Faith & Healing

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw stepped up to the plate for one of baseball's best-loved men, Tim's father, Tug

"I'm still alive," Tug McGraw told reporters in Philadelphia last week, displaying the unsinkable optimism and quick smile that defined his 19-year pitching career with the Mets and the Phillies. "And I'm supposed to be alive for a long time." For McGraw, 58, who underwent surgery in mid-March to remove a malignant brain tumor, it's a gutsy declaration. "The prognosis is very good," he said. "I'm not fearful. I have confidence." Not to mention Faith and Tim.

It was Tug's son, country star Tim McGraw, 36, and Tim's wife, singer Faith Hill, 35, who refused to accept the bleak prediction doctors made in March—that the former major leaguer had less than three weeks to live. "Tim said, 'This is not acceptable,'" recalled Tug. Adds country singer and family friend Jo Dee Messina: "[Tim] was very torn up about the diagnosis."

The McGraw men actually never met until Tim was 12 years old. Tim was the result of a onetime fling between the pitcher and Tim's mom, Betty Trimble, who later married another man. Tim and Tug only started to bond in Tim's senior year of high school. "When our relationship began," Tug told People in 1998, "we decided it was a look-forward kind of relationship."

After Tug received his dire diagnosis, Faith and Tim immediately flew the elder McGraw to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and put him in the care of Dr. Steven Brem, a leading oncologist and neurosurgeon. Says Messina: "When someone says, 'You're at a dead end,' it's very much like Tim to say, 'I'm sorry, there's a path. We can still keep going.'" On March 18 Brem performed a six-hour operation to excise the tumor. After the surgery Tug went through weeks of rigorous chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Brem is now optimistic about the former pitcher's chances. "We'll always be concerned about the possibility of a relapse," says Brem. "But Tug's attitude is inspiring. It's remarkable that he can still joke. He's a tough guy."

The Continuing Adventures of Whitney and Bobby
If it's Thursday, this must be...the River Jordan! Which is where Whitney Houston, 39, and her husband, R&B singer Bobby Brown, 36, brought their whirlwind tour of Israel on May 29. The two immersed themselves, baptism-style, in the Jordan's waters—even though they were guests of the Black Hebrews, a religious sect of about 2,000 black Americans who observe certain Jewish rituals. On Saturday the two relaxed in a hotel pool. Asked how she enjoyed the trip, her first to Israel, Houston replied, "It's home. It's home."

Martha: It's a Bad, Bad Thing
Martha Stewart is the subject of a criminal investigation, her company said June 3. According to their statement, prosecutors will ask a grand jury to indict the domestic diva "in the near future." Stewart has been under investigation for insider trading after dumping 4,000 shares of ImClone stock in December 2001, a day before the biotech company's value plummeted. Stewart, says her lawyer Robert Morvillo, "intends to declare her innocence." Cybill Shepherd, who played Stewart in a TV movie last month, had no comment.

Homecoming Queen?
And speaking of stars in the Holy Land...Natalie Portman says that she is seriously considering moving back to Israel. Set to graduate from Harvard on June 5, the actress, who will turn 22 on June 9, will spend the summer shooting the third Star Wars prequel, in Sydney. After that she hopes to spend more time in her native country. "I've been to Israel four times this year," says Portman, who was honored by the State of Israel Bonds organization in Washington, D.C., on June 1 for her support of the nation where she spent the first three years of her life. "My dad's side of the family is there. It's an amazing place. I don't think there's any place in the world that has as much passion and spirituality and intensity as Israel."

Babs: No Pix, Please

Environmental advocates are used to tangling with powerful corporations and glib politicians. But temperamental divas? Sure enough, coastal conservationist Kenneth Adelman is being sued for $10 million by Barbra Streisand. The singer, 61, usually known for her own pro-environment activism, is upset over photos that Adelman took of her oceanfront Malibu estate last year as part of a conservation project to document the condition of the California shoreline. Adelman, 39, shooting from his helicopter, snapped a series of photos of a secluded stretch of coast that included Streisand's cliff-top Malibu property. Now posted on an Internet database, the high-resolution pictures reveal every detail of the singer's yard, says Streisand's complaint, down to "the positioning of deck chairs and parasols" around the pool.

"She's had problems with stalkers in the past," says Streisand's lawyer Rex Glensy. "If anyone was so inclined, this is a nice blueprint for them." Adelman counters that the photos were taken from public airspace and are protected under laws governing free speech. "She wanted the view," he says. "But she has the expectation that people won't look back at her."

Spike Lee vs. Spike TV

Director Spike Lee, 46, is suing to stop Viacom from launching its new male-oriented cable network Spike TV, which was previously known as TNN. (The new look is scheduled to debut June 16.) "I was extremely upset to see my name connected with a network," Lee said. "Our conduct...was appropriate," replied the network. A court date has been set for June 9. A quick glance at how the fight shapes up:

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BUZZ OF THE WEEK

THE DRINK Hpnotiq (pronounced hypnotic), a blue-hued liqueur made from vodka, cognac and tropical fruit juices.

STAR DEVOTEES George Clooney, Pamela Anderson, Naomi Campbell, Donald Trump, P. Diddy and 'N Sync's Chris Kirkpatrick, who dubbed the cocktail Smurf juice.

THE BUZZ The pricey drink ($25 for a 750-ml bottle) first made a splash after being seen on an episode of Sex and the City last season. Since then, Hpnotiq has made inroads on the Cosmopolitan and become a hip-hop hit. The drink has been mentioned in songs by Lil' Kim, Busta Rhymes and R. Kelly.

POP QUIZ

with Kate Hudson

She received an Oscar nomination for playing a groupie in Almost Famous; now Kate Hudson, 24, will be doing the tour-bus scene for real. Next month the actress will hit the road with her husband, Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson, 36, when he embarks on a solo tour. Meanwhile, Hudson's romantic comedy Alex & Emma opens June 20.

When you and Chris are in the car, who controls the radio?

Chris. 190 percent.

You sound unhappy about that.

I'm not. But it's nice sometimes when I get in my car and I get to listen to my guilty pleasures. He doesn't want to listen to something like Def Leppard. My brother and I sing "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and "Love Bites." For us, it's funny. Chris, he just can't do it.

Do you think the story of you and Chris would make a good movie?

It would make a great movie. In the beginning we were so volatile. We were so in love and passionate, and then we would just hate each other and throw stuff around, and then we would travel to Paris for a week.

How did you get through the rough spots? [It just happens] after you spend more time together. Also, after Chris broke two chairs in the house, which cost a couple of grand, he went, "I am not going to throw anything anymore."

Your mom [Goldie Hawn] never seems to get older.

Tell me about it. She is going to be 120 and I'm going to be like, "When are you going to die and get out of my life?"

She says she'd love to have grandchildren, but she's not pushing you. Is that true?

Yes and no. [Laughs] She is a Jewish mother.

How long is she going to have to wait?

I don't know. If it happens, it happens. But as of now there is no definitive plan.

ON THE BLOCK

KELLY'S CORNER

Kelly Osbourne is moving out, but she won't be straying far from the family's Beverly Hills estate. Ozzy's younger daughter reportedly just bought a 3,000-sq.-ft. nest in the Hollywood Hills. Purchase price: about $1.2 million. The Spanish-style retreat features a two-story master-bedroom suite, an outdoor kitchen and a spa. Kelly, 18, who released her debut album, Shut Up, last year, will open for her dad when the two go on tour in England this fall.

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