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April 3, 2000

Sandra Bullock, Melania Knauss, Pedro Martinez, Huntington Hartford, Peter Gatien, Courtney Love, and more . . .

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Columbia's Rehab Rehash

Here's some advice if you want to get a movie made about your life: Get your own studio. A Tinseltown source reports that 28 Days, the soon-to-open film starring Sandra Bullock (pictured), draws heavily from the life of Amy Pascal, Columbia Pictures' newly installed chairwoman. The movie (which Columbia is producing) chronicles the life of a successful New York writer fighting her demons while doing time in drug rehab. Pascal was in similar straits years ago when, as a rising movie executive, she entered the Betty Ford Clinic to fight an alcohol problem. The insider says the Columbia chief not only helped develop the story but hired her close friend Betty Thomas to direct the detox flick. Pascal's spokesperson Susan Tick denies that the movie strongly mirrors Pascal's experience. "Betty Ford has had a major impact on Pascal's life, but it was more than ten years ago. 28 Days is in no way her life story."

Melania: She's Movin' On Up

Donald Trump and Melania Knauss are taking their love to the next level -- all the way up to the penthouse. A source close to Knauss says the 26-year-old Slovenian will be moving into the Donald's penthouse at Trump Tower, fresh from a recent lovers' retreat to St. Martin. Wisely, Melania isn't giving up her own apartment just yet, and, predictably, reps for Trump and Knauss deny the upcoming cohabitation. In other supermodel sex news, James King has discarded male mannequin Alex Burns in favor of pimp-fashion poster boy Kid Rock. A spokesman for King says that she and Burns "are still good friends," while she and Rock "are just good friends." In fact, the three beauties are just "one big happy family." We couldn't be more pleased.

It's Getting Verse For Sotheby's

Price fixing isn't the only infraction Sotheby's stands accused of. According to an upcoming article by British writer Simon Worrall in The Paris Review, the scandal-scarred auction house may have disregarded warnings that it was about to sell a forged Emily Dickinson poem in 1997. The verses turned out to be the work of an infamous counterfeiter named Mark Hofmann, who is currently serving a life sentence for two lethal pipe bombings. The article claims that Sotheby's vice president Selby Kiffer was warned that the poem may have been a fake before the sale. A few years before he was jailed in the late eighties, Hoffman had offered a Dickinson poem to a well-known collector named Brett Ashworth. Ashworth wisely declined to purchase the poem, and forgot about it until he was browsing through the Sotheby's catalogue and noticed the Dickinson on sale. Though Ashworth claims he tried to warn Kiffer, the bogus stanzas nevertheless proceeded to auction, and were only proven to be bunk after the buyer conducted a thorough investigation of his own, forcing Sotheby's to coolly refund the $21,000 purchase price. Asked to comment, Sotheby's faxed over the same statement Kiffer sent Worrall a year and a half ago. In it, Kiffer claims that Ashworth's call did not feel like a warning, but merely like "an interesting, but tangential anecdote."

Martinez Gets His Act in Gear

With Details out of the picture -- finally! -- Gear magazine has come up with a novel approach toward gaining dominance over its testosterone-addled competition: Put a hunky guy on the cover. In May, Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez will become the first male ever to grace the cover of Bob Guccione Jr.'s "magazine for smart young men." The issue also features the $11.25 million-a-year fireballer's first general-interest interview with the national press. But can a publication for slick male scenesters really sell without some leg glaring out from the newsstand? "Men respond more to a good-looking woman on the cover," admits Guccione, "but they're also interested in exciting pop-culture figures. We're very confident that we haven't lost any of our sex appeal." As far as any revitalized spirit of competition between Gear and Maxim now that Details is a non-player, a spokeswoman for Guccione says, "We don't consider ourselves competitors with Maxim; our guy is smarter." A Maxim rep responds, "That's right. With a circulation of 1.6 million, we aren't their competition. With a 350,000 circulation, Gear's competition is most certainly Modern Ferret."

