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'SNL' lines up royal personality to play debate moderator - just in case

Queen Latifah has been tapped to be a lady in waiting in the event Saturday Night Live decides to do a sketch about the vice presidential debate tonight, People magazine reports on its Web site. A representative of the late night comedy show confirmed she would play moderator Gwen Ifill.

Ifill, who moderated Thursday's vice presidential debate between Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, is managing editor of PBS' Washington Week and senior correspondent for The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.

Because sketches aren't decided until shortly before airtime, a VP debate might not make it into the lineup. Tonight's host is actress Anne Hathaway; the musical guest is the Killers.

Castroneves enters plea

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and TV Dancing with the Stars champion Helio Castroneves pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges that he used offshore accounts to evade U.S. taxes on more than $5 million in income.

The 33-year-old race car driver, who appeared in a federal courthouse in Miami in handcuffs and leg chains, was ordered released on $10 million bail. His lawyer, Mark Seiden, said Castroneves would go later to Atlanta for a weekend race.

"We would enter a plea of not guilty," said Seiden, standing alongside a visibly shaken and frowning Castroneves.

Terms of Castroneves' release allow him to travel for work in the United States but not abroad.On Thursday, a grand jury indicted Castroneves on charges of conspiracy and six counts of tax evasion for purportedly failing to report to the IRS about $5.5 million in income between 1999 and 2004, according to court documents. Each count carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.

Also facing charges are Katiucia Castroneves, the driver's sister and business manager, and attorney Alan R. Miller of Birmingham, Mich. They did not enter pleas but were ordered released on bail of $2 million and $250,000, respectively.

Another Castroneves attorney, David Garvin, said he was disappointed that the tax dispute could not be resolved without criminal charges.

"Helio has always done the appropriate thing and hired accountants and attorneys he relied upon," Garvin said. "We are of the strong belief that he did not do anything wrong. We're looking forward to going to court."

Castroneves, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, has won the Indianapolis 500 twice and finished second this year in the IndyCar Series points standings. He and partner Julianne Hough won the 2007 Dancing with the Stars reality show competition on ABC. Castroneves recently signed on with Entertainment Tonight to be a correspondent for some episodes of this year's Dancing with the Stars show. He did a similar stint last year.

Tick, tick, tick

Morley Safer has created a work of art celebrating the 40th anniversary of 60 Minutes.

The artwork, to be unveiled at a party Monday, is the face of a clock (like the famous CBS newsmagazine's stopwatch) etched in marble with "60" at the top and "40" where the "8" would be.

"I wanted it to be something that was kind of ancient but ageless," said the veteran correspondent, who worked on the project for much of the summer at his home in Connecticut. The marble has some chips around the edges - like the show itself - but stands bold and sturdy.

Safer, who often does stories about the art world, has taken sabbaticals to perfect his art skills at the American Academy of Rome.

"I learned long ago not to volunteer to do many things, but I was touched when [60 Minutes Executive Producer Jeff Fager] asked me to do it," Safer said.

From Sun news services

today's birthdays

Author Anne Rice, 67.

Actress Susan Sarandon, 62.

Actor Armand Assante, 59.

Actor Alan Rosenberg, 58.

Producer Russell Simmons, 51.

Actor Liev Schreiber, 41.

Actor Abraham Benrubi, 39.

Actress Rachael Leigh Cook, 29.

Figure skater Kimmie Meisner, 19.

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