An Awkward Adios

Britney battles a pushy press and bad weather down Mexico way

FOCUS
Maybe it was the jet lag. Or more rumors about Justin and Janet. Whatever the reason, Britney Spears's recent visit to Mexico City got off to a bad start—and ended in a rousing chorus of boos from a stadium full of cranky fans.

Furious at overzealous paparazzi, Spears flipped a TV crew the bird upon her arrival on July 23. "I'm human just like everybody," Spears, 20, explained later, after photos of her gesture were plastered across local papers. "I get mad sometimes." The press kept at her, complaining that she ignored fans camped outside her hotel and—horror of horrors!—made it difficult for reporters to cover her every move offstage. When she went shopping at the Buenavista Artisan Market—she bought a carved wooden cabinet and a pair of cast-iron lamps—Mexico City's leading paper, Reforma, chided her for not engaging in more give-and-take with the merchants.

The last straw came during her July 28 performance at Foro Sol stadium. Daunted by stormy weather, Spears stopped abruptly in the middle of her fifth song and left the stage, saying, "I'm sorry, Mexico. I love you. Bye." In protest, the crowd of more than 50,000, who had paid from $13.50 to $187 a ticket, booed, hissed and hurled souvenirs at the platform. (They will be offered refunds.)

"We decided that we had no choice but to cancel the show after the storm and lightning showed no signs of clearing up," Spears said in a statement afterward, noting that the weather posed a threat to both the star and her audience. There are no hard feelings, though. Spears's tour rep, Benny Tarantini, says, "Britney would love to go back and play Mexico City on her next tour."

He Swears He's Sorry
If rapper Ja Rule had a nickel for every time he swore onstage at last year's Reggae Sumfest in Jamaica...he'd still need a few bucks if convicted of using profanity at a community event. (The maximum penalty is $1,000; some performers have been fined as little as $20.)

Rule was served with a summons to answer profanity charges on his return to play a July 27 concert in Montego Bay. He left town after the show, however, and the following morning a local judge issued a warrant for his arrest. Rule, 26, whose real name is Jeff Atkins, did apologize for last year's tirade before leaving Jamaica.

A Silent Proposal
Actress Patricia Arquette sat quietly munching popcorn at L.A.'s Silent Movie Theater last week when the other patrons began a discreet exodus. Before long, only Arquette, 34, and her boyfriend, actor Thomas Jane (Mickey Mantle in HBO's 61 *), remained watching a Charlie Chaplin film. The projection flickered, and Jane, 33, appeared on-screen—edited into the reel with the help of a theater staffer—followed by an old-fashioned dialogue card that flashed the words "Patricia, will you marry me?" Stunned speechless for a moment, the actress exuberantly shouted, "Yes!"

Jane had planned the event meticulously, renting the theater for the night and getting theater staffers to pose as audience members so Arquette's suspicions would not be aroused by an empty auditorium. Arquette, whose former husband, Nicolas Cage, proposed to her in a deli (they divorced last year), gave no word on a wedding date or possible location for the ceremony. Perhaps, if asked, the concession-stand workers can do the catering.

POP QUIZ

with Macaulay Culkin

Among those attending a reading of Ethan Hawke's latest novel, Ash Wednesday, at SummerStage in Manhattan's Central Park on July 24 was Macaulay Culkin ("I was in the neighborhood, so I figured I'd stop by"). Serendipitously, Scoop sat next to Culkin, 21, at the event and caught up with the former child star on a cool summer evening.

What brings you here?

I've never really seen authors read their own work before. I thought it would be interesting.

Are you planning a book?

I don't know about that. I do write—short stories, poems, essays. But I do it more for myself than other people. Maybe I'll make something out of it someday.

What was your favorite childhood book?

I wasn't really a big reader. I liked anything that had a lot of pictures or anything that popped up. I liked Where the Wild Things Are [by Maurice Sendak].

If you weren't much of a reader, how did you spend your time as a child?

My father worked days, and my mother worked nights. When either one of them was home, they were usually asleep. So I spent a lot of time with myself, a lot of television.

What are you up to now?

I just finished a film called Party Monster. I play club promoter [and convicted killer] Michael Alig.

Acting runs in your family. Ever advise, say, your brother Kieran?

No. Kieran knows exactly what he's doing. The 18th most important thing in our lives is what we do for a living.

Who's back at home?

I have three cats, Angelina, Samson and Tummy. There's cat hair rolling across the floor.

Do people still do your Home Alone take, hands on cheeks, yelling, "Aaaahhhh!"?

Sometimes. It's going on 13 years now. I'm used to it. I don't take offense. I think it's cute.

ON THE BLOCK

DAY-LEWIS MAKES A BREAK

A while back, Daniel Day-Lewis filmed director Martin Scorsese's historical drama Gangs of New York, due in December. It's set in lower Manhattan, where Day-Lewis, 45, maintained a co-op on Thompson Street. Could he walk to work? Alas, no-filming took place in Rome on a set built to look like New York City. The actor has since sold the 1,600-sq.-ft. two-bedroom apartment through the Corcoran Group for $1.25 million. Day-Lewis's own gang—wife Rebecca, 39, and their two children—are moving to a bigger home.

  • Contributors:
  • Ting Yu,
  • Jennifer Wren,
  • Kristin Coronado,
  • Steve Helling,
  • Jan McGirk,
  • Natasha Stoynoff,
  • Pamela Warrick,
  • Ulrica Wihlborg.