Late Nightcap
With Leno and others serving up liquor, will TV talk turn tipsy?

Focus

Offering lip-loosening libations to nervous guests isn't exactly a new practice on the late-night talk show circuit. But now The Tonight Show is making it official: NBC recently procured a liquor license so the show can stock and serve alcoholic beverages to green-room denizens. "For a lot of guests," says Leno, 51, a teetotaler who has a one-drink-per-person policy, "it's a great excuse to act silly."

Some applaud the move—Charlize Theron raved over Tonight's margaritas in February—but not everyone is raising a glass. The Late Show with David Letterman brings stars a cocktail only upon request. Ditto the Late Late with Craig Kilborn (although Kilborn has a well-equipped bar cart that sits behind his desk). Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher serves beer and wine, but, as former executive producer Jerry Nachman says, "our problem wasn't getting people sloshed—it was dealing with the already sloshed. A lot of people showed up needing a cup of coffee."

Closet Benefactor
Helena Bonham Carter isn't just paying lip service to homelessness. The actress recently saw homeless woman Carol McDowell on a London street and offered her two bags of her own clothing, including a jacket she wore during the Till Human Voices Wake Us film shoot. Says her rep: "She feels close to homelessness."

Chicks Rule the Roost
They're not Susan B. Anthony, but don't knock the Dixie Chicks' contribution to sisterhood. The smokinggun.com Web site reports the trio asked concert venues to convert a number of men's rooms into women's facilities on their recent six-month tour. "We know women have to wait longer in line," says Chicks road manager Paul Chavaria. "[We] wanted to speed up the lines." Now about those Cineplexes...

No, You're the Best Actor

They play sidesplitting foils in Mel Brooks's hit Broadway musical The Producers, and now they're real-life rivals. On May 7 Producers won a record 15 Tony nominations, including two Best Actor nods, one for Matthew Broderick, 39, and the other for Nathan Lane, 45. "It's an awkward thing," admits Broderick, who, with Lane, will cohost the 55th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall June 3. "But we have a very good rapport, and we're not going to let this get in the way of that."

Not that he doesn't relish the nomination. "I was very happy," says the two-time Tony winner (for Brighton Beach Memoirs and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying). "I've definitely never been in a show that pleased an audience as much," including his wife, Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker, 36. "She's seen it about 13 times," he notes. So who should win that Tony? "I would like it to be a tie."

Minivans Strictly Prohibited
For Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp, being married to a rock star is life in a lane not fast enough. So when Kim Basinger bowed out due to a respiratory ailment, Elaine, 31, jumped at the chance to take her seat on May 27 as the first female pace-car driver in Indy 500 history. "I'll be the coolest mom," says the Ralph Lauren model, who has two sons with husband John. "My boys think I'm in the race."

Quaid Crowes in Texas
There's something about Texas and exes—Meg Ryan's, that is. Last August Russell Crowe and his band Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts performed three sold-out shows in Austin. Now Dennis Quaid is packing another Austin club with his rock group the Sharks. "Music is like an old girlfriend that I fell in love with again," says Quaid, 47, who's also in town to film The Rookie.

Alba's Angel Eyes?
Their romance didn't exactly have an auspicious beginning: "She has an unnerving way of staring at you and not blinking, as if you're an unwilling participant in a staring contest," Dark Angel's Michael Weatherly told PEOPLE last year, describing his sultry costar Jessica Alba, 20. But these days, Weatherly, 32, is more than happy to return Alba's gaze. The pair got engaged last month in Vancouver. No details yet on the upcoming nuptials.

POP QUIZ

with Jane Kaczmarek and Bradley Whitford

Jane Kaczmarek and Bradley Whitford may be television's hardest-working couple: Both star in popular series (Whitford, 41, plays the Deputy Chief of Staff on NBC's The West Wing, and Kaczmarek, 45, is the harried mother of four boys on FOX's Malcolm in the Middle,). In real life they're the harried parents of two—Frances, 3, and George, 1—and avid tennis players. The duo recently kicked off USA Tennis Month at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City and talked to Scoop about their real-life love match.

Why tennis?

Kaczmarek: It's not just about getting out there and humiliating the competition. It's a great way for families to do something together.

What's best about the sport?

Kaczmarek: I really like to talk when I exercise. Tennis lets you talk while you're playing.
Whitford: It's great therapy too. Fire your shrink and get a racket.

When did you both start playing?

Whitford: I was a tennis player in high school.
Kaczmarek: I grew up playing in an alley on the south side of Milwaukee.
Whitford: And if you hit a rat, it was in.

How did you two meet?

Whitford: I was doing a play at Lincoln Center in 1989, and Jane's best friend was playing my sister. Jane came to see the play and started stalking me. [The couple married in 1992.]

You're both Wisconsinites. Coincidence?

Whitford: Actually, yes. I found out she knew what a cheese curd was, so I married her.
Kaczmarek: We did talk about cheese on our first date.
Whitford: If that doesn't get you hot, nothing will.

Teaching the kids to play tennis?

Whitford: They're just [ages] 3 and 1, so right now we're trying to teach them how to use the potty.
Kaczmarek: All they're good for now is running to get the balls.

ON THE BLOCK

A REAL DEAL?
Alan Jackson doesn't want to live in the real world anymore. The "Real World" (a nod to the country singer's 1990 hit album Here in the Real World) is Jackson's 5,500-sq.-ft. vacation house overlooking Center Hill Lake in Smithvilie, Tenn., an hour southeast of Nashville. Jackson, 42, who says he and his wife, Denise, 41, and their three children haven't been able to spend enough time at the five-bedroom getaway, is selling the property for $3.9 million. The spread comes with an extra-large playroom, a swimming pool, a separate six-car garage and a 60-ft-long boathouse.

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