Life After Friends

With the finish line in sight, TV's hottest ensemble looks to the future

This May, Matthew Perry will star in his first stage role, playing a swinging lothario opposite Minnie Driver in David Mamet's edgy Sexual Perversity in Chicago in London's West End. To Friends fanatics, his stage character Danny couldn't be less like Friends' endearingly prissy Chandler Bing. And that's the point. As Friends enters its twilight—next year marks the top-rated NBC sitcom's tenth and final season—Perry, 33, isn't the only member of the Central Perk gang charting a course for life after prime time.

Fresh from her breakout role in 2002's The Good Girl, Jennifer Aniston, 34, will costar with Jim Carrey in the upcoming comedy Bruce Almighty. Lisa Kudrow, 39, already known for smaller comedic roles (Analyze That), is trying something different—playing the wife of porn star John Holmes in Wonderland later this year. David Schwimmer, 36, has signed to produce and direct a TV comedy pilot. He's currently featured in the play Turnaround at the 99-seat Coast Playhouse in L.A. and is cowriting a theatrical adaptation of Studs Terkel's RACE: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel about the American Obsession. Aside from shooting Coca-Cola ads, Courteney Cox Arquette Arquette, 38, will executive produce Mix It Up, an interior-design-themed reality show, for the Women's Entertainment cable network this fall.

So is there no hope of a Friends spinoff? Don't despair. Matt LeBlanc is in talks to star in a series featuring his character, Joey Tribbiani. And he may be in the market for new friends. Scoop wonders: Is Kramer available?

Thanks a Million, Boys and Girls

Among the more popular alumni at the gala celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Mount Vernon, N.Y., chapter of the Boys & Girls Club of America: Denzel Washington, who arrived with a $1 million donation. "Ecstatic probably doesn't explain it," says club rep Trish Pennix of reaction to the gift, which will help refurbish their old facility. Washington, 48, sits on the club's board. As a child, "he was there every day after school," says his rep. Recalls Lowes Moore, who joined the club soon after Washington and is now its executive director: "We would trash talk and play basketball." Back then, says Moore, Washington hoped to be a comic, adding, "He has a crazy laugh."

It's Oscar Night, Baby!
Catherine Zeta-Jones will be holding her breath Oscar night—unless the Chicago star does Lamaze. Her second child with husband Michael Douglas is due in April, and Zeta-Jones, 33, plans to attend the March 23 ceremony. "They can roll me in on a stretcher if they have to, she said recently. Luckily, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is only about a 10-minute drive from L.A.'s Kodak Theatre. Eva Marie Saint, 78, who won the Oscar for On the Waterfront in 1955 and gave birth to her first son two days later, offers expectant mom Zeta-Jones a little advice: "If it's a boy, for God's sakes don't name him Oscar."

Aretha: I Just Want to Testify

After four months of refusing to answer questions regarding the suspicious Oct. 25 blaze that gutted her suburban Detroit mansion (estimated worth: $1.6 million), Aretha Franklin finally gave prosecutors the R-E-S-P-E-C-T they demanded in a 2½ -hour deposition Feb. 14. Flanked by three attorneys and five bodyguards, Franklin, 60, arrived at the Oakland County prosecutors office "and was fully cooperative," says chief deputy prosecutor Deborah Carley.

Carley insists the Queen of Soul, who was in Houston at the time of the arson, is "not a suspect." Her son Edward, 45, exercised his Fifth Amendment rights when questioned about the fire, his lawyer says.

She's Born to Ride
For two weeks during the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Fla., Bruce Springsteen's daughter Jessica, 11, showed the competition who's boss. Riding her ponies Brighton Glo a Bit and Sebastian, Jessica jumped and cantered her way to first-, second-and third-place ribbons and two championships in the Children's Hunter Pony division, beating out 13 other riders. The festival, held at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club, attracts such promising young riders as the daughters of Princess Anne, Glenn Close, Lou Dobbs and Dan Marino. Said proud pops Springsteen, 53, who attended the Feb. 16 award ceremony with his wife, Patti, 49: "It's a great day."

