BIG GUY IN TOWN
Delighting locals, George Clooney films his next film in a small New York burg

Forget the primping and pampering. In the days leading up to Oscar week, George Clooney was living like an average Joe. Fans—mostly high school students and housewives—gathered in the small town of Monroe, N.Y., less than 50 miles north of New York City, where he is filming the upcoming thriller Michael Clayton (he plays an attorney). Al Caponero, whose house was chosen for the shoot, says Clooney "was very friendly and kidding around. He talked to my kids and posed for pictures with elderly women." Clooney, 44, even checked himself in for a four-night stay at the Ramada Inn in nearby Newburgh, N.Y. "He was like, 'Hi, I'm George Clooney.' He was an absolute doll. Everyone loved him," receptionist Mary Ann Bambert tells Scoop. "He was very low-maintenance. We didn't hear a peep out of him." Clooney's one request: an electric tea maker. Each evening, the actor headed to the hotel bar, where he had a few drinks—and, one night, watched karaoke—and tried to "blend in with the local crowd," says bartender Bob DiLuca. "He was very gracious." But wait, there's more: On Feb. 24 Jon Stewart arrived to film a dream-sequence spoof with Clooney that was shown at the Oscars. Doris Pinter, who loaned the stars her house for the skit, told Middletown's Times Herald-Record, "They were very sociable people."

More Nick News

He's been seen with former Miss Kentucky Elizabeth Ann Arnold—and with Dancing with the Stars' Cheryl Burke. And now Nick Lachey has been seen with Laguna Beach's Kristin Cavallari. What's up with the latest sighting? According to both parties: Not much. Lachey, 32, and Cavallari, 19, have been in the same restaurants and parties. But "there's nothing to talk about, there's nothing going on," says Cavallari. "He's a nice guy, but I'd have to say we're just friends." Says a Lachey pal: "Nick is not looking for a girlfriend or anything serious. He is a single guy now."

According to a friend of Lachey's, buzz about the pair started when Nick and his extended family stopped by the bar after dinner at the Palomino restaurant in the L.A. area. Cavallari was there with friends; the two groups chatted. "Whatever happened was extremely casual," says Lachey's friend. A few days later the two were at L.A.'s Koi—but Lachey dined with one of his agents, not Cavallari. Going solo suits him, says pal Alyssa Milano: "Every time I see him, he's got a bevy of women around him."

DIVINE MISSION?
Locals say Madonna's reps are seeking a Kabbala house in Israel

Madonna may be considering holy ground. According to a real estate salesman and two local home owners, representatives for the 47-year-old Kabbalist have been scouting houses for her in Rosh Pina, Israel, an upscale village of 2,400 where Kabbalists believe the Messiah will descend. Shiri Havkin says she has been offered $1 million to sell her four-bedroom, $500,000 stone house. "They told me they wouldn't necessarily make a home of the place, but turn it into a Kabbalist center of learning," says Havkin. (Madonna's spokeswoman denied the report.) Though Madonna has yet to visit Rosh Pina, her presence is felt. "Prices have skyrocketed," says real estate agent Avi Ben Porat. "People are dying to sell their homes to Madonna."

Paul's Seal of Disapproval
The former Beatle travels to the frozen north to protest Canada's annual hunt

Cuddly Canadian seal pups got a little help from friends Paul McCartney, 63, and his wife, Heather, 38, on March 2. The couple frolicked with the baby seals on an ice floe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence while speaking out against the region's annual seal hunt, in which thousands of the animals are killed for their fur and blubber. "It's time it stopped," said McCartney. Rebecca Aldworth, of the Humane Society of the United States, tells Scoop, "I saw [McCartney] whispering to this seal, things like 'Don't be afraid' and 'Come here.' The seal started calling back." As they departed, Aldworth recalls, McCartney even broke into a made-up song about the seals. "It was pretty funny."

Bachelor: Split?

The Bachelor's finale on Feb. 27 ended, as usual, with the season's star, doctor Travis Stork, giving teacher Sarah Stone the final rose. But instead of gushing about their romance afterward, the two Nashville residents kept a low profile. Why? The Tennessean says Sarah is close to Matt Lauderdale, business partner of Tennessee Titans star receiver Drew Bennett, though Lauderdale said they are "just friends." Stork's sister said the two-month gap between shooting the show and going to air was a strain. Stork and Stone did not return calls; a show spokeswoman said, "Travis and Sarah requested to spend time alone in Nashville, and we are respecting their request."

