Elton John can't seem to get away from the yellow brick road of journalism. Tired of being battered by the British tabloids, he was planning to head for cover in a rented house in Bel Air. Fleet Street has been having a field day reporting that the flamboyant 40-year-old rocker was involved in drug-saturated homosexual orgies in the early '80s. The stories were denied by John, who started libel proceedings immediately. The London Sun still ran an apparently compromising picture of the performer in the nude. The singer's legal adviser was quoted as saying that Elton believed the photograph was genuine, but thought it was taken about 10 years ago. All of this, along with his separation from wife Renate, left Elton severely depressed, according to friends. Now it appears that John has changed his mind about heading to California, convinced that Fleet-footed reporters would follow. It will take more than a change of scenery to boost his spirits.

Vanity! Thy name is men. Warren Beatty made quite a fuss about doing publicity interviews for Ishtar on film rather than videotape because he thinks he looks better. Well, that pales next to David Bowie's obsession with beauty. Dissatisfied with his estimated $250,000 new video, Never Let You Down, Bowie asked the production company to perform cosmetic surgery on the tape. One insider says Bowie may have felt upstaged by 60 amazing-looking extras, most of them models, actors and dancers. French fashion photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino, who directed this video (and Madonna's Open Your Heart), is so upset by the nipping and tucking that he's going back to fashion photography—where the prima donnas are easier.

Max Headroom is getting some competition. The three British whizzes at Coast to Coast Productions who gave special-effects birth to Max (played by Matt Frewer) are doing it again with Roxscene, played by actress Caroline Munro, whom they hope will go head to head with Max. Roxscene will have Max's gift for the glib, but she'll wear a blond pompadour, computer-generated lipstick (Frosted Floppy Disc) and speak in a Southern accent. The producers have been talking to Jane Wagner, who wrote The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe for pal Lily Tomlin, about writing for Roxscene.

Some people write living wills which direct doctors to discontinue any life-support treatment that unduly prolongs the life of a terminally ill patient. But producer Sherry Lansing, 42, has turned her will into a movie on ABC this week. Lansing is executive producer of When the Time Comes, which stars Bonnie (Heart Like a Wheel) Bedelia as a cancer patient who enlists her friend Brad (Midnight Express) Davis to help her die. That is exactly what Lansing and her best friend, Chicago attorney John Steifel, plan to do for each other should either become terminally ill. According to Lansing, each keeps a supply of barbiturates on hand for the other. They made the pact after Lansing watched her mother die torturously of cancer over a three-year period. Says Lansing: "I'm not going to die like that. Euthanasia may not be for everyone, but I think it should be legalized. People should have a choice."

Showbiz mom Ruth Winger only has eyes for one baby: 8-lb., 11-oz. grandson Emanuel ("For my father") Noah ("Because his parents like it"). Says Mrs. Winger: "He looks like a beautiful combination of both his parents," who are, of course, Debra Winger and Timothy Hutton.

While playing automaker Preston T. Tucker in Francis Coppola's new film, Tucker, Jeff Bridges suffered dramatically for his art. The actor was shooting a scene in which he hit a wall in frustration and wound up breaking his right hand. He returned from the hospital that same day with his hand in a cast and tried to finish the scene by pounding his left fist. This time he broke a blood vessel. The moral? No good punch goes unpunished.