They Like Mike
When Michael J. Fox calls, Hollywood answers with $4.5 million

Focus

Taking the stage at a Parkinson's research benefit on Dec. 8, organizer and host Michael J. Fox acknowledged his various tics and twitches. "On the outside I may look like I'm in a lot of trouble," Fox, 40, told the 900-strong audience at New York City's Roseland Ballroom, "but I've never been more focused."

His efforts were well rewarded. Supporters from Kevin Kline to Heidi Klum turned out to enjoy performances by Tony Bennett, Jon Stewart, Chris Rock and other entertainers in an evening that netted $4.5 million for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

Accompanied by his mother, Phyllis, and his wife, actress Tracy Pollan, 41, Fox gave thanks for more than mere money. "I realize that thousands of people pray for me," the actor, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1991, told PEOPLE. "It energizes me and gives me a sense of commitment and purpose." Fox says that working without the structure of a daily routine—like filming a sitcom—allows him to focus his strength on important tasks. "I still have a lot of energy," says Fox. "I feel good." Which comes as no surprise to his mom. "He always looked on the bright side of things," says Phyllis Fox. "Even as a kid, because he was shorter, he was always teased but it didn't bother him." Adds Pollan: "I'm not always so optimistic, but together we even each other out."

Though all agreed the cause was noble, most guests acknowledged they came for one reason. "Michael asked," says his former Spin City costar Barry Bostwick. "We do it for Mike."

Early Proposal
A morning person by profession, Early Show coanchor Bryant Gumbel, 53, chose the waking hours of Dec. 7 to ask his girlfriend of three years, former financial researcher Hilary Quinlan, 41, to marry him. The couple, living together in Gumbel's luxury Manhattan high-rise since 1999, shared the news with close friends at a dinner party that evening. No wedding date has been set. Gumbel finally settled a nasty divorce with his first wife, June, 53, four months ago. He had declared his affections for Quinlan as early as 1999, telling TV's Charlie Rose, "I've a woman in my life who I'm nuts about."

Yep, He'll Be Back
He's already the reigning action-flick hero of the civilized world. Now Arnold Schwarzenegger, 54, boasts a new title: the one guy in Hollywood who can glance at Tom Cruise's paycheck and say, "Is that all?" Schwarzenegger—who recently fractured several ribs in a motorcycle crash and was treated at a Santa Monica hospital saying, "Don't worry, this will not affect my skiing at Sun Valley with my family this Christmas"—will receive a staggering $30 million for Terminator 3. The figure beats the $25 million asking price of Arnold's closest competitors: Cruise, Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford. (Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey and Julia Roberts trail with a paltry $20 million.) So is the king's ransom for real? "I can't deny it," says Schwarzenegger's publicist Jill Eisenstadt, citing the film's budget and the franchise's popularity as justification. And after all, she says, "there is no Terminator without Arnold."

Will of a Racer
Ten months after his tragic crash during the final lap of the Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt's will became a matter of public record. The stock car racer, who racked up seven Winston Cup Championships before his death on Feb. 18 at the age of 49, left the bulk of his estate—worth well over $31 million—to his widow, Teresa Earnhardt, 43. Included are his racing company, endorsement earnings, interest in a Chevrolet dealership and the rights to Earnhardt's "The Intimidator" trademark, as well as boats, cars and a $300,000 house. Earnhardt also put money in trust to provide for his kids: Taylor Nicole, 13, Dale Jr., 27, Kelley, 29, and Kerry, 32.

The Faux Fab Four
Sean Penn's latest film, I Am Sam, features the actor as a mentally disabled man nursing an obsession with the Beatles. Getting the okay to use the band's original hits proved to be a long, winding and expensive road. So much so that Penn opted to get by with a little help from friends—including brother Michael Penn and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder—who did cover versions of the tunes for a nominal fee. Estimated savings: $12 million.

