Jennifer Hudson I've Got EGOT Status!!! Wins Tony for 'Strange Loop'

Jennifer Hudson is in rare company today after winning a Tony award, she's joined some huge celebs who've won 4 major entertainment awards ... aka the EGOT.

The Jennifer-produced musical "A Strange Loop" took home the trophy for Best Musical during Sunday night's 75th Annual Tony Awards ... giving her the final piece of the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony pie.

Jennifer had previously nabbed 2 Grammy Awards, one for Best R&B Album in 2009 album and another in 2017 for Best Musical Theater Album for The Color Purple.

She won her Oscar in 2006 for Best Supporting Actress in "Dreamgirls" ... and a Daytime Emmy for producing the VR-animated film "Baby Yaga."

Jennifer is going down in history as the 17th person to get all 4 awards ... and she's the 3rd youngest ever to get it done, behind John Legend and composer Robert Lopez.

The former "American Idol" star's musical "A Strange Loop" follows a black, queer writer writing a musical about a black, queer writer writing a musical about a black, queer writer. Ya get the title now, right?

The meta-musical's been getting rave reviews since it launched off-Broadway in 2019.

Congrats, Jennifer!!!

'American Idol' Caleb Kennedy Out on Bond After Fatal DUI

"American Idol" finalist Caleb Kennedy is getting sprung from jail, but he won't be free, as he awaits his fate in his deadly DUI case.

The singer has been locked up in South Carolina since February after he was arrested for felony DUI resulting in death. Cops say Kennedy drove his 2011 Ford pickup truck up someone's driveway, plowing through their garage and killing a man inside.

17-year-old Kennedy had previously been denied bond, but his attorney, Ryan Beasley, tells us he was granted bond at $50k Friday -- and will be held in home detention until his trial.

Beasley tells us Caleb is in good spirits, and hoping to have his day in court where he can prove the DUI was just a tragic accident caused by medication. He's expected to be released sometime today.

Caleb was one of 5 finalists on 'Idol' in 2020, but left the show after a video surfaced showing him seated next to someone wearing a Ku Klux Klan-like hood.

BRIAN DUNKLEMAN Glad I Didn't Kill Myself After 'Idol' ... 'Letting Go of the Anger'

NAVIGATING DARK TIMES
TMZ.com

Brian Dunkleman says he was "suicide adjacent" after quitting his hosting gig on "American Idol" ... but looking back, he says his fears and depression were unnecessary, and he's finally in a great place.

Brian, who co-hosted with Ryan Seacrest in season 1, joined us on "TMZ Live" Wednesday and told us why he was in such a dark place when he left the smash hit show, and why he later found out things weren't as grim as he originally thought.

The way Brian tells it ... he was left twisting in the wind without a contract after season 1, and started abusing drugs and alcohol because he was severely depressed.

Brian feared he made a massive mistake when he quit the show to pursue an acting career, and the decision haunted him for years -- Howard Stern famously compared him to Pete Best, who left the Beatles before the band got huge.

But, BD says when he co-hosted the 'Idol' series finale (on FOX, anyway) back in 2016, he ran into one of his former bosses, and learned the network was going to drop him for season 2, anyway ... a huge weight lifted from his shoulders.

Now, Brian says he's cleaned up his act, he's doing standup comedy and improv, and he thanks his new documentary on Amazon Prime, "Dunkleman," for helping him heal from past traumas ... which, as he explained to us, go way beyond 'Idol.'

Now, he's not only glad he never followed through with his darkest thoughts, but he also has an important message for anyone fighting to overcome depression.

Great to see Brian bouncing back

2019 'American Idol' Winner Laine Hardy Arrested Allegedly Planted Listening Device in Ex-GF's Dorm

UPDATE

8:50 AM PT -- According to legal docs, obtained by TMZ, Laine Hardy is accused of putting a wire in his ex-girlfriend's dorm room. Cops say they can hear what sounds like Laine's voice on recording when he planted the device and the recordings he captured included convos his ex had with her mom about breaking up with Laine.

UPDATE

8:27 AM PT -- Cops tell us Hardy was arrested Friday and booked for interception and disclosure of wire, electronic or oral communication.

UPDATE

7:13 AM PT -- A source familiar with the case tells TMZ Hardy allegedly left a "listening device" in a girl's home to hear her conversations.

"American Idol" winner Laine Hardy has a warrant issued for his arrest ... but the allegations remain a mystery.

The 2019 'AI' is under "active investigation" by the Louisiana State University Police Dept. ... Ernie​ Ballard, a rep for the University tells TMZ. The rep declined to elaborate on the allegations.

