Stand By Your mom
Phoning home or buying her one, celebs honor their No. 1 fan

Focus

Some ply their parents with trendy accessories like Prada handbags and Bulgari baubles. Others prefer grand homes or gracious gestures. But whatever their penchant, celebs these days, through small-scale kindnesses or Hollywood-size largesse, are eager to show themselves to be the kinds of kids any mother would be proud of. Herewith, five mama's boys and girls who celebrate Mother's Day throughout the year.

Jason Alexander and Ruth Greenspan
Seinfeld alum Jason Alexander has never stopped giving to mom Ruth Greenspan—in preschool, she says, it was a "precious" (but ugly) rhinestone pin; a few years ago it was a house in Florida and a Ford Taurus (that's her with both in 1997). "Because I usually protest his gifts," says Greenspan, who thinks Alexander should spend his money on himself, "he said, 'The only choice you have is the color.' "

Steven Spielberg and Leah Adler
Leah Adler was Steven Spielberg's first star. "She was in all of my 8-mm films as a kid," the director (with Mom in 1994) told PEOPLE. SO he has given her A-list birthday treats, flying her from her Los Angeles home to Las Vegas for gambling, or to a fashion show and shopping spree at an otherwise-closed luxury department store. "I'm on a crusade," he said, "to spoil my mother."

Trisha and Gwen Yearwood
Over the years, Trisha Yearwood has given her mom, Gwen, a Lincoln Town Car and a trip to Europe (for the two of them). But Gwen's favorite gift is still the one Trisha gave her as a 4-year-old: a bunch of wild violets she had picked in the yard. "I looked at those little violets and started to cry," recalls Gwen (with Trisha in 1997). Their bond is still strong. These days, says Trisha, "we love to just sit and have coffee and talk."

Mariah and Patricia Carey
Patricia Carey can't forget her daughter Mariah's loveliest gift—she lives in it. Mariah (in 1990, with Mom) bought the four-bedroom home on 6.5 acres in New York's Westchester County, secretly moved in her mother's possessions, which had been in storage, then surprised her with the spread during a supposed house-hunting trip in 1994. "It was the most moving thing I've ever experienced," says Patricia.

Emma Thompson and Phyllida Law
Mummy is tops with Emma Thompson—literally. The Oscar winner insisted that her mother, character actress Phyllida Law (seen here last year), be billed above her in the credits of their 1997 film The Winter Guest "She was eager," says the movie's co-producer Ed Pressman, "to see her mother in the spotlight."

America's Most Haunted
The shocking execution-style murder of British news-woman Jill Dando on her London doorstep on April 26 felt very close to home for at least one American TV journalist. America's Most Wanted host John Walsh, who modeled his show after Dando's Crimewatch UK, tells Scoop that threats are part of his everyday routine. "I've had to put up with that [crap] for the last 11 years," says Walsh, 53, whose FOX show began in 1988 and has generated 563 captures. "Everyone in the media," he says, "has their stalkers. It's very, very scary. Men and women write you crazy things. We need to take it very seriously." Walsh doesn't need any lessons about the horrors of crime: His own son was abducted and found decapitated in Florida 18 years ago, a crime that turned Walsh, a former hotel executive, into a crusader. "It's more than a job," he says, "it's a way to get violent, dangerous people off the streets. But for [Dando], it was a job and not a mission, and she paid for it with her life." Walsh will not reveal where he lives (except to say it's in the Washington, D.C., area) and calls his own security "very good. We're just very, very cautious. If Bill Cosby's son can be murdered and Michael Jordan's father can be murdered, it can happen anywhere."

Gere-ing Up to Aid the War Refugees
Aside from an autograph or two, Richard Gere's visit to the Balkans was all business. On a six-day trip to Macedonia last week, the actor-activist toured refugee camps along the Kosovo border, chatting with displaced Kosovars and quizzing relief workers at a 25,000-person tent city. "I'm just trying to find out what's happening," he told reporters. "If there's any way to help, then I'll do it." Before heading home May 3, Gere urged NATO countries to accept more refugees and U.S. companies to provide free phone service in the camps. A spokeswoman for the aid group Doctors Without Borders says workers were "impressed with [Gere's] knowledge" and his low profile: "He didn't want their time and energy diverted from providing medical care."

Julia a Nair Do Well?
When Julia Roberts waved to the crowd at the London premiere of her new film, Notting Hill, she exhibited some—gasp!—underarm hair, sending British tabloids into a lather over grooming. "You'd think it was, like, chinchilla the way they responded," Roberts later told Howard Stern. "It's something that I don't even think about." Leave that to Fleet Street, which dubbed the fuzz "the black forest" and took to calling Roberts "Pretty Hairy Woman." Said one columnist: "A woman's armpit is incredibly sexy to a man. Why ruin it by growing your own carpet under there?"

A sour ending to Tony and Wayne's duet
They're crooning love songs—but not to each other. Wayne Newton and Tony Orlando, pals for 30 years, shared a theater in Branson, Mo., last year, alternating as head-liners. Now Orlando is suing Newton for $15 million, claiming that Newton and his wife, Kathleen McCrone Newton, locked him out of the place and secretly taped a business discussion with a microphone hidden in a house-plant. "He was not drawing the crowds," says McCrone Newton, who is one of her husband's lawyers. "Sometimes [Wayne] doesn't see the faults in people." Orlando's publicist, Rob Wilcox, is less charitable. "Wayne is great at spinning in the press," he says. "The courtroom is a whole other matter."

Is It Just a Bug or Something Serious?
Critics and Nielsen ratings agree that ER seems to be suffering from anemia. It set in during February when George Clooney ditched TV's then-highest-rated show. "It's a lot of supporting characters looking for a star," says New York Post TV critic Michelle Greppi. "There seems to be some kind of creative drift," adds Eric Mink of New York's Daily News. The ratings certainly could use some resuscitation: The April 8 episode was the lowest-rated first-run show since November 1994, the season the docs started, and overall numbers are down nearly 15 percent—about 4 million viewers—since last year. Some of the relationships in the cast are on life support: Julianna Margulies (Carol Hathaway) said in February she's leaving at the end of next season, and Eriq La Salle (Dr. Peter Benton), who pushed producers to end his character's interracial romance with Alex Kingston (Dr. Elizabeth Corday) because he was "not comfortable" with the message it sent to African-Americans, blasted producers for waiting so long to showcase Benton for an entire episode (it aired last Feb. 25), as they had with several white characters. "It was like pulling teeth," La Salle said. NBC, which pays an astronomical $13 million per episode for ER, is shrugging off the danger signs. "If you look at the history of any series after four years and beyond," says spokesman Mike Nelson, "the ratings will decline."

ON THE BLOCK

CHER'S STILL COASTING
The ever-evolving Cher is changing her address—from one oceanfront Malibu house to another. The singer has sold her 10,000-square-foot estate on Cliffside Drive for nearly $3.75 million. The house, which she bought in 1990 and occasionally had tried to sell since 1993, has six bedrooms, a gym, media room, pool and tennis court and sits on a 1.2-acre plot. Cher began building the new house nearby in 1997. A 15,000-square-foot Italian Renaissance-style villa on two acres, it boasts at least five bedrooms in addition to projection and editing rooms. Cher's careers have also been keeping her busy. Her hit "Believe" has been a worldwide smash, while Tea with Mussolini, her first movie in three years, opens this week.

  • Contributors:
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  • Eric Francis,
  • J. Todd Foster,
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