is due to do this month – is “mind-blowing,” but it’s also “therapeutic.” Spears, who has put her career on hold to await the birth of her first child with husband Kevin Federline, told Elle magazine that the therapeutic side of the process comes from the way “All the secrets from your family come out of the closet for some reason.” She adds: “But it’s good. They have to come out sometime.” Spears also says she’s nervous about giving birth because “I don’t want to go through the pain. My mom said giving birth was the most excruciating thing she’s ever gone through in her life.”

BRIEF BREAK: Despite announcing his retirement plans, cycling champ Lance Armstrong may be hopping back on his bike to race, after all. The 33-year-old, who won his seventh consecutive Tour de France on July 24, said “the recent smear campaign out of France” that before the 1999 Tour he tested positive for the banned substance EPO “has awoken my competitive side.” (He denies the EPO charges). As for racing again: “The chances are not high,” he told The New York Times. “There’s no number, no percentage I can put on it. Until two weeks ago, they were zero. Now, I no longer rule it out.” Earlier this week, Armstrong announced his engagement to rocker Sheryl Crow, 43, with a wedding most likely to happen in the spring. The proposal came on Aug. 31, while the two were in Sun Valley, Idaho.

FINAL VOYAGE: Bob Denver, the leading comedic castaway on TV’s Gilligan’s Island, died at age 70 of complications from treatment he was receiving for cancer, said his agent. Denver passed away on Sept. 2 at Wake Forest University Baptist Hospital in North Carolina. Earlier this year, he had quadruple heart bypass surgery. Besides Gilligan’s (1963-67, and in reruns ever since), Denver also starred as the bearded, beatnik sidekick Maynard G. Krebs in the 1959-63 CBS sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. He is survived by his fourth wife, Dreama, 54; their son Colin, 21; and three grown children from previous marriages.