Ditto the 21-year-old country singer ... who said on social media Thursday, "I understand that my career has thrust me into the public spotlight, and I embrace that wholeheartedly as my entire world belongs to my music and my fans."

Hardy, who says he's "fully cooperative" with the PD, added ... "due to the sensitive nature of this allegation, I humbly ask for privacy at this time. I have the utmost respect for the law and will assist in their investigation as needed moving forward."

It's unclear when Hardy will turn himself into authorities.

Originally Published -- 6:24 AM PT

ARETHA FRANKLIN GRANDDAUGHTER AGREES WITH 'AI' JUDGES ... But Has No Plans To Return

I UNDERSTAND
TMZ.com

Grace Franklin -- 16-year-old granddaughter of Aretha Franklin -- is opening up after not making it past the auditions on "American Idol" ... a TV moment that's shocked the country.

Grace -- joined by her dad and Aretha's son, Kecalf -- tells TMZ ... in the moment of being rejected from going to Hollywood, she was pretty disappointed ... but it was the words of judge Lionel Richie that made her realize there's a silver lining to all of this.

Judge Lionel mentioned he didn't want her to stumble too early in her career -- something she's noticed happens to some younger singers. She took his words to heart, coming from a place of love and concern.

Grace says, "I'm a good artist, I know that, but I do know I need to work on some things."

Kecalf couldn't be prouder of his daughter, telling us she's bold for stepping out of her comfort zone and chasing her dreams.

However, Grace says auditioning for 'Idol' in the future isn't likely ... telling us she'd rather try to release some music while working on her voice.

In the meantime, she says producers and artists have been reaching out since the audition looking to collaborate with her. Even Jennifer Hudson hit her up, telling her to keep working and hold that head high!

'American Idol' Contestant David Oliver Willis, Arrested for LSD Possession

David Oliver Willis, who repeatedly appeared on "American Idol," has been arrested, after police found LSD in his car ... TMZ has learned.

According to docs obtained by TMZ ... David was pulled over last Friday in Lake County Florida for a malfunctioning headlight.

The officer says they could smell marijuana billowing from the car and proceeded to search the vehicle. Cops say they found a grinder and baggies containing several small squares of paper that tested positive for LSD.

Officers say David admitted to smoking weed with a friend prior to driving ... but claimed the LSD did not belong to him.

Because he was the only person in the vehicle during the stop, officers arrested Willis and booked him for possession of a controlled substance (LSD) ... a third-degree felony. He's due back in court next month.

As you might recall, David has had a long run with "American Idol." He appeared on season 12, season 13, and he came back for season 14.

He became a quarterfinalist his first season.

'American Idol' Caleb Kennedy Busted for DUI In Fatal Accident

UPDATE

9:38 AM PT -- 2/9 -- Caleb had his first court appearance Wednesday, a judge decided to hold him without bond.

Caleb Kennedy -- a finalist on the last season of "American Idol" - was arrested Tuesday for felony DUI ... cops say he crashed his car into a building, killing someone inside.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol tells TMZ ... Caleb was behind the wheel of a 2011 Ford pickup truck when the vehicle struck a building on a private drive.

Police say there was a person inside the building who sustained fatal injuries as a result of a collision. Caleb was arrested and charged with felony DUI resulting in death ... and the 17-year-old is still in police custody.

As you can see, photos from the crash scene show a truck lodged into what appears to be a detached garage ... and there's a ton of damage.

SCHP says the crash is under investigation.

You'll recall ... Caleb was one of the final 5 contestants last year on 'Idol' but he exited the show when a video surfaced showing him sitting next to someone wearing a Ku Klux Klan-like hood.

Before his unceremonious exit, Caleb wowed 'Idol' judges and fans with his rendition of Coldplay's hit, "Violet Hill," in what ended up being his final performance on the show.

Originally Published -- 2/8 5:44 PM PT

Simon Cowell E Gads!!! Crashes Another E-Bike Lands in Hospital with Broken Bones

Simon Cowell did it again ... he crashed his e-bike and landed in the hospital with broken bones.

Sources tell TMZ ... Simon was tooling around on the bike in London last Thursday when he turned a sharp corner ... or at least he tried to turn. The road was wet and the tires went out from under him and he crashed to the ground.

We're told Simon broke his left arm and badly bruised his cheek. He may have also have suffered a concussion.

Simon went to the hospital where he was treated and released the same day, sporting a bright yellow cast.

