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November 8, 1999

Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kevin Aucoin, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Mort Zuckerman, Sean Combs, and more . . .

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HANKS FALLS FOR HIS BAND OF BROTHERS

Europe is still a danger zone for Private Ryan's savior. Tom Hanks fell through the floor while checking out a World War II bunker in Germany recently. The Academy Award winner wasn't badly hurt -- he dislocated his shoulder, according to two sources familiar with the situation -- but he did have to fly home after the accident, cutting short his European trip to scout locations for Band of Brothers, the HBO mini-series he's co-producing with Steven Spielberg. Filming is due to start next April on the thirteen-part series based on Stephen Ambrose's best-seller about a paratrooper unit, and competition has been so fierce among European countries eager to host the yearlong $100 million project that Irish officials have offered their soldiers -- already trained in stunt fighting -- as extras. An HBO spokesman insists that several sites are still being considered; one of the insiders explains that Hanks is downplaying the accident so he doesn't offend a potential host. His spokeswoman says he "tripped and fell down some stairs" while scouting locations in Europe. Soldier on, Tom.

KEVYN AUCOIN'S BAD HAIR DAY

Although makeup master Kevyn Aucoin appeared to be thrilled when he learned he was one of three people to be honored by the Beauty Cares Foundation, he failed to show at its tenth annual fund-raiser, hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum. According to one fashion insider, Aucoin was miffed that organizers at the aids charity asked him to tap his well of celebrity clients for a presenter, feeling he was being used rather than just honored. Beauty Cares founder Mark Pipino and event producer Rudy Sprogis insist they don't know why Aucoin didn't show up. "They really didn't give us a reason," Pipino claims. Aucoin, whose agent, Sandra Rubalcava, accepted the award, refused to give the story lip service. "I have nothing to say about this ridiculous gossip," he snapped.

WAITER, THERE'S A CAMERA IN MY SOUP

Mind your table manners next time you eat out -- you could be under surveillance. Hidden cameras are being installed in popular restaurants around town as part of the indie documentary Life . . . With a Side of Fries, a film about the quirky customs of eating out in America. The cameras will lurk in such oddly obscure places as a maître d's glasses and waiters' button holes. While overt footage has already been shot in Mesa Grill and Michael Jordan's The Steak House, Vedauwoo Productions, the film's producer, won't disclose exactly which New York restaurants will be bugged. But a spokesman says they will plant cameras in "reserved Upper East Side" establishments, "trendy Village bistros," and everywhere in between. Diners whose antics catch the eye of director Matthew Pestorius will have to sign a release permitting use of their footage, but considering that famous New York foodies like Tim Zagat, Nobu Matsuhisa, and Florence Fabricant of theNew York Times are all featured in the film, less-celebrated gourmets may be enticed into fifteen minutes of fame -- even if it's with a full mouth. Pestorius has a word of warning to crabby diners, however: "Think twice before you chew out your waiter," he says. "You never know who they may be."

JESUS MISSING IN THE WINDY CITY

A good Jesus is hard to find -- as Andrew Lloyd Webber discovered this fall. His Really Useful Group is reviving the 1971 musical Jesus Christ Superstar, which was booked for a tryout at Chicago's Shubert Theatre in February before hitting Broadway in April. But although the musical was announced as part of the Shubert's subscription series, the producers have canceled the Chicago run and decided to head straight for New York next spring. "They couldn't find a Jesus," says one well-connected Broadway insider, "so they had to cancel." That view is disputed -- sort of -- by the play's press rep, Adrian Bryan-Brown, who insists that problems scheduling "the creative team of the show" caused the delay in Chicago. A savior has been chosen, he insists, adding, "We're keeping mum on our Jesus" until the contract is signed. The current plan is for the musical to play at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in mid-April, according to several Broadway sources. And the producers are attempting to mollify the Shubert by promising that Chicago will be the first stop on the national tour. Now, if only they could get some divine intervention at the box office.