THE 21 CLUB

Sopranos star Robert Iler rang in his 21st birthday with a raucous celebration at Tao at the Venetian hotel/casino in Las Vegas March 3 (actual birthday: March 2). Hundreds of partyers watched the actor—decked out in a white suit—dirty-dancing and screaming along to rap songs. His Sopranos costar, newly single Jamie-Lynn Sigler, 24, joined the bash. But while turning 21 has its privileges, it does not guarantee luck: A local paper reported that folks were saying Iler lost money at a roulette table—playing No. 21.

Gisele Unwired

At the N.Y.C. launch of a new bra for Victoria's Secret, Gisele Bündchen, 25, tells Scoop that life after Leo is "pretty good." But wearing a bra without wires? Priceless (actually, about $42). "When the wire is sticking ... in the morning it's fine, but in the afternoon you're like, 'Oh my God, it hurts.' But this one doesn't have that.... It's seamless, because not all the time you want your bra to be showing."

THE SMELL OF DIDDY

Ever wondered what celebrity smells like? Turns out you can tell a lot about stars from their perfumes—and vice versa. To celebrate the latest launch, of Diddy's "Unforgivable," match the stars with the descriptions of their scents.

1 Comes packaged with the following warning: "Caution: flammable."

2 "Visceral," "explosive" and "seductive," it just smells "rich."

3 Hits notes that range from vanilla musk to magnolia.

4 Boasts base notes of skin musk complex and pheromones.

A Diddy's Unforgivable

B Paris Hilton Eau de Parfum

C Britney Spears's Curious

D Donald Trump, The Fragrance


1.D 2.A 3.C 4.B

Secret Chef
In the Kitchen with Catherine Zeta-Jones

To play a chef in the romance Mostly Martha, Catherine Zeta-Jones practiced for a week at Manhattan's Fiamma restaurant. "She's been doing a lot in the kitchen—sautéing and cutting," chef Michael White tells Scoop of the Oscar winner's Italian cooking skills. "She's a great garnisher. Drizzling oil and balsamic on plates—she does a nice job." Though she mostly sautéed in secret, the actress did make a cameo appearance as a waitress. "One night she did a little serving," says another employee. "A few people said to her, 'You look so much like Catherine Zeta-Jones.' And she said, 'Oh, I get that all the time.'"

POP QUIZ

24's Sean Astin

Sean Astin, best known as hobbit Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings, now plays Lynn McGill, acting head of the Counter Terrorism Unit on FOX's 24. Astin, 34, recently helped create an educational web site (www.learnaboutbipolar.com) on bipolar disorder. (His mother, actress Patty Duke, was diagnosed with it 25 years ago.) Scoop caught up with him in New York.

Who bugs you to reveal 24 secrets?
Tony Danza. I was just on his show and ... he tied me up and electric-shocked me. I've revealed [plot secrets] to a couple of people close to me, and their faces have gone ashen. People don't really want to know. They want to watch the show.

Talk about how you got the role on 24.
I went to the chiropractor. He said, "Do you want to meet the creator of the show?" I said, "Umm, okay." He opens the door, and there in his boxer shorts on the chiropractor's table is [co-creator] Joel Surnow. I said, "I love the show." He said, "Do you want to be on it?" I said, "Sure."

What made you get involved in the bipolar awareness Web site?
I kind of had whiplash as a kid. I went from having a mother who would experience these incredible lows with suicidal depressions and these violent, erratic highs—to being the son of someone who was very quickly a respected authority in the field. Once she was diagnosed in 1981—it was then referred to as manic depression, and now it's called bipolar disorder—she embraced her diagnosis and became a champion for the cause. It felt appropriate for me to pick up the mantle and carry it forward.

How is life at home?
It's four girls against one guy. My daughters are 9, 3 and 6 months. There's just something that is magical about a father-daughter connection.

Are you tired of changing diapers?
I have no problem changing diapers. I don't change diapers very much, if the truth be told, because I seem to figure out how to avoid it better than the rest of the people.

ON THE BLOCK

CHER'S SEASIDE SPREAD

PRICE: $9,750,000

PLACE: Key Biscayne, Fla.

Cher is selling her Mashta Island home off Key Biscayne and searching for a new house in the neighborhood. Her old place, on a private beach, features 6,800 square feet of living space, six bedrooms, eight baths, an infinity waterfall and several personal touches—Cher redecorated the house herself.

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