A repentant

Don Imus

, vowing that he had learned his lesson, came back to radio yesterday, eight months after his racially offensive remarks about the women's basketball team at Rutgers got him booted off the air.

The new Imus show, broadcast on WABC (770) but not available in the Philadelphia area, features two African American cast members, comedians

Karith Foster

and

Tony Powell

.

In a monologue before a live audience, Imus said he had hit rock bottom after using the term "nappy-headed hos" to describe the Rutgers squad - just as he had earlier in his life when he stumbled into drug and alcohol addiction.

Wearing his trademark cowboy hat, Imus chatted with his usual lineup of high-profile guests, including presidential historian

Doris Kearns Goodwin

and Democrat

Chris Dodd

and Republican

John McCain,

both presidential hopefuls.

Sideshow |

Spice Girls coming this way The

Spice Girls

will heat up the Philadelphia winter with a show at the Wachovia Center on Feb. 19. Tickets for the Philly stop on the Girls' reunion tour will go on sale at 11 a.m. Saturday only through ComcastTIX.com, 1-800-298-4200, the Wachovia Complex box office, or select Acme locations.

Ticket prices are $72.50, $92.50 and $122.50 (that's $24.50 per Spice).

The group began its tour on Sunday in Vancouver, British Columbia. Resplendent in gold and bronze duds by Italian designer

Roberto Cavalli

, the Girls -

Melanie "Sporty Spice" Chisholm

,

Geri "Ginger Spice" Halliwell

,

Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham

,

Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton

, and

Melanie "Scary Spice" Brown

- shimmered through a show that included their signature song, "Spice Up Your Life," followed by "Stop" and "Say You'll Be There."

The show was the first with all five of original Spices since Ginger Spice Halliwell quit to pursue a solo career in 1998. They broke up in 2001.

The Spice Girls were one of the biggest acts of the '90s with more than 55 million records sold. Other stops on their reunion tour include Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, London and Madrid.

Brad the Builder

Unlike Louis de Pointe du Lac, the undead character he played in

Interview With the Vampire

,

Brad Pitt

is doing something good for New Orleans residents - and he's pledged $5 mil of his own money to do it.

The 43-year-old actor, who bought a mansion in the Big Easy's French Quarter with

Angelina Jolie

for $3.5 million this year, announced yesterday that he will help build at least 150 affordable, ecofriendly homes in the city's Lower Ninth Ward.

The homes, designed by a team of 13 architects, will be built on stilts to make them as nearly floodproof as possible.

Pitt said the houses were designed with an eye to "affordability, sustainability, safety" - and beauty.

"I'm hoping we can expand here and expand over into the rest of New Orleans," Pitt said in an interview on NBC's

Today

show as he walked through the devastated neighborhood.

Pitt is trying to raise money from donors to supplement his contribution to the project.

Beer bottles to Broadway

Welcome to the Great White Way, Shirley Feeney.

Cindy Williams

, who played Shirley in the 1970s sitcom hit

Laverne & Shirley

, will take on the role of the moronic matron Mrs. Tottendale in the Broadway company of the Tony Award-winning musical

The Drowsy Chaperone

. Williams will join the cast on Dec. 11, replacing

JoAnne Worley

, whose last performance will be Sunday.

Holiday music for Sixers fans

Young R&B star

J. Holiday

will perform after tomorrow night's game between the 76ers and the Boston Celtics at the Wachovia Center. Holiday will perform his hit single "Bed" during the postgame concert. "Bed" was the No. 1 R&B song in the country for five consecutive weeks.

Fox fails to show

Actress

Vivica A. Fox

missed her DUI hearing in L.A. yesterday morning, celeb Web site TMZ.com reports.

The judge told Fox's lawyer that she better present herself for booking next Tuesdayor face arrest.

Fox was arrested March 20 after she zipped right by a police car at 80 m.p.h. in her Cadillac Escalade, according to TMZ. Police say she flunked a field sobriety test and her blood alcohol level was "definitely over the 0.08 legal limit," TMZ reports.

Labor of love rewarded

Neruda Songs

, a song cycle written by composer

Peter Lieberson

that's already beloved from performances in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, as well as from a live recording with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, won the 2008 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. It comes with a $200,000 prize, among the highest given for classical music.

Lieberson wrote the piece for his wife,

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson

; she performed it on tour with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Philadelphia and elsewhere in the months before her death from cancer in 2006.

The composer himself, who has had his works performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and many others, recently underwent stem-cell treatment for lymphoma.

- David Patrick Stearns

Leno to pay staff

Tonight Show

host

Jay Leno

will cover his nonwriting staff's salaries during the TV writers' strike, Zap2it.com reports. NBC laid off the staff on Friday. Leno joins NBC late-night host

Conan O'Brien

and

David Letterman

in picking up the salaries of staffers. Talks in the labor dispute are scheduled to resume today.

Contact "SideShow" at sideshow@phillynews.com.

Inquirer music critic David Patrick Stearns contributed to this column, which also contains information from Web sites and Inquirer wire services.