It has taken almost six months since her breakup with Brad Pitt, but Gwyneth Paltrow has stuck a toe back into those often turbulent relationship waters. I would characterize her new romance with actor Ben Affleck, the costar and co-screenwriter of Good Will Hunting, as very casual at this point. Still, the two managed to spend a couple of weekends together in December. Affleck was the one who traveled, commuting between Los Angeles, where he's shooting Armageddon, and New York City, where Paltrow is filming A Perfect Murder. I understand that both Paltrow and Affleck are maintaining a "wait-and-see" attitude but were nevertheless planning to spend a festive New Year's Eve together in Manhattan....

On the same day that comedian Chris Farley died, rumors of Scott Baio's death spread through Hollywood like wildfire. Upon hearing the news himself, the very-much-alive actor, 36, whose career has quieted since his days as TV's Chachi, immediately changed his phone message to, "This is Scott Baio. I have passed away. But if this is a call regarding work, call my agent."...

Let's put to rest those silly rumors romantically linking Don Johnson with sixty-something San Francisco socialite Denise Hale. These two really are just friends. Hale, in fact, has often been a guest at Johnson's San Francisco home, which he currently shares with Jodi O'Keefe, his 19-year-old girlfriend, who also plays his daughter on CBS's Nash Bridges....

Speaking of Hash Bridges, at Johnson's behest, Penny Marshall will make an appearance on his series, playing a New York City cop who's in San Francisco to investigate multiple murders involving models. "Don's been asking me for a long time to do this, and eventually he wore me down," says Marshall, who insisted that her character be from New York "because I don't have enough time after all these years to lose my New York accent." The episode films later this month....

Johnny Carson is both puzzled and peeved about a cover story in the Dec. 16 Star that says he is ill and facing serious surgery. The former late-night king, through a spokesperson, says he's healthy, "feels great" and has no plans for surgery. Helen Sanders, who runs Carson's office in Santa Monica, says the reclusive comedian wanted to respond to the piece "because some of his friends and relatives have been calling, thinking there's something wrong with him, and there's not." Carson, 71, claims the tab missed on a number of other points too: He says he doesn't have a dog, has never been to the local Starbucks and has no idea why he is pictured with a mustache since he doesn't have one. A rep for the Star says the magazine stands by its story and its photos....

The Mask of Zorro, starring Antonio Banderas as Zorro and Anthony Hopkins as his aging mentor Don Diego de la Vega, finished shooting last June and was awaiting its release next summer when a test screening in November indicated that the audience felt let down by the death of Hopkins's character. So in December, director Martin Campbell (GoldenEye) reshot the ending to leave the fate of Don Diego open-ended. As one source close to Zorro put it, "It's more of a [continuing] franchise with Hopkins alive."

  • Contributors:
  • Joseph V. Tirella.