As we reported, this was not Simon's first crash ... in August, 2020, he got a brand-spankin' new e-bike and literally got on it in his driveway and it lunged forward, crashing and as a result, Simon broke his back in 3 places.

Now, if Simon happens to read this ... wear a helmet, dude!!! He wasn't wearing one in either crash, and but for the grace of God, he could have suffered way more severe injuries.

When you fall off a horse you get back on ... maybe the same should NOT be true with an e-bike.

Caleb Johnson On Meat Loaf Show Continues for Neverland Express ... What He Would've Wanted

Meat Loaf would stick to the old adage of the show must go on, and Caleb Johnson -- who sings in the late rocker's band -- says that's exactly what the Neverland Express plans to do.

The season 13 'American Idol' champ is doing his best to fill Meat's shoes on the BAT tour, and he tells TMZ ... he's confident the boss wouldn't want them to quit just because he's no longer here.

HE WAS ROCK & ROLL
TMZ.com

Instead, Caleb says Meat Loaf's band will keep plugging along with their Music of Meat Loaf shows ... and they're planning some tributes to the man behind the music.

Caleb got Meat Loaf's blessing a few years back to become the lead singer for Neverland Express ... and they've been touring since 2018, with Meat Loaf even joining them on stage last year during a show in Nashville.

As you know ... Meat Loaf died Thursday night after falling critically ill with COVID.

It's a sad moment for the rock world, but Caleb says the band plans to take the stage for its next scheduled show Feb. 4 in Uncasville, CT ... because that's what Meat Loaf would have wanted.

Still, Caleb admits he will be feeling the pressure to keep Meat's legacy alive ... explaining why it's so hard to sing the man's famous rock tunes.

Ya gotta imagine Neverland Express will be playing in front of a packed house for their first show after Meat Loaf's death ... and Caleb tells us why the guy should absolutely be the subject of a biopic.

Chris Daughtry's Daughter Hannah, Died From Suicide ... Methamphetamine, Fentanyl Found in System

UPDATE

5:09 AM PT -- 1/20 -- We just received Hannah's autopsy report from the Knox County Regional Forensic Center. According to the report ... Hannah's toxicology results reveal that she had methamphetamine and fentanyl in her system at the time of her death.

UPDATE

Her boyfriend had left the house to buy methamphetamine while Hannah had been texting the same dealer asking for “something” to help her. Hannah was found hanging by her boyfriend, with whom she had been embroiled in an "abusive" relationship.

UPDATE

No note was found on the scene.

Chris Daughtry's daughter Hannah Price died from suicide by hanging, while under the influence of narcotics... this according to her family.

TMZ broke the story ... Hannah was found dead in her home back in November, although the cause of death was uncertain at the time. The Daughtry family now says Hannah took her own life.

Deanna and Chris said Hannah struggled with mental illness and later turned to drugs and found herself in abusive relationships, adding, "We did everything we could to support her and get her the help she needed to recover from these tragedies and get her life back on track."

Law enforcement told us Hannah's boyfriend Bobby was arrested the same day her body was found... at the time, police didn't reveal the reason behind his arrest.

Chris and Deanna now say the morning of her death, she contacted her parents in fear for her life... claiming her boyfriend had physically abused her. When officers arrived, they concluded she was fine. After her death, Bobby was arrested on an unrelated matter.

Chris Daughtry said he was absolutely devastated and heartbroken, in an emotional Instagram post... and canceled his concert tour.

Chris and his wife Deanna met back in 2000... Deanna had two children-- Hannah and her brother Griffin -- from a previous relationship. Chris and Deanna later had twins Adalynn Rose and Noah James.

Hannah was 25.

Originally Published -- 1/19 4:19 PM PT

Chris Daughtry Detectives Told Family Hannah's Death Is Homicide

UPDATE

3:39 PM PT -- Sources directly connected to the Daughtry family tell TMZ ... detectives have told the family Hannah’s death was a homicide.

UPDATE

The sources also tell us Bobby Jolly was Hannah's boyfriend. Now, law enforcement tells us Jolly was arrested at Fentress County Jail on Friday ... the same day Hannah's body was found. Police will not say why he was arrested -- nor will they tell us if he is a person of interest or suspect in Hannah’s death.

UPDATE

District Attorney General Jared Effler does confirm Fentress County is conducting a death investigation.

UPDATE

11:08 AM PT -- Chris Daughtry has spoken on the passing of his daughter, saying ... "I am still processing the last 24 hours. I am absolutely devastated and heartbroken. Thank you all for your kind words and condolences. They are truly felt and appreciated. I will be taking a break from social media to be present with my family as we attempt to heal from this devastating loss."

