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updated 10/05/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/05/1998 01:00AM

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Newcomer Gretchen Mol, who costars in the poker drama Rounders, played her cards right to get her big break. Back in 1996, "I was in New York City, working as a coat-check girl at a restaurant named Michael's—a lot of agents dine there," says Mol, 25. "One day an agent said, 'Give me your picture and your résumé.' " Since then, the actress has conquered an audition with Woody Allen for his upcoming comedy Celebrity. "My agent said, 'Don't be surprised if Woody sees you for two minutes and you're back on the street,' " says Mol. With all her recent success, has life changed? Not much, admits Mol: "I've unlisted my phone number."

A league of her own
When ABC's Monday Night Football season kicked off this month, sideline reporter Lesley Visser became the first female member of the broadcasting team. "I don't have to wear one of those old yellow jackets with the striped tie," jokes Visser, 45, who hopes to make MNF more interesting for women. "My goal is that we see an episode of Ally McBeal where she and her girlfriends are watching Monday Night Football." Having been married to play-by-play announcer Dick Stockton for 15 years, Visser is the ultimate sports wife. "We went to Spain during the NBA Finals this year, and they only had it on TV in Spanish," she says. "So we turned the sound down, and Dick did the play-by-play. How great is that?"

Sell-Improvement
Teen heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas, 17, whose last episode of Home Improvement airs Sept. 29, says he has no regrets about leaving the ABC sitcom to attend high school full-time in L.A. "I had always looked up to people like Jodie Foster and Ron Howard who had gone to school, educated themselves and came out better in the long run," says Thomas, who is in his junior year. So will he tune in to Home Improvement to keep up with his TV family? "It depends on how heavy my schoolwork is," he says. As for hitting the high school stage, Thomas says, "the plays at our school are very well done, but I think I'm going to try and avoid that right now."

Female bonding
According to reigning pop diva Mariah Carey, she and Whitney Houston never had a clash of egos while recording their duet "When You Believe" for the upcoming animated feature The Prince of Egypt. "She and I have great chemistry together," says Carey, 29. "I really like Whitney as a person. A lot of people like to make up rivalries between women, but it's not there half the time." In fact, Carey and Houston will team up again to shoot the "When You Believe" video. "It will be a live performance," reports Carey. "And no, we don't have a catfight and scratch each other's eyes out."

That's shoe biz
Since The Practice's Camryn Manheim boasted to reporters about the $17.99 Payless shoes she wore to the Emmys, where she won for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama, she has been hoping for a little bonus. "I can't believe Payless didn't give me a lifetime supply of shoes," quips Manheim, 37. "Next time I'm wearing Fayva." At least Manheim, who invited the entire audience to sign her autograph book in her acceptance speech, wasn't disappointed about that outcome. "I loved Billy Crystal's inscription," she says. "He had drawn out the section where we were sitting, because Ellen Barkin won, and I was right behind her, and I won, and he was right behind me, and he won. So he wrote, 'I guess we were in the right section!' "

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