updated 01/30/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/30/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

Pop star Barry Manilow's latest album, Singin' with the Big Bands, may be his greatest hit. "I couldn't figure out how to do this album without sounding like a cheesy Ramada Inn lounge act," says Manilow, 48, so he recorded with the original, still-active big bands. "These buses that said the Duke Ellington Orchestra would pull up to the recording studios and 18 to 25 guys walked in, kind of hunched over, but they'd start to play and their posture would change. They got younger before my very eyes. When the Glenn Miller Orchestra took out its yellowed 1940s arrangements and played 'Chattanooga Choo Choo' exactly the way I'd heard it on scratchy records, it was hair-raising. As long as they play it, it's the hippest music of all time."

In her latest movie, Death and the Maiden, Sigourney Weaver plays a woman intent on exacting revenge on the man she believes tortured and abused her years before. And in Copycat, a forthcoming thriller she recently wrapped in San Francisco with Holly Hunter, "I play a psychiatrist who has had several nervous breakdowns. I spent my days running around in a stained nightgown," says Weaver, 45, adding, "This is my year for neurotics." Not that she hasn't got a kick out of the roles. "Since I've been playing victims, I've taken up karate. I did it every night after shooting to help lift the depression of these characters."

Pop princess Kylie Minogue, a red-hot nova in her native Australia and in Britain, is hoping to jump-start her Hollywood career by helping Jean-Claude Van Damme kick tush in his latest action movie, Street Fighter. "I loved being a tough babe, handling bazookas and blowing away baddies," says Minogue, 26. She was less enamored of her muscly costar. "I tried to be polite. Jean-Claude has this thing about being the big man on the set: 'Heyyyy, everybody!' It was the sort of set where some animals were more equal than others." Minogue, who has dated INXS's Michael Hutchence and counts Monaco's Prince Albert among her pals, has yet to meet her romantic match. "I don't have a boyfriend—write that I said that with a sigh," she says cheerfully. "I just haven't found my prince. In the meantime, I'm a helpless flirt. If I'm traipsing around the world, why not have dates?"

Mel Gibson is no musical maverick, but his company, Icon Productions, produced Immortal Beloved, the Beethoven biopic now in theaters with Gary Oldman and Isabella Rossellini. Gibson, 39, says he was introduced to Beethoven's music as a 19-year-old in Australia. "I went to the symphony and I was just blown away," he says. "I've never been much of a musician, but I'm a really good listener. Today my musical tastes are everything from Beethoven to U2." Although he sticks to music appreciation rather than creation, Gibson says, "one of my sons plays drums. I gave him the basement of our house, which is also a bomb shelter, as a practice room." He doesn't know if practice has made his son perfect. Explains Dad: "I'd only go down there in the event of nuclear war."

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