Chili Pepper Helps Sprouts
When Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea opened a music school in October, folks raised eyebrows. Today, his 25-teacher Silverlake Conservatory of Music in L.A. provides affordable instruction ($20 per half hour) to more than 100 students in every-thing from tuba to African drum. Flea, aka Michael Balzary, put up $150,000 for the project after budget cuts wiped out the music program at Fairfax High School, his alma mater. "I wanted to create a great place for kids to learn music," says Balzary, 39, who plans to teach bass and other instruments in his spare time. One promising new talent: his daughter Clara, 13, who takes bass lessons—though not from Dad. "She thinks I'm a dork," he says. "It's great, though. She comes home and plays Led Zeppelin."

Toy Story
The photo ran in papers across the U.S. following Sept. 11: a yarn-top rag doll in the wreckage of the World Trade Center towers. Now that $15 moppet, Little Red, is a hot property this holiday season. FAO Schwarz sells the doll exclusively for its designer, the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, 42. (Neither would release sales figures.) Partial proceeds benefit the U.S. branch of Fergie's charity Chances for Children, from whose offices, on the 101st floor of Tower 1, likely came the photographed doll.

Rodney Redux
Fate seems to have had some respect for Rodney Dangerfield on his 80th birthday. The next day, however, the universe returned to normal. With a vengeance. "Everyone says I'll be good as new in a couple of weeks," says the I-don't-get-no-respect comic, who suffered a heart attack on Nov. 23 (and had a double bypass last year). "Hey, as if I was any good as new." Dangerfield, hospitalized for six days, is already back to writing his autobiography, It's Not Easy Being Me, and will appear in the comedy The 4th Tenor in 2002. His last request? "I don't mind dying," he says. "But if it happens, I'd like to be without pain. I think I've suffered enough already."

POP QUIZ
with Goldie Hawn

Goldie Hawn has built a successful career playing sweet. So who better to promote Words Can Heal, a national campaign first proposed by the Jewish educational centers Aish Ha Torah to get Americans to speak more kindly to one another? Hawn, 56, spoke at a Dec. 10 National Press Club luncheon in Washington, D.C., about curbing gossip and softening harsh language. Afterward she spoke—very politely—with Scoop.

Why a campaign promoting "niceness"?

I think it's important, and I've lived my life that way.

Your entire life?

I was never an unkind person by nature. So I always had difficulty understanding why people could be unkind. Why they felt the need to be hurtful. I was called names in school as a little girl.

What sort of stuff?

Well, you know, I was Jewish, so some kids didn't like that. They made fun of me. And sometimes I was too skinny; I didn't have breasts. You could list a whole bunch of reasons as to why people make fun of you. So I made a very concerted effort in my life to be kind-hearted and to try to understand people.

You say that unremarkable events can also make the world better. For example?

One time I drove down [L.A.'s] Wilshire Boulevard, and there was a woman who was clearly out of her mind. I picked her up. I looked at her medical bracelet, and spent half the day trying to get her back [home]. That's unremarkable.

Will this new pledge to civility influence which acting roles you take?

No. I've always lived by a code of ethics. It doesn't have anything to do with acting.

And finally, can niceness survive in the Sunset Boulevard world of Hollywood?

I hope so. But I think we have to be careful not to think that one day we're going to be one way and tomorrow we're going to be another. It just doesn't work that way.

ON THE BLOCK

ROCKY'S GUEST HOUSE

Some people have a fold-out couch. When Sylvester Stallone needed more room for visiting relatives—or so said a story in the Los Angeles Times—he plunked down $16 million for the house next door to his 20,000-sq.-ft. Beverly Hills-area home. Now, barely three months later, and without explanation, the 55-year-old actor is selling his 15,000-sq.-ft. pad, complete with sweeping city or mountain views from each of the five bedrooms. It also has a billiard room, gym and indoor and outdoor pools. The asking price is $950,000 more than Stallone paid—and you get a 10-ft. aquarium too.

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