An Eastwood Thriller
With a cool head and a big leap, Francesca Fisher-Eastwood, 8, escapes a fire

Focus

Flames engulfed the house, an Eastwood stood on the roof ready to jump, and it wasn't a movie. Caught in a Christmas morning fire at a rented home in North Vancouver, B.C., Francesca Fisher-Eastwood, Clint's 8-year-old daughter by former girlfriend Frances Fisher, felt her way though a smoke-filled second-floor bedroom and climbed out a window onto an adjoining garage. As flames shot 40 feet into the air, Fisher, 49, and a neighbor, Tim Charters, urged the child to jump. She did, knocking them to the ground. "The next thing I knew, I felt her in my arms," said Charters. "It was a miracle that she was okay." The young Eastwood, who had a small role in 1999's True Crime, was treated for smoke inhalation at a local hospital. Fisher, who had run screaming from the house moments before spotting her daughter on the roof, was treated for severe second-degree burns on her arms. The two were in Canada while Fisher filmed Glory Days, a new series for The WB TV.

Francesca's father flew to Vancouver by private jet from his California home upon hearing the news. Before taking Francesca back with him, he visited the Charterses to say thanks. "We were just being good neighbors," said Katherine Charters, Tim's mother, who did not know that the girl was related to Eastwood and was surprised to find the star at her front door. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. As for Francesca's rooftop leap, said proud papa Clint, 71, "She was a pretty brave little gal."

Plotting an Ally Revival
Back in 1997, when it made its debut with dancing babies and steamy story lines, Ally McBeal was hot. Lately, though, ratings have chilled (to just more than 10 million weekly viewers, 4 million less than its 1998-99 peak), and two new actors (James Marsden and Julianne Nicholson) were let go as producers began making plans to reboot. For starters, rocker Jon Bon Jovi will join the cast as Ally's latest love this month. "That's going to be a big charge," predicts Greg Germann, who plays Ally's boss. But might there be a better way? In the giving spirit of the season, Scoop came up with plot twists and asked readers to respond through an online poll.

We asked, you answered. To rev up ratings, should Calista Flockhart's Ally McBeal character:

•Be killed off and return as Ally's long-lost evil twin, Sally, to the renamed and much hyped Sally McBeal show? (8.3% said yes.)
•Run away to Las Vegas and join the cast of CSI? (9.8%)
•Adopt a baby as a single mother? (16.7%)
•Quit and join a rival firm, clashing with her old colleagues week after week? (18.9%)
•Marry—anyone who asked in the past five years? (20.4%)
•Convince Jon Bon Jovi's new character to close out the last 30 minutes of the show with a concert? (25.9%)

Buffy's New Daring Do
Shaking off nightmarish memories of the Felicity ratings plunge after star Keri Russell's second-season lock lopping, UPN has okayed a two-to three-inch shearing for Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Sarah Michelle Gellar. The new cut—to be unveiled Jan. 8—"signifies her increasing maturity," says a UPN rep, who insists the chop won't trim viewers. "The show is about so much more than her hair."

Top of the Pops, at last
It took 37 years—a long and winding road, indeed—for the Beatles to earn the bestselling-album-of-the-year honors from Billboard magazine, the music-industry bible. Their CD 1, a greatest-hits collection that sold 8 million copies, topped works by Shaggy, the Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync and Limp Bizkit to lead the pack in 2001. What about Meet the Beatles, you ask? That 1964 classic only made it to No. 8 for that year, when the original cast album of Hello, Dolly! took the top spot.

Glitter May Mean Less Gold for Carey
Smarting from a $10 million loss on Marian Carey's heavily promoted but poor-selling album Glitter, British music conglomerate EMI is trying to bail out of the $80 million, four-record deal it inked with the diva last spring, reports the Los Angeles Times. The singer, 32, on vacation and unavailable for comment, could get a lump-sum settlement. How did she lose her sparkle? By "trying to appeal to the Britney Spears crowd" and alienating her adult fan base, says one industry expert, who predicts a quick rebound. "Somebody will sign her—she's still got the pipes."

Paint Misbehavin'?
In England, interpreting the new portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by noted artist Lucian Freud—Sigmund's grandson (hey, his father must have had the mother of all Oedipus complexes)—has become something of a Rorschach test. A critic at the Evening Standard, for example, said Freud gave the Queen "lips last seen on Jack Nicholson when he played Batman's archenemy, the Joker." The Express said the work "looks less benign monarch and more Ebenezer Scrooge." Her majesty, 75, who sat for the artist at St. James Palace, remains mum about the criticism, as does Freud, now working with his new muse, model Kate Moss. On the bright side: Art critic and Freud biographer William Feaver, in The Independent, called the work "arguably the best royal portrait since Goya painted Spanish kings 200 years ago."

POP QUIZ

with Peter Krause

Peter Krause segued from a sexy sports anchor on ABC's Sports Night to a squeamish mortician on HBO's dark comedy Six Feet Under. Good career move? Apparently so. Krause, 36, just earned a Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a dramatic television series. Currently filming new episodes to air this spring, Krause took a break on the set to speak with Scoop about his new fan base and his views on the inevitable.

Get any feedback from funeral directors?

We were invited to the Newport Film Festival in June, and some morticians in the audience said they love the show. This is a group of people who never dreamed there would be a show about them.

Did they offer any tips?

They said there were a few things we weren't doing right, something about the embalming. I was not interested.

Morticians do have a lighter side, though. Right?

Every now and then a mortician will tell me a funny story. There was one who was transporting a body in a van. He was in the car-pool lane, and he thought, "There are two people here, me and the corpse." He got pulled over, and he got away with it.

Ever visit a morgue?

We actually shot the pilot at the morgue in Long Beach. It was suitably creepy.

Has the show made you contemplate mortality?

In some ways. It's made me think about what I want to do with the time I have left. Who knows when we're going to be taken away?

Are you afraid to die?

You cannot be cowed by the fear of your own demise. I'm more afraid of what I might not accomplish if I die tomorrow. There's so much undone.

Such as?

There are some pieces of material I'd like to produce, some writing I want to do. I want to be a good father. I'd like to travel. And I'd like to have a positive influence while I'm here.

ON THE BLOCK

A PARTY PALACE

This 112-acre ranch, located in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, was once home to actor Robert Taylor—Greta Garbo's lover in Camille and Barbara Stanwyck's husband from 1939 to 1951. Today the site is the home of the annual Pediatric AIDS Foundation carnival, a Hollywood event that has raised $17 million for the charity in 10 years, attracting such stars as Tom Cruise and Kim Basinger. Radio mogul Ken Roberts, who bought the estate for $900,000 in 1975, is asking $35 million. It comes with riding trails, an Olympic swimming pool, a casino and a guest house that sleeps 14.

  • Contributors:
  • Ting Yu,
  • Greg Adkins,
  • Liza Hamm,
  • Ericka Sóuter,
  • Ian Bailey,
  • Karen Brailsford,
  • Johnny Dodd,
  • Ruth Ellenson,
  • Laura Sanderson Healy,
  • Jenny Hontz,
  • Natasha Stoynoff,
  • Frank Swertlow.