Tennis prodigy Venus Williams, 14, made her pro debut this month at the Women's Tennis Association event in Oakland. She lost her second-round match to U.S. Open champ Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, but she had a ball—even facing the press corps. "I like answering questions," says Williams. "I think it's fun." Isn't she worried about missing out on doing cool teen stuff with her friends? "I never really had a lot of friends, so I don't miss out on not having them," says Williams, who stands 6' tall and has dreams to match. "I don't plan to be in tennis long. Maybe when I'm 25, I'll go to college and become a paleontologist or an archaeologist. I like digging into the past. Maybe because I wasn't there. But I need to catch up on biology first."
Robert De Niro works in strange ways, as director Kenneth Branagh discovered filming Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, his remake of the classic horror story. Branagh plays the mad doctor, and De Niro is his gruesome creation who emerges naked from a vat of amniotic ooze. De Niro felt his creature needed the dazed look of a newborn, so he "would stand off to the side and spin around and around until he was completely dizzy," says Branagh, 33, who hoists the slippery creature to its feet. "He was a deadweight since he was so dizzy. I wished he had cheated a bit, so I didn't have to lift his whole bloody weight up." But then, a little madness was justified on the gothic set. "We were surrounded by goo, fake bits of brain and sawed-off limbs hanging all around," says Branagh. "It does have an effect on you."
After playing the nosy reporter in the summer blockbuster The Mask, Amy Yasbeck has watched her career take off. She has joined NBC's hit ensemble sitcom Wings as Crystal Bernard's hoity-toity older sister. "It's tricky territory coming onto a show," says Yasbeck, 32. "It's like forcing yourself on a family, saying, 'I'm here for the weekend—and for however long you like me!' It's a little scary, but they've taken me under their, uh, wings." Indeed, Yasbeck is now a regular on the series, and the self-described skinny redhead admits she did what she could to tip the scales in her favor. "I started my family writing fan letters," she says, "on different stationery."
TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT
"People are surprised that I can do anything," drawls Lauren Bacall, still sultry at 70, adding that the two remarks she hears most often are, "Are you still working?" and "You still look good." So the actress decided on a sequel to her 1978 autobiography, Lauren Bacall by Myself. It's called Now. "Hey, I haven't gone anywhere," says Bacall. "I am still ready and eager to work. But once you are over 30, you seem to have no value." As for love, says the woman her late husband Humphrey Bogart called Slim: "The only time you have a relationship with someone is when you're 20 years old, your body is perfect, not a line on your face and not a thought in your head."