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February 14, 2000

Ron Howard, Candace Bushnell, Haley Joel Osment, Harrison Ford, Jerry Seinfeld, Heather Locklear, and more . . .

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An Unimaginable Split in Hollywood?

After a relationship extraordinary in Hollywood for its profitability and overall stability, it appears that Universal Studios and prolific Imagine Entertainment may be parting ways in the near future. Sources close to Imagine's co-partners, producer Brian Grazer and director Ron Howard, say that the two approached the studio recently to start negotiating another contract to replace their current one, which ends in a year and a half. But the pair was informed that Universal is reluctant to renew its fourteen-year relationship with Imagine, given the enormous amount of money and marketing resources that Grazer-Howard devours. Though Imagine has some huge movies coming out under Universal's umbrella -- among them Nutty Professor II, starring Eddie Murphy, and the $115 million How the Grinch Stole Christmas, with Jim Carrey -- the production company also has been responsible for some very expensive bombs (EDtv, The Chamber, etc.). News that Universal may scuttle its relationship with Imagine is only now starting to spread around Hollywood, prompting rumors that Seagram's CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. may be getting ready to sell the studio.

All She Wants For Christmas Is . . .

There is something worse than dropping a contact lens down the drain, as the comely Candace Bushnell unhappily discovered. Last week, as the Sex and the City scribe was brushing her teeth, getting ready to appear on the Later Today show, one of her front porcelain laminates fell out and slipped down the sink. In a panic, the toothless beauty called in a plumber, who insisted that her incisor would be impossible to find, so in an I Love Lucy-esque maneuver, Bushnell dropped on all fours and began dismantling the pipes herself. After victoriously locating the veneer, she rushed to a dentist to have her winning smile restored just in time for her appearance. Says Bushnell: "I'm willing to do a lot of things, but going on TV looking like a pirate isn't one of them."

Sensitive New Role For Sixth Star?

Even the best actors can fall out of character. The Golden Globe Awards announces the Supporting Actor category near the top of the telecast, so it was all the more difficult this year for Haley Joel Osment, the 11-year-old co-star of Disney's blockbuster movie The Sixth Sense, to play the gracious loser to Tom Cruise. According to eyewitnesses, Osment sat at his highly visible center table and tried his best to wipe away the tears throughout the lengthy ceremony. Sources say Golden Globes executive producer Dick Clark was so unnerved by the little boy's reaction that he ordered camera crews to give young Osment some privacy. The first Hollywood insider to approach the sensitive star was Sixth Sense screenwriter-director M. Night Shyamalan, who leaned over and quietly tried to console Osment. But the youngster still couldn't stop crying. Then Hollywood heavyweight Harrison Ford walked over and huddled with Osment and managed to get the boy to compose himself. Speculation soared at surrounding tables that Ford had cheered up the boy by offering Osment a part in his next film. But the child star's agent insists "no project was discussed."

Seinfeld Springs a Leak

Another leak has sprung in Jerry Seinfeld's rocky apartment renovations -- literally. Workmen were recently banging away on his $4 million Beresford duplex when the water pipes burst in the prewar Central Park West building, showering the apartments below. The flooding was so severe, a source reports, that the unemployed funnyman had to replace a neighbor's waterlogged $60,000 home gym and relocate the soggy tenants downstairs to the Excelsior Hotel up the block. Seinfeld's spokeswoman, Elizabeth Clark, denies anyone was relocated but does acknowledge "leaks and drips" emanating from the apartment the comic purchased from violinist Isaac Stern last year. "The last thing Jerry wants to do is inconvenience his neighbors," says Clark. "When he found out about the water damage, Jerry paid for the repairs right away." Unfortunately for Jerry, when it rains it pours: Not only are Seinfeld and new wife Jessica Sklar still without their completed honeymoon pad -- they were also fined for exceeding the Beresford's strict one-year renovation policy.

Ian Goes South of the Boarder

Having successfully opened thirteen hotels in Europe, Ian Schrager is now focusing his attention south of the equator. "Latin America is an undiscovered gem," says the hotelier, who decided on his latest enterprise while vacationing with his wife, Rita, in Buenos Aires two weeks ago. In fact, Schrager was so taken by the Latin vibe that he bought himself a memento of the trip: enough property to start a tiny country. Already planned for a mid-2001 opening is
a self-contained "universe'' housing a couple hundred apartments, a few hundred hotel rooms, a nightclub, restaurants, a spa, and a movie theater. The complex is set to open in eighteen months, but Schrager plans to start selling apartments there this summer.

