RIKKI, HOW COULD YOU!
Sex, skirts, bitchiness: That's what Melrose Place producer Chip Hayes, 38, a self-described computer junkie, loves to read when he browses through—and often replies to—viewer postings about the Fox hit show on America Online and other services. "The messages are a kind of instant focus group," Hayes tells us. "We know we're on target if there's lots of reaction." What has inspired the most controversy? "Amanda's [Heather Locklear's] short skirts got lots of comment," says Hayes. "Women wondered how she could get away with wearing them to work. Hey, she's Amanda!" The presence of former porn star Traci Lords, 26, who plays conniving cult member Rikki, is also burning up the wires. "People love her or hate her," says Hayes. "And they're also divided about the cult story line and how she ropes Sydney [Laura Leighton] into things." Keep 'em at their keyboards, Rikki.

LANCE, A LOT
With O.J. Simpson areas elbowing each other for room in cyberspace, we've found some relief—trial stuff we really want to dish about: What is superior court Judge Lance Ito, 44, looking at on his computer screens? And what's he always sipping on the bench? The folks who post messages at alt.fan.judge-ito on the Net have some ideas. Ito's quaff, they agree, is Java from Peet's, a San Francisco Bay Area coffeehouse chain known for its fine roasts. "He has been hooked since his days in law school," writes one. Opinion is divided on the computer issue. One groupie says Ito is using a database called LawDesk that lists California legal decisions. A correspondent called Tortess says it's CaseView, which shows the trial transcript as it's being recorded, but a law student at Canada's Carleton University speculates, "He's probably got a copy of [top computer game] Doom for when the DNA evidence starts. Zzzzz." The cybernauts know their Ito pretty well. An assistant to the judge confirms that he does indeed prefer Peet's brew and that he uses the legal software. But, she says severely, "I assure you he's not playing Doom." Not yet, anyway.

MEGACARE

He doesn't change from leather pants to a red cape, but when Megadeth lead singer Dave Mustaine, 32, hears a cry for help, he goes to the rescue. The heavy metal bandsman recently was told that a teenage New Zealand fan who regularly posts messages at Megadeth's Net site under the screen name Vixen had mentioned suicide online. Mustaine got on the phone to help.

"Vixen's parents told her to get a job for spending money," Mustaine tells us. "She had to leave school to be able to handle the job, and her parents were upset about that. They kicked her out. That triggered a depression. So I told her, 'Go for a walk and relax. I'll be right beside you in spirit. If no one else cares, I do.' " It helped. "She e-mailed me a few weeks later. She was back at home and things were better," the singer says.

For Mustaine, a former heavy drug user, teen angst is magnetic. "My Creator has given me a chance to live," he says. "I have to help whenever I can."