Hunting For The Lost Hartford

Octogenarian A&P heir Huntington Hartford is so desperate to spread what's left of his wealth that he's searching for offspring that may not even exist. Hartford, 88, is trying to find the long-lost granddaughter he believes his illegitimate son "Buzz" Barton may have fathered with a California woman shortly before his suicide in the sixties. A source close to Hartford says the eccentric millionaire is trying to make amends for refusing to let Buzz take his last name, which was reportedly a contributing factor in his suicide. When we called Hartford's residence, his ex-wife, who still resides with him, admitted Hartford "would love it" if the granddaughter existed, "because he feels guilty," but denied that Hartford is trying to find her. The woman said she's been contacted by an impostor posing as Hartford's granddaughter but added, "I don't see any family resemblance. There's no mistaking the Hartford eyes." Although the former Mrs. Hartford insists there is no heiress search afoot, promoter Baird Jones says Huntington recently asked him to throw a party publicizing his grandkid quest. When pressed, the woman at the Hartford place quickly lost her temper and exclaimed, among other things, "I will pray for you!" Please do.

Limelight Taps Arid Customers

Are employees at Peter Gatien's Limelight attempting to charge parched patrons who fill up empty drink cups -- in the restrooms? "Water is $2!" a men's-room attendant allegedly barked at thirsty patron Mike Reed as he approached the faucets on a recent Wednesday. Another Limelight nightcrawler says she experienced similar treatment in the ladies' room last week. "The attendant came up to me and said, 'You know you have to pay for that,' " the club kid recalls. "Why don't we just say I used this to wash my hands," she dryly replied, and exited the rest room, victorious, with full cup -- and full wallet. Gatien insists he's not hosing his customers, and says he's never gotten such a complaint: "That is not our policy. It might have been someone playing a joke. Water is available free of charge at all bars. Any employee charging for water would be fired immediately."

Boca is No Place For a Star

Boca Raton is the unlikely new gossip capital of the world, but for Gotham's professional tattletales, it's no place to live. The Florida backwater is the headquarters of American Media, the company that now owns The Globe, The National Enquirer, and The Star. The last of those was, until recently, headquartered in New York. But last week, chairman David Pecker ordered the Star's 62-person staff to relocate from Tarrytown to Boca, where the tabloid will now share a building with its catty sisters. But only three Star scribes accepted the deal, with two others staying on in New York to man the lonely bureau here. The rest are history, but they'll be paid through June. The Star, however, has already begun to fill the fifty-odd empty positions -- by picking at the bones of The Globe. Half of The Globe's 24-person editorial staff recently moved over to The Star, and for the few who remain, things are getting pretty desperate. At his first editorial meeting last week, new editor Brian Williams told his shrinking team that they should scan cable talk shows in search of leads.

Love On the Net; Cashing Out

Did you ever think you'd see Courtney Love share a stage with . . . Sam Donaldson? The grunge-to-glam rocker and the tenacious talking head have just signed up to be keynote speakers at the first ever Digital Hollywood N.Y. conference to take place in Manhattan. The event was launched eight years ago in Los Angeles and has evolved into the premier confab crossover for the entertainment and digital worlds. Other guests include Universal Studios CEO turned Internet investor Frank Biondi, former Apple CEO John Sculley, Comedy Central CEO Larry Divney, and music mogul Danny Goldberg.

OUT OF COURT: Just a week before Out announced it was selling out to its competitor The Advocate, the gay monthly tied up one of its more troubling loose ends: The magazine finally settled the case brought against it by founding editor Sarah Pettit. Pettit filed a six-figure suit against Out in 1997, claiming she was given the shaft by then-publisher Henry Scott because he wanted the glossy to be an all-boys club. She eventually dropped the sex-discrimination suit but proceeded with a separate suit charging breach of contract. Pettit's attorney, Rosalind Lichter, declined to say how much her client got in the settlement (in which Out admitted no wrongdoing), but Pettit has since moved on to decidedly less fabulous environs. She's now the arts-and-culture editor at Newsweek.

HARMING CARMEN: Model Carmen Kass can't seem to get a break -- the statuesque Estonian recently suffered a hell of a bad hair day. The hapless Kass, dubbed "Carmen Cast" last month after she broke her wrist bowling, was forced to work some high-profile Fashion Week runway shows with her arm encased in plaster (though fashionably trussed up with black chiffon). Now sources say the bad-news-babe's trademark lengthy blonde locks were so damaged in a styling session that Kass and company opted to lop off a few inches -- and darken it. Kass's agency insists there was no hair horror: "We changed it because we wanted something new," says Women Model Management president Paul Rowland.

Additional reporting by David Amsden and Suny Sehgal.

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