Heche Is Not At All Amused

If you ask Anne Heche, the book was better. The actress, 33, and husband Coley Laffoon, 29, recently slipped quietly into a performance of Call Us Crazy: The Anne Heche Monologues, an unauthorized parody of her autobiography playing at L.A.'s Hudson Avenue Theatre.

According to theater manager Sandra Kuker, Heche stood watching in open-mouthed horror as 14 actresses portrayed the multiple personalities she describes in her book. After reading the show's posted reviews, Heche left, saying, "That is just sick." However, one critic called it "an evening of unapologetic hilarity."

REALITY CHECK

GOOD NEWS: How does comedian Kathy Griffin, who beat out five other celebs to win the $233,000 Celebrity Mole Hawaii prize on the Feb. 12 episode, plan on spending her hard-earned dough? A shiny new Porsche? Perhaps a Cartier watch? "I'm going to give your readers an answer they're not going to like," Griffin, 42, tells PEOPLE. "I'm not going to blow it. I'm going to [save] half for taxes and the rest I'm going to sock in the bank. I think the wildest thing I might do is buy a little bond portfolio. I'm not going to buy any 'bling-bling.' I'm not even going to buy any 'bling.' "

BAD NEWS: The pipes, the sass, the snazzy moniker: American Idol finalist Frenchie Davis seemed destined for stardom. Yet Davis, 23, was booted from the show after her disclosure that she was involved with an adult Web site about five years ago. "It would possibly bring the American Idol brand into disrepute," says co-executive producer Ken Warwick, who added that the decision to cut her was agonizing. "The kid has completely redeemed herself," he says. "If there was any way we could've kept her, we would have." But don't fret for Frenchie. On Feb. 23, Davis will cover the red carpet at the Grammys as a special correspondent for Entertainment Tonight.

POP QUIZ

with Tom Selleck

Those eyes, that mustache, those avocados: Yes, it could only be Tom Selleck, Hollywood star and, it turns out, secret farmer. Since the mid '90s, the actor, 58, has been raising avocados on his ranch in Ventura County, Calif. Intrigued, Scoop sidled up and got the lowdown on wrangling green pitted fruit.

How did this happen?

I've had a ranch since '88, about 63 acres. It's on the hills, and sand and rocks and dirt drain right by my house when it rains. I was concerned with erosion control. So I took a risk and planted avocados. I knew that avocados did well on slopes.

How on earth would you know that?

If you live where I live, you absorb certain information.

Any favorite fertilizers?

Bat guano is the current fertilizer of choice.

And the avocado's biggest enemy is...?

The dreaded orange thrip. They are bugs that attack the leaves. If you lose the leaves, you lose the fruit. One thing we've found is, water under pressure knocks a lot of pests off the leaves.

So you're out there spraying down your avocado trees?

Sure.

How's the ranch doing financially?

I've sold my crop for a few years. Last year we had about 100,000 lbs. of fruit. That put us barely in the black—for the first time.

When do you pick?

When the oil content is right.

Again, we're amazed. Got a favorite guacamole recipe?

I don't like avocados.

You're kidding.

I tend not to gravitate toward them as a food.

Lessons learned?

The most important thing, without getting corny, is it puts you in touch with the weather, the soil, nature. You start thinking in a way that I don't think is a bad thing in modern society.

ON THE BLOCK

CUBA'S CORNER

"Show me the money!" became Cuba Gooding Jr.'s catchphrase after his Oscar-winning role in 1996's Jerry Maguire. The same words apply to those interested in buying Gooding's Coldwater Canyon home in Beverly Hills. (Gooding, 35, wife Sara and their two sons are moving to larger quarters in Pacific Palisades.) Show $1,295,000, and you'll get a 2,900-sq.-ft. house featuring four bedrooms, a media room and a pool. Gooding purchased the ranch-style home in the early '90s, says listing agent Jason Froehlich, after starring in Boyz 'N the Hood.

  • Contributors:
  • Ting Yu,
  • Anna Holmes,
  • Jennifer Wren,
  • Alexis Chiu,
  • Lauren Comander,
  • Michael Fleeman,
  • William Keck,
  • Shell Lewis,
  • Cecilia Matsumoto,
  • Gregg Rosenzweig,
  • Don Sider,
  • Michele Stueven,
  • Pamela Warrick,
  • Ulrica Wihlborg.