DI'S GUY: Princess Diana's new fling, movie producer Dodi Al Fayed, is fighting claims made by a Los Angeles model who filed a lawsuit against the playboy saying she was his fiancee--until she got dumped for Di. Fayed's publicist said Friday that he was never engaged to the woman, and never promised to marry her.
GOIN' TO GRACELAND: An estimated 50,000 Elvis fans are streaming into Memphis, Tennessee--ground zero for activities marking the 20th anniversary of the King of Rock 'n' Roll's death. Elvis had a fatal heart attack in his Graceland camode on August 16, 1977.
ELVIS ADD: A set of six Elvis stamps issued by the Federal States of Micronesia was to be unveiled today at the California State Fair. The letter-helpers depict the pre-fat Mr. Presley.
"HOME" WRECKER? Funnyman Tim Allen, now at work on Home Improvement's seventh season, may not come back for an eighth, unless he gets a hefty pay hike, to a Jerry Seinfeld-esque $1 million an episode, according to published reports today. But other sources say quality concerns, not money, is the issue with Allen.
TOY STORY: George Lucas wants the toy companies to pony up the bucks big-time to secure the merchandise rights for his Star Wars prequel. The unprecendented demands reportedly include guarantees worth $400-600 million.
THUMBS DOWN: Movie critic Leonard Maltin was among those given his walking papers by Microsoft's Cinemania on Thursday. The tech industry giant pulled the plug on the popular film-related Website.
SPORTS TALK: Sarcastic ESPN2 broadcaster Kenny Mayne will pick up where smart-aleck Keith Olbermann left off. Mayne will joins Dan Patrick as the new co-anchor for ESPN's primetime Sportscenter.
NEW TWIST: There's no script. No returning stars signed. No director set. But there is rumor in the wind. Warner Bros is reported to be considering a sequel to last year's hit disaster flick, Twister.
CUTTING BACK: TV networks are going on a diet. Dwindling viewership means the executive suits aren't going to be as eager to spend money, big, fat Jerry Seinfeld salaries notwithstanding. Already this week, ABC cut 200 network jobs. And one TV producer warns in today's Wall Street Journal that the cost-cutting may extend to productions, where "the shows are going to start to look a little cheesy."
HEIDI UPDATE: More trouble for former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. A judge today set a November trial date for a $10-million slander lawsuit filed by a book publisher who claims Fleiss announced on a Los Angeles radio show in 1996 that he'd had sex with two co-authors of the prostitution tell-all, You'll Never Make Love in This Town Again. Fleiss is already in prison for tax evasion. And last month, she was found liable in a separate slander suit filed by three other men.
"BROOKLYN" BLUE: Another fall TV season, another controversy over a Steven Bochco cop show. This time, the offender is Brooklyn South, which will carry a TV-MA rating (for adults only) when it premieres on CBS on September 22. Longtime Bochco foe, the Rev. Don Wildmon, is urging CBS affiliates not to air the series because of its violence content.
STAT OF THE DAY: Thirty gay characters will be featured in recurring roles on primetime TV shows this fall, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has announced. That's up from 23 for the 1996-97 TV season.
NOT-SO DEAD ED: TV impresario Ed Sullivan, who died in 1974, is still dead--but that's not stopping him from appearing in a new Mercedes-Benz commercial, set to debut during CBS' Emmy Awards telecast on September 14. A digitally remastered Sullivan will introduce the car company's new sports utility vehicle. He follows in the ghostly footsteps of Fred Astaire and Marilyn Monroe--other dead celebrities who've gone on to hawk products in their digital afterlife.
REWRITE: Sensitive to recent revelations that the man Brad Pitt portrays in the upcoming film, Seven Years in Tibet, was a 1930s-era Nazi, the movie's director has ordered dialogue changes. One new bit of voice-over has Pitt saying he shudders to recall "how I was no different from these intolerant Chinese."
PLAYING "THE GAME": Michael Douglas' new movie, The Game, is getting a big-time commercial push. On Sunday night, a 90-second promo for the flick will air on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox--at the same time, 9:20 p.m. (ET/PT). It'll also run simultaneously on nine cable networks, plus some local independent stations. The Game opens September 12.
REMEMBERING JIMMY: In Pennsylvania today, the state's churches were to sound their bells for five minutes, at 10:55 a.m. ET, in memory of native son Jimmy Stewart. A memorial service for the late actor, who died last month at age 89, was also scheduled in Stewart's hometown.
KILLER SOUNDTRACK? A teen-ager in Louisiana has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for fatally shooting his mother and wounding his father--an attack that occurred, in May 1996, while The Doors' song, "The End," played on the boy's stereo, police say. "The End" closes with singer Jim Morrison's infamous anti-parental rantings.
ROYAL PAIN: The artist formerly known as Prince is sick of people ripping off that symbol he uses for a name these days for the sake of bootleg T-shirts and such. So, federal marshals were among those in attendance at a Prince concert in Louisiana on Wednesday. They were on the look-out for counterfeit Prince merchandise.
CRY FOR HER: Madonna, last seen doing her best Eva Peron in Evita, may have just been squeezed out of her next historical role. Madonna was signed with Mick Jagger's production company to play famed 1930s photographer Tina Modotti. But now Jagger's lost the rights, and other names--Linda Fiorentino, chiefly--are being talked up for the Modotti part. For all the casting news, see The Dotted Line.
NO, NO, NO: Celebrity publicists are working overtime these days shooting down stories. In New York, Woody Allen's people say there's nothing to a National Enquirer report that he's about to pop the question to live-in love Soon-Yi Previn (Mia Farrow's adopted, and estranged, daughter). And in Hollywood, Winona Ryder's publicist says you can forget that item about she and singer Chris Isaak getting kicked out of Disneyland during a make-out session. Ryder was at Disneyland with Isaak, the publicist says--but so was Isaak's girlfriend.
BOBBY'S BACK: Finally, a Bobby Brown item that's not related to our nation's court system or wife Whitney Houston. The onetime King of New Jack Swing is said to be finished with a new album. Forever is due in stores October 21.
CHANGING GAMES: Director Spike Lee, who is almost as famous for sitting court-side at New York Knicks games as he is for his movies, now is making a play for hockey. Lee has directed a 30-second commercial for Fox promoting its puck broadcasts. He says he was "intrigued" by the assignment. The spot starts running next month.
PASS THE CIGAR: Actress Ally Walker (of NBC's The Profiler) has given birth to a baby boy, it's been announced. Mother and son (dad, too) are said to be doing fine. The new mommy is expected to be back at work on her TV series in mid-September.
OSCAR'S HOME: Next year's Academy Awards ceremony will be held (again) at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium, it was announced Thursday. There'd been scuttlebutt that the show would bolt L.A. for greener pastures (and more room) in outlying Southern California communities.