The Show Must Go On
Troubles on hold, Matthew Perry and Robert Downey Jr. return to work

Focus

After abruptly disappearing to rehab last month—leaving Friends and his current film project Serving Sara (with Elizabeth Hurley) in the lurch—Matthew Perry is back at work. The actor returned March 20 to the sitcom's Warner Bros. lot, where cast and crew were putting the finishing touches on the season finale, an episode in which Perry's character Chandler may—or may not—marry Courteney Cox Arquette Arquette's Monica. Details about the television wedding remain a well-guarded secret, much like information about Perry's treatment. This much is known: Friends is slated to wrap March 30, with the "wedding" show set to air May 17.

Meanwhile Hollywood's other notoriously wayward son, Robert Downey Jr., has been dutifully punching his time card on the Ally McBeal set. (Downey has three more episodes to film.) Despite the fact that he faces a preliminary hearing on drug-possession charges April 30, "we expect Robert will be in every episode for the rest of the season," says Ally rep Chris Alexander.

But considering that production delays—say, from an AWOL star—can be costly, isn't hiring vice-prone talent risky business? Not necessarily, says Maureen Duffy of Film Finances, a bond-completion company covering budget overruns. Despite his history, Downey has "always been bondable," she says, because he has never let reveling interfere with work.

Perry is more of a gamble. He may face higher insurance premiums and restricted coverage and even be assigned a "shadow"—someone to tail him and ensure he stays clean. Still, "every situation is different," says Duffy. "I don't know that he'd be a red flag."

Too Close for Comfort
For two women not participating in one of those separated-at-birth twin studies, Elisabeth Shue, 37, and Amy Brenneman, 36, have a lot in common. Both gave birth to healthy baby girls last week (Stella and Charlotte, respectively) and both are Harvard grads married to directors. (Shue wed filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, while Brenneman's husband is director Brad Silberling.) Shue leads in one respect. Her Stella (March 19) beat Charlotte by a day.

Bugged by Fashion
One may wonder why Chris Kirkpatrick of 'N Sync calls his new line of casual streetwear (priced $20-$85) FuMan Skeeto. Wonder no more. One day, while he was cutting his hair extensions, "a mosquito flew in and landed by the braids on the floor, and I started laughing and said, 'It's a Fu Man[chu-bearded] 'squito!' " says the singer. "That was the best idea I could come up with." Kirkpatrick creates with the help of artists and designers. "They do most of the legwork and come up with the basics," he explains, "but I say this works or that doesn't work."

In Liverpool, He's Bard to the Bone

Held at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, England, the event was billed simply as "An Evening with [local playwright] Willy Russell and Friends." So murmurs of excitement coursed through the audience of 400 when, after performances by Russell and others, Sir Paul McCartney took the stage to give a first-ever reading from his new book of original poems, Blackbird Singing. Introduced as "the people's poet," the ex-Beatle read 12 works, including "Jerk of All Jerks," about John Lennon's murderer, and "Black Jacket," a poem about McCartney's optimism after the death of his wife, Linda, in 1998. "Sadness isn't sadness," he read. "It's happiness in a black jacket/ Tears are not tears/ They're balls of laughter dipped in salt."

Did he verse well? "The critics sharpen their pencils when they see me," shrugs McCartney, who will read at the 92nd Street Y in New York City on April 24. "I don't care—they criticized Sgt. Pepper." Perhaps, but the Everyman crowd, at least, seemed very pleased. "He has a very good delivery," noted guest Margaret O'Neill. "I think he has a lot of potential."

Survivors or Cast Away?
Who's next to be voted off Pseudo-Celeb Island? Looks like Survivor I castoffs Ramona Gray (the chemist) and neurologist-turned-Exfra.'-correspondent Sean Kenniff. Each got $6,000 for appearing jointly as part of the University of South Florida's spring lecture series on March 19. A measly 60 students showed up for the freebie. "We were disappointed," admits student-activities coordinator Karen Bednarczyk. "The cast of The Real World draws 200 to 300 kids." Kenniff, who blamed the low turnout on students' recent return from spring break, found the crowd "enthusiastic and friendly." Bednarczyk insists the pair, who amused students with Survivor dish, "were a class act." And, she notes, it could have been worse: "Richard Hatch charges $15,000!"

Scooby Dooby due
It's those meddlesome kids! Now fleshing out Scooby Doo,the cartoon series, for a feature movie due in June 2002 are (from left) Freddie Prinza Jr., Linda Cardellini, Matthew Lillard and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

POP QUIZ

with Carol Marin

Carol Marin aired her first report for 60 Minutes March 25, joining the country's long-revered TV newsmagazine. Marin, 52, got her first TV reporting job with WBIR in Knoxville, Tenn., in 1972. She made her own headlines in 1997, when she quit WMAQ in Chicago rather than share an on-air desk with Jerry Springer, who was to be a commentator. "They owned the station and I didn't, so one of us had to go," says Marin. Scoop spent some time with the new hand on 60 Minutes.

What made you choose news reporting as a career?

I grew up as a blue-collar kid in Chicago. My parents were not formally educated but self-educated, and they bought the four Chicago newspapers every day. My father was a Republican and fallen-away Baptist, and my mother was a Catholic Democrat. We used to argue all the time. My parents used to set the dinner table with politics and religion. The newspaper was a predicate for that. It was the foundation for what we fought about that night. That was my journalism school.

What keeps 60 Minutes ticking and ticking?

It still has passion. It's true to what it believed in the beginning: What you need is a good story, well told.

Your reporting style?

I am a serious, hard-news, traditional reporter. I would rather be covering a prison than do a feature on a paradise vacation spot. I would rather do corruption than celebrities.

What's the tough part?

The hardest thing for me is to take all these facts and make them into a narrative, instead of a series of factoids.
At age 82, does Mike Wallace get edgy reading gossip that he may be replaced? Mike Wallace is going to be there after those of us who are younger are gone.

Is Andy Rooney grumpy?

I've only encountered him a few times. He's been very nice to me.

What will you bring to the show that's different?

I'm not sure what I'm adding, but I certainly am learning. For a reporter to get a story on 60 Minutes is like dying and going to heaven.

ON THE BLOCK

FORE SALE

Actor Samuel L. Jackson has been so busy (five films—including Shaft, Rules of Engagement and the upcoming 51st State—in two years) he hasn't had time to move out of his four-bedroom home in Encino and into the nine-bedroom, 11,000-sq.-ft. Beverly Hills mansion he bought from comedian Roseanne last summer. Until now. Jackson and his wife, LaTanya, finally put their Tudor-style home on the market for $2.8 million. His old place—like his new one—has a pool and tennis court, but Jackson, a golf nut, will no doubt miss one of its more unusual amenities: a putting green.

  • Contributors:
  • Ting Yu,
  • Liza Hamm,
  • Antoinette Coulton,
  • Mike Fleeman,
  • Esther Leach,
  • Valerie O'Barr,
  • Aaron T. Smith,
  • Lyndon Stambler,
  • Michele Stueven,
  • Linda Trischitta,
  • Fannie Weinstein.