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Magic Calls Foul
The Magic Hour did a vanishing act after only two months, and its host blames black celebrities

Focus

Few in the TV business were surprised when Magic Johnson's late-night chat show The Magic Hour was put out of its misery Aug. 6 following eight weeks of brutal reviews and dismal ratings. (Repeats continue until early this month.) But Johnson said last week that he failed because black celebrities failed him—by refusing to appear on the show. "We all have to support each other, and we don't do that," Johnson, 39, told Lee Bailey, publisher of the Electronic Urban Report Web site, which covers black entertainment. "Black stars think that if they're not on [The Tonight Show with Jay] Leno or [Late Show with David] Letterman, then they're not making it. Their managers and agents keep them off of the black shows. There it is, that's your major problem right there." The result, said Magic: "All minorities suffer." Some celebrities acknowledge turning down the show, including Johnson's friend Denzel Washington (who says he only goes on talk shows when he has a movie to promote), Eddie Murphy (who did no publicity for his movie Dr. Dolittle), and Vanessa Williams (who said she had a scheduling conflict). Magic Show staffers also claim Wesley Snipes, Danny Glover, and Cuba Gooding Jr. balked, but they all declined comment. Of that group, only Glover appeared on a rival show (Leno's) during Johnson's run, and Leno himself called Johnson offering advice. Among those who did appear on The Magic Hour were Will Smith, Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Shaquille O'Neal and Whitney Houston—who demonstrated her vacuuming skills—and other celebs were booked for upcoming shows. If Johnson rues Leno's ability to lure guests, he doesn't seem to harbor a grudge: Magic is booked to appear on The Tonight Show Sept. 9.

Tunnel Vision
Mention a high-speed chase through a Paris tunnel that ends with a car smashing into a pillar, and most people will think of the tragic death of Princess Diana a year ago. But that association didn't stop the makers of Ronin, the Robert De Niro action thriller due Sept. 25, from including two similar accidents. The film's stunt coordinator, Jean-Claude Lagniez, told PEOPLE the sequences were shot in Paris last March but that any resemblance to Diana's death is just coincidental. Nevertheless, he adds, the scene "made us think of what had happened to Princess Diana...but there was no discussion about changing or omitting the scene." Ronin director John Frankenheimer told a USA Today reporter he was planning to use tunnels for the chase scene all along because "they seemed like dangerous places," but says Diana's death "did kind of color the whole thing...we just went on with it." A spokesperson for MGM, which at first denied the crash scenes even existed, said, "They're not the tunnels where Princess Diana was killed. This movie is not about a princess getting killed. It's just a movie."

Every Leo Picture Tells a Story
Leonardo DiCaprio is worried about being overexposed. Not because of this week's flotilla of Titanic videos, which sailed into stores on Sept. 1, but because of naughty stills Playgirl obtained from DiCaprio's 1995 flick Total Eclipse and is publishing in an issue hitting newsstands Sept. 8. DiCaprio unsuccessfully sued to stop the magazine from publishing the 11 photos, especially the ones in which he's wearing nothing but a smile. "He's absolutely a sight for sore eyes for women of all ages," says Playgirl spokeswoman Kathleen Giulini. "He's got a really cute tush." Meanwhile, a picture of a 3-year-old Leo dressed for the beach is touching off another legal skirmish: In Los Angeles, DiCaprio's former neighbor and family friend Linda Scott, 45, is suing a Dallas video company for using a picture (in a video called Leonardo: King of the World) she says she took of DiCaprio as a toddler. Scott photographed 3 DiCaprio hundreds of times over 12 years—"I had this premonition," "she says, "because he had this quality, this charisma, from the start." Scott hopes to exhibit the photos in an art gallery, not sell them. "I did this for art," she says. Perhaps, but money may follow anyway: Lawyers for the videomaker say they want to settle.

Crawling Out of the Woodwork
Great minds think alike, and so do minds in Hollywood. The town that brought you two volcano movies last year and two sky-is-falling epics this summer is abuzz over two animated comedies about insects. Antz, which opens Oct. 2, stars Woody Allen as the voice of a lowly worker ant who leads a bug revolution. Antz comes from DreamWorks, the studio co-founded by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, the man who was running Disney when it began working on the idea of a creepy-crawly cartoon. That film, A Bug's Life, (due out Nov. 20) also features a misfit ant, this time defending his colony against a plague of grasshoppers led by evil Hopper. Why the sudden swarm? It seems animators haven't worked the bugs out of their system—drawing humans can be a bit complex. "Anything without hair that doesn't have an extremely detailed surface is simpler," says Rita Street, author of Computer Animation: A Whole New World. DreamWorks denies it intentionally ant-agonized Disney by rescheduling Antz from next spring. Codirector Tim Johnson says he doesn't want Antz to squash its rival but admits, "It's nice to be a little early, only because I'd like people to watch Antz without any other film in their minds."

The Crime of Their Lives

It's not everyone who can donate a day at the office and have it count toward a criminal sentence. But that's what prosecutors in L.A. are considering for singer George Michael, who pleaded no contest to lewd conduct after cops arrested him April 7 in a public bathroom. According to a published report, Michael, 35, is reluctant to complete an initial sentence that entails menial chores. Reportedly, he'd rather perform a charity concert. Would that suffice? Sure, says Deputy District Attorney Kathy Solarzano, who awaits a formal proposal from Michael's lawyer. "A one-hour concert has a lot of preparation [and] greater value than one hour of community service," she says. Michael isn't required to do anything "particularly geared toward punishment." Are other celebs sentenced to community service getting their just deserts? You be the judge.

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ON THE BLOCK

BO DEREK'S HILLTOP HIDEAWAY
Bo and John Derek had put their 31-acre retreat in Santa Ynez, Calif., up for sale and were going to build a new, smaller home when John, 71, died of heart failure in May. Now Bo, 41, who shared the home with Derek for 18 years, is pressing ahead with the sale. For an asking price of $2.5 million, the property comes with a 5,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, 4½-bath ranch house with two separate caretaker apartments, a six-stall horse barn, two pools and 360-degree valley and mountain views. As for building another home, Bo's plans are incomplete.