UPDATE

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UPDATE

He adds, "Hannah. I love you. I miss you. I wish I could hold you. This hurts so deeply."

Chris Daughtry has put the brakes on his concert tour ... this after the death of his daughter.

25-year-old Hannah Daughtry was found dead Friday at her home. The death was sudden, although no details have been provided.

Chris's band released a statement about the cancelation ... "Due to the unexpected death of Chris and Deanna Daughtry's daughter, Hannah, all currently scheduled shows for the coming week for Daughtry have been postponed."

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The statement goes on to say ... "The Daughtry family thanks you for your understanding and respectfully asks for privacy during this very difficult time. Further details will be made available at a later date. The investigation into this tragic death is still ongoing."

Hannah and her brother Griffin, 23, are Deanna's children from a previous relationship. Chris, 41, and Deanna, 48, who met in 2000, also share twins Adalynn Rose and Noah James, 10.

Chris, who placed 4th in the 5th season of "American Idol," and his band were touring around the country. The band had a scheduled performance Friday in Atlantic City. No word on when the tour will resume.

Nigel Lythgoe Celeb Boxing Matches??? They're Reviving The Sport!!!

THE FUTURE OF FIGHTING
TMZ.com

Celebs and retired fight stars beating the hell out of each other in boxing matches is GOOD for the sport ... so says Nigel Lythgoe, who claims the spectacles are reviving interest in the sweet science in a big way.

The former "American Idol" producer broke it all down for Harvey and Charlie on "TMZ Live" on Tuesday ... explaining the Jake Pauls and the Bryce Halls of the world are breathing life into a sport that he says was struggling.

"[Boxing] needed something," Lythgoe said. "Because mixed martial arts really took over a little bit and we'd lost a lot of heroes like Muhammad Ali."

"We're losing heroes," he added. "So, we've got to find some other way of attracting young people to boxing again."

And, Lythgoe says he's got the perfect formula for that -- by continuing to help grow the celeb boxing game.

Lythgoe is currently producing Triller Fight Club's "Legends II" event ... which will feature an Oscar De La Hoya vs. Vitor Belfort fight, along with a ton of big-time musical performances in the leadup to the Sept. 11 tilt.

Waiting for your permission to load the Instagram Media.

Lythgoe is also in the process of creating a new competition show called "So You Think You Can Fight," which is hoping to ultimately inject even more celebs into the fight game.

"I think it is the way of the future," Lythgoe said of the new-age fight nights. "We've just been to Madison Square Garden with Triller Verzus and that is the Triller Fight Club and Verzuz."

"And, we did a boxing match there followed by a rap battle. And, it sold out the fastest that Madison Square Garden has ever sold. And, it was absolutely packed. So, it just shows you that it's bringing a new form of entertainment together."

'American Idol' Syesha Mercado I'm Being Deprived of Precious Time ... Since Babies Were Taken From Me

DEPRIVED OF MOTHERHOOD

"American Idol" finalist Syesha Mercado broke down in tears describing how she's been missing out on precious moments with her babies since child protective services took them from her.

Syesha held a news conference Tuesday to explain how she's been deprived of holding and feeding her newborn daughter, Ast ... while also missing her toddler son, Amen'Ra, who was put in foster care back in March. Syesha said she's also upset about her kids not getting to meet.

She was joined by the babies' father, Tyron Deener, who said they are law-abiding citizens who live a life of service and can't understand why someone with no criminal background is being hounded by the police.

TAKEN FROM FAMILY
@syesha / Instagram

As we reported ... Syesha sobbed as she reluctantly handed over Ast to Manatee County Sheriff's deputies last week in Florida. The department has since said they picked up the baby by order of a family court judge.

Amen'Ra was taken from her following a hospital visit where a doctor claimed the boy was malnourished. Last week, deputies told Syesha and Tyron they were taking Ast because they didn't tell authorities she'd given birth during their ongoing legal battle for their son.

PROTECT OUR CHILDREN

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump has now gotten involved in Syesha's case ... calling out the deputies for making a spectacle out of a Black family and "publicly dehumanizing them." He vows to help Syesha and Tyron get their kids back.

Syesha started a GoFundMe to help cover her legal costs. The target was set at $200k ... but so far they've raised more than $400k.

'American Idol' Syesha Mercado Sobs As Police Take Newborn Baby ... 2nd Child Taken From Her

TAKEN FROM FAMILY
@syesha / Instagram
UPDATE

10:14 AM PT -- 8/14 The Manatee County Sheriff's Office tells TMZ the kid was picked up by order of a family court judge.