THE TIES THAT BIND MORT ZUCKERMAN

Is Mort Zuckerman keeping his News-hounds from sniffing around Empire State Development Corporation chief Charles Gargano? The state's economic czar is leading the charge to revitalize Times Square -- and Zuckerman got two prime development spots in the area. Gargano's agency has been under investigation by district attorney Robert Morgenthau, and the probe is reportedly delaying Gargano's appointment to George W. Bush's presidential campaign, but Zuckerman's Daily News did not publish William Rashbaum's tough reporting on Gargano "for months," according to one publishing source. Only when the tab learned that the New York Times was going to be running a page-one story on October 22 did the News finally scurry to get its own story into print, according to another source. But News senior managing editor Arthur Browne says it's "ridiculous" to think that Zuckerman's business interests are affecting the paper's coverage. Browne points with pride to the fact that his reporter Rashbaum broke the story that Gargano's aide Paolo Palombo secretly pleaded guilty to a bribery charge and wore a wire in the office -- a story the Times ran the next day. "If we were able to substantiate any wrongdoing by Mr. Gargano, we would certainly report it," says Browne. "We were not able to do that -- nor was the Times." Rashbaum refused to comment.

AND THEY CALLED IT PUFFY LOVE

Former Puff Daddy flame Kim Porter may have been traded in for a newer model, Jennifer Lopez, but she still rates with the most important member of Puffy's entourage: his mom. Porter -- who is the mother of Puffy's infant son, Christopher -- and Puff's mommy, Janice Combs, met up at the party celebrating the release of Universal's The Best Man, hosted by Russell Simmons and the Wedding List company at Lot 61. The bash, which drew such diverse revelers as Spike Lee, Oscar De La Hoya, and Patricia Herrera, saw the two mothers enjoying each other's company well into the early morning. "They were hanging out all night -- even posing for pictures together," says a fellow partygoer. Puffy, on a promotional tour in Japan, wasn't there to witness the family reunion. Thanksgiving dinner should be interesting.

THE JOURNAL OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS

Was it a case of sour grapes? The Wall Street Journal's Paul Steiger was booked, then unbooked, for CNN's Street Sweep show last Tuesday. When the cable network got word that four companies were being replaced on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, a booker called to get a Journal representative for that afternoon's show. Steiger, who just four days before had turned down a million-dollar job offer from CNN, was set for the show. Then a CNN New York staffer who doesn't work on Street Sweep called network chairman Tom Johnson in Atlanta to alert him to the sensitive interview, according to one inside source, prompting Johnson to specify that no one should ask Steiger about the job offer on air. But in the newsroom, the buzz was that "Johnson pulled Steiger as a guest," according to another source, who adds that Johnson's move was viewed as "petty." Meanwhile, Steiger took himself out of the running, saying that "it was too soon after his CNN adventure for him to appear" and proposing Journal markets editor John Prestbo as his substitute, according to Dow spokesman Richard Tofel.

JFK JR. RELIEF; FEVER OVER BEEF

LEO TO THE RESCUE: What's the last taboo for a show that sings the praises of porno videos and anal sex? In the original version of an episode of Sex and the City that re-aired last week, Samantha, played by Kim Cattrall, finds herself socially redeemed when she befriends John F. Kennedy Jr. after her promiscuity turns her into a social pariah. In an attempt to avoid bad taste themselves, producers of the show redubbed the voice-over, replacing the reference to Kennedy with none other than Leonardo DiCaprio. Seems that even reruns sometimes have surprise endings.

MEAT AND GREET: Bee Gee Robin Gibb may have been greatly anticipated at the Saturday Night Fever opening-night soirée, but his dietary restrictions were not. In keeping with the Bay Ridge theme of the disco-driven Broadway musical, publicists turned to White Castle to cater the China Club celebration. It seemed like a stroke of synergistic brilliance -- until it was discovered at intermission that Gibb and his wife, Dwina, the evening's guests of honor, are strict vegetarians. So as Gibb -- alongside such other celebs as Rosie O'Donnell, Sarah Ferguson, and Katie Couric -- watched the polyester-clad crew boogie down, publicists called frantically on their cell phones searching for, and successfully finding, an open heath-food store to pick up some tofu and other soy noshes -- helping the Gibbs stay alive . . . without meat.

Additional reporting by David Amsden and Suny Sehgal.


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