Bijan's Madison Avenue Appointment

Gothamites in search of that special $4,800 bottle of perfume might soon have to look elsewhere. Bijan -- the pricey appointments-only boutique beloved by Fort Worth tycoons, Dubai oil barons, and Ronald Reagan -- is fleeing its Fifth Avenue premises after seventeen years and relocating to an undisclosed Madison Avenue location. According to a real-estate source, taking its place will be the chicly affordable boutique chain Club Monaco, which is planning to convert the 12,000-square-foot space into its New York flagship this spring. (A spokesman for Club Monaco declined to comment.) The sixtysomething Bijan, who recently spent millions renovating his store on Rodeo Drive, says that the lease on the space expired and that the owners demanded $60 million to renew it for another fifteen years. Bijan balked, claiming that Fifth Avenue had grown too déclassé for his very classy operation, which recently created a furor with an ad featuring an extremely naked, extremely obese woman. Instead, the flamboyant retailer has purchased a three-story building on Madison Avenue, which he plans to open with a star-studded party that he promises "will make the whole world take notice."

Paciello Penned: While club owner Chris Paciello stews in a Brooklyn federal detention center waiting to raise $15 million in bail, a half-dozen journalists are frantically shopping book deals chronicling the story of the Staten Island street thug turned South Beach celebrity, who counts Madonna, Donald Trump, and Jennifer Lopez among his friends. Last week, Dutton was the first publisher to bite, signing up ace Daily News crime reporter Michele McPhee to write a quickie paperback that will hit the stores just as the 28-year-old Paciello's trial for murder, racketeering, and robbery begins in Brooklyn next September.

Iron Matt: Is Matt Drudge going bohemian? Executives at Penguin Putnam were flummoxed when the cybergossip and radio-talk-show host approached them with a suggestion regarding the audio version of The Drudge Manifesto, an autobiographical rant set to hit bookstores this summer. Drudge demanded to record his scribblings personally while bongo drums and flutes played loudly in the background, "in the style of a Beat poet." The Penguin editors were baffled, to say the least, but grudgingly accommodated Drudge's "artistic vision."

Close Encounters: Ever since the Whitney Museum replaced its trendy director David Ross with Maxwell Anderson, a specialist in Greco-Roman antiquities, art-world types have been grumbling that the earnestly transgressive museum was losing its passion for cutting-edge art. Now a genuine contemporary artist is about to get a seat at the table: Sources say painter Chuck Close has been invited to join the board of trustees for a three-year term. His appointment will make him the only artist on the board of
a major art museum in town. But it won't be a first for Anderson; several artists sat on the board of the museum he previously ran in Toronto. The Whitney's spokesperson declined to comment.

Bill of Sale: Bill Maher is politically correct about one thing, anyway. Spies in Los Angeles report that an agitated Beverly Hills blonde tried to return a pricey suede jacket to a local boutique, explaining that the comedian had refused to accept it as a gift. Maher, host of ABC's popular verbal-wrestling forum Politically Incorrect, is a vocal animal-rights supporter and board member of PETA, the radical animal-rights group. "We're not surprised Bill turned down a jacket made from a dead cow," quipped PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk: "Everyone knows he likes to pleather himself."

Girls' Night Out: When Heather Locklear and a girlfriend decided to step out for a quiet dinner last Tuesday, they headed for that stylish standby the B Bar. But it wasn't until after Locklear was safely seated that she realized she was one of only six women in a room packed with 500 men gathered for "Beige" -- B Bar's weekly homophilic hoedown. "Does it seem like there's a gay vibe going on here?" she asked her friend. Locklear took it all in stride, though: Happily installed in a plush banquette, she was treated like a queen, good-naturedly bantering with rubbernecking decorators and accepting round after round of free cosmos sent over by Beige's famously jaded patrons. By night's end, the press-shy Spin City star was even bonding with the boys at the next banquette, where New York Times advertising columnist Stuart Elliot, author Steven Gaines, and the Daily News's Pulitzer-packing Jonathan Capeheart held court with other media types too fabulous to mention. "It's not exactly what I expected," laughed Locklear. "But at least my husband will know I was in good hands."

Additional reporting by David Amsden, Suny Sehgal, and Carl Swanson.


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