UPDATE

The agency adds, "We understand that from the outside looking in The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Child Protection Investigation Division’s actions may seem uncaring, but let me assure you we have the best interest of children and families in mind at all times."

UPDATE

MCSO goes on to say, "We are governed by numerous policies and laws to ensure we do not lose focus when dealing with vulnerable families.  The last thing anyone in this business wants to do is shelter children from their parents, but sometimes it is the only direction we are forced to take.  By law, we always attempt to shelter children with another family member prior to any other placement.  When not possible, we attempt to shelter with a non-relative known to the family, and as a last resort we shelter with other resources."

UPDATE

They finish with, "When the need arises to shelter children the families are given guidance as to how to successfully reach goals to be reunified with their children as soon as possible."

This video shows former "American Idol" finalist Syesha Mercado absolutely beside herself, in tears, as law enforcement takes her newborn baby following a child protective services investigation ... and the video is stirring outrage.

Syesha sobbed as she reluctantly handed over her baby daughter to Manatee County Sheriff's deputies Wednesday in Florida. Cops insisted she surrender the child during a welfare check.

You see Syesha begging the deputies not to take her baby ... then pumping breast milk into a bottle to send off with her daughter, who was eventually taken away in the back of a SUV.

Waiting for your permission to load the Instagram Media.

The newborn is reportedly the second child authorities have taken from Syesha this year. Her toddler son was placed in foster care following a hospital visit where a doctor sounded an alarm, claiming the boy was malnourished.

In this video, Syesha asks law enforcement why they're taking her baby girl, and she's told it's because she didn't tell authorities she'd given birth while the legal battle for custody of her son was ongoing.

Syesha insists her newborn is happy and healthy, claiming she has all the paperwork to keep the kid, and saying cops should have contacted her attorney -- but in the end, she lost custody.

The emotional video is sparking outrage online, with some folks accusing authorities of racism.

Originally Published -- 8/13 5:09 PM PT

Simon Cowell on Bennifer 2.0 Wanna Make it Last, This Time??? Do These TWO Things!!!

"LOVE ALWAYS WINS"
Eric Mitchell

There are a couple simple things Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez need to do to make their relationship last this time around -- and Simon Cowell has the one-two recipe.

The 'Idol' vet and music producer was out for a bike ride in L.A. with his girlfriend, Lauren, and their son when a photog asked if he had any advice for Bennifer 2.0 as they head down the couple's path once again some 20 years later.

Now, first off ... you'd think Simon's familiar with Jen after her stint as an "American Idol" judge -- even though he'd left the show by then -- but he had no clue about her reunion with Ben.

Lauren sure did, and insisted she'd downloaded him on all the hot gossip. Before Simon could offer his wisdom, she actually chipped in with her 2 cents ... and then he added a nickel's worth.

You gotta hear Simon's POV on how to make romance work. In classic Cowell fashion, the dude kept it as real as ever with his response. He didn't elaborate much on the why, but it sounds like he's speaking from personal experience.

Here's a hint ... 2 toilets and a sundae will get the job done, apparently.

Kelly Clarkson Will pay her Ex $200k/month ... In Temporary Support

Kelly Clarkson will be coughing up almost a quarter of a million dollars every 30 days to her ex-husband in the fallout of their divorce, at least for now ... TMZ has learned.

The judge in her divorce recently signed off on docs formalizing the temporary spousal and child support Kelly will pay Brandon Blackstock -- it's nearly $200k/mo. according to the docs. We're told the ruling actually happened in April, and it merely formalized what Kelly had already been paying her ex since she filed for divorce last June.

According to the docs, Brandon will get $150k in spousal support and $45,601 for their 2 kids. Hard to think of that huge amount as a discount for Kelly, however ... Brandon had requested $436k per month. So, with that in mind, it's a bit of a win for KC.

She does also have to fork over a one-time $1.25 million payment to cover Brandon's attorney fees.

Once the divorce is settled, we're told Brandon will only get 2 more years of spousal support, based on the length of their marriage. The unresolved issue is their prenup. If the judge determines it's valid, all those support numbers go out the window, and Brandon will get whatever is spelled out in the prenup.

Kelly was also awarded primary custody of their children -- 6-year-old River and 4-year-old Remy -- a little while back.

So, she gets the kids too, most of the time ... even though she's still gotta shell out on their behalf even when they're not seeing him in Montana.

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