TOP OF THE NEWS: Happy holidays indeed for actress Hunter Tylo. A Los Angeles jury today has awarded the daytime soap actress a nearly $5 million judgment in her wrongful-termination lawsuit against the makers of Melrose Place.

DOIN' HARD TIME: Jailed actor Robert Downey Jr. isn't lounging in "the O.J. Simpson suite" at the Los Angeles County Jail. Rather, he's toiling in a section called "The Pod," where the onetime Oscar nominee has been threatened by fellow inmates, today's New York Daily News reports. Downey is serving a six-month sentence for parole violations.

POO-POO HITS THE FAN: A battle in Hollywood this morning over the bragging rights to a piece of human excrement. The creator of old cult fave 'toon Ren & Stimpy says the makers new cult fave 'toon South Park ripped him off--recasting his Nutty the Friendly Dump as Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo in the series' holiday episode last week. The South Park camp denies robbing the toilet.

LENNY'S MOM DIES: Sally Marr, mother of late comic innovator Lenny Bruce, is dead at 91. A comedienne herself, Marr discovered such notable funnymen as Sam Kinison, Cheech and Chong and Pat Morita.

CREDIT DUE: Artist H.R. Giger--the guy who created the alien for Alien--will (finally) get his due in the latest chapter of that space-fright saga. The home-video version of Alien Resurrection will credit Giger for dreaming up the original monster design. Giger was left off the end credits when that film opened in theaters last month.

LOCATION SHOOT: Russian director Yuri Kara couldn't get Tom Hanks to star in his little film, set--literally--aboard the Russian spaceship Mir, but that hasn't really discouraged him. After Kara got the Russian Space Agency to let him hitch a ride to Mir, the three Russian actors he managed to hire have passed physicals and are ready to go in the film about a cosmonaut who doesn't want to leave the troubled ship when it's shut down in 1999.

"SMACK" SMACKED: The video for that controversial Prodigy cut, "Smack My Bitch Up," has disappeared from MTV's rotation. But the cable network insists that the clip was planned to be a short-timer all along and its removal from the airwaves, as of last Friday, had nothing--nothing--to do with the New York protest staged last week by Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and the National Organization of Women.

SUPER-DUPER SALE: How much is Superman's cape worth? A cool $17,000. At least that's how much one bidder paid for it at a New York auction of movie memorabilia last weekend. Another prize catch: the Star Fleet jacket William Shatner wore in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, sold for $11,000.

TITANIC OPENING: Smooth sailing so far for Titanic, the most expensive movie ever made. The historical epic berthed in first place at the weekend box office, earning an estimated $27.6 million. That nudged the latest James Bond caper Tomorrow Never Dies, which pulled down $26 million.

ON SECOND THOUGHT... Remember the box-office record that Scream 2 set last weekend--the biggest non-summer opening ever? Forget it. Miramax Films says a bean-counting error is responsible for reporting the gross as $39.2 million. The real figure? A still-impressive, but non-record $33 million.

RISING STAR SYNDROME: Is somebody getting too big for her TV show? Buffy, the Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar is "griping" about her series' shoot schedule and generally making noise about wanting to do movies full-time, the new TV Guide reports. Gellar is currently featured in Scream II.

BELLY FLOP: Broadway looks like it's about to be witness to its third-biggest money-making flop in history. Side Show, a three-month-old musical about Siamese twins, has posted closing notices, with the end coming as soon as January 3, the New York Post reports. Investors reportedly will take a $7 million bath on the production.

DANCING QUEEN: One show dies, another is born. Two ex-members of Abba are planning a musical to feature 20-25 of the Swedish pop group's hits. The show is tentatively called Summer Night City. Producers are hoping to open it in England in 1999.

OBITUARY: Andrea Carolyn Camp, who with husband Joe Camp produced the film and TV tales of cute-doggie Benji, has died. She was 58.

TRAILBLAZER: Movie mogul Dawn Steel, the first woman to head a major studio, has died, losing a two-year battle to brain cancer. She was 51. In 1987, Steel ascended to the presidency of Columbia Pictures. Films she helped oversee and produce include: Top Gun and When Harry Met Sally.

DEATH FOR HONOR? Acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Juzo Itami, best known to American audiences for his 1980s arthouse hit, Tampopo, has reportedly committed suicide. Itami, 64, leapt from his eight-story office building Saturday night, police said. In a note, Itami wrote that killing himself was the "only way" to prove that he was not having an affair with a 26-year-old woman, as a Japanese tabloid was about to report today.

FINAL HOURS: The night before his death, comedian Chris Farley knocked back whiskey-and-Cokes at a Chicago bar--looking "very drunk...and hyper," according to newspaper reports. Toxicology tests are pending from Farley's autopsy. The ex-Saturday Night Live star was found dead last week at age 33. Private funeral services are set for tomorrow in Wisconsin.

FARLEY ADD: During the making of his last film, Almost Heroes, Chris Farley had to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every day, its producer tells Time magazine: "It was a constant daily battle fighting his demons." Almost Heroes, costarring Matthew Perry, opens next year.

DI LAWSUIT: The family of Princess Diana--the Spencer wing--is getting ready to file a $56 million lawsuit against the father of the royal's last lover, Dodi Fayed, London newspapers report. Mohammed Fayed looks to be left open to civil liability if police conclude that the Di's driver--an employee of Fayed's The Ritz hotel--was responsible for the tunnel crash that killed the princess.

OH, MY EYE! When talk shows maim: A woman is suing Baywatch star David Hasselhoff, claiming she suffered an eye injury when the actor tossed pictures of himself into the audience at a February taping of The Rosie O'Donnell Show.

SNAKE RIVER GOLF COURSE: Jump over two dozen buses? No problem. A round of golf? Problem. Daredevil Evel Knievel is slated for hip-replacement surgery following a fall on a golf course three weeks ago. Knievel suffered at least 35 broken bones and underwent surgery 14 times during his crash-'em-up career.

DIVORCE COURT: Robin Givens, who only lasted a few rounds as Mrs. Mike Tyson lasted even less time as Mrs. Sventozar Marinkovic. The couple separated 24 hours after their August 22 wedding, it has been learned. And last Friday, the 33-year-old Sparks star filed legal papers seeking to legally dissolve the one-night stand.

MERRY SPICE-MAS: In Britain, the Spice Girls--desperate to prove they're not one-album wonders--have become the first band since the Beatles to score a Christmas week No. 1 song there for two consecutive years. The quintet's latest hit is called "Too Much." A relieved Geri Halliwell (that would be Ginger Spice) says she feels like crying. She's not alone.

BIG-SCREEN BUD: Married...With Children vet David Faustino is reportedly set to make his feature-film debut in the indie production Lovers and Liars, about a P.I., a girl and a blackmail plot. For all the casting news, see The Dotted Line.

FUNNYMAN: Can Mouse Hunt star Nathan Lane catch NBC a new hit? The network sure hopes so. It has ordered 13 episodes of a sitcom to star the Tony Award-winner.

THE SLY ONE: It's lifetime-achievement award time for 50-year-old Sylvester Stallone. The Rocky star will be feted at the Palm Springs International Film Festival next month.

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