It Happened This Year!
Hey, lady! A trio of freewheelin' femmes fatales caused no fatalities—but several L.A. lawsuits. In March a civil suit was filed against Catherine Zeta-Jones by an ex-pal who was riding in her Range Rover at the time of an August 1999 single-car accident that injured the woman's ankle; the case is pending. In April Gwyneth Paltrow was sued for allegedly rear-ending a vehicle a full year earlier while driving a Midway Rent-a-Car. (The case was later dismissed.) And in May Halle Berry pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of an accident—the one she allegedly caused on Feb. 23 by driving a Chevy Blazer through a red light and into a Pontiac Sun-fire driven by a real estate agent, who suffered a fractured wrist and neck and back injuries. A contrite Berry claimed that her own head injuries, which required 22 stitches, wiped out any memory of the incident. She was fined $13,500, sentenced to 200 hours of community service and is still embroiled in a civil court battle.
'So a Pregnant Chad Walks into a Bar...'
Within 48 hours of the election Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore was demanding a Florida hand recount in his race against George W. Bush. And almost immediately a grateful nation—sans new leader—had next year's sure-to-be-ubiquitous Halloween costume all sewn up: the Chad. The partially perforated bits of postelection ballot remaining on Florida's punch-through voting cards came in a variety of styles—hanging (one corner attached), swinging (two attached) and pregnant (all corners attached, but the paper dimpled slightly outward). They were soon swept up in a hurricane of lawsuits, countersuits and guys in suits traipsing to court.
Piece of Cake
Heck, he was already in a tux. Returning to his hotel after a July show in Manchester, England, Tony Bennett found a wedding reception in full swing and quickly delivered the perfect gift to the stunned couple: a rendition of his signature tune, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." For a reported $250,000—paid by AOL exec David Colburn—top boy band 'N Sync played a 40-minute set (including their trademark cardiac-tugger, "Tearin' Up My Heart") to 300 squealing guests at the Potomac, Md., bat mitzvah of Colbum's daughter Rachel in June. "Excellent!" raved mom Kathleen.
All in the Extended Family
When things get this nonnuclear, the cover of Rolling Stone gets crowded, as evidenced by me February issue where-upon singer Mellssa Etherldge and filmmaker Julie Cypher appeared in a unique family portrait. With them was their daughter Bailey, 3, and son Beckett, 2—and David Crosby (late of Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes Young), who the women revealed was the biological father of the children borne by Cypher after artificial insemination. "He's musical, and that means a lot to me," said Etheridge of Crosby, whose wife suggested he help out. In September, after 10 years as a couple, Etheridge and Cypher split up, retaining joint custody of the kids.
Cohost Takes Off, So Do Ratings
Reege!! On July 28, after 15 years and a national debate over what mere mortal could possibly replace her, Cody and Cassidy's mom—a.k.a. Kathie Lee Gifford—bid farewell to Live! with Regis & Kathie Lee, leaving Regis Philbin to make do with a roster of substitute cohosts who have included Dolly Parton, Fergie and Susan Lucci. Within a month of Gifford's departure ratings were up 26 percent—and they're still ahead of last year. Gifford's post-Live! album, Heart of a Woman, meanwhile, died at warp speed.
In Media Circus Circles
With the same tenacity he displays when out scoping models, journalist-for-a-day Leonardo DiCaprio grilled President Bill Clinton about environmental policy as part of ABC's Planet Earth 2000 celebration of Earth Day on April 22. Despite the actor's investigative skills, ratings were far below ozone levels. After 32 years of getting sources to sing for 60 Minutes, real-life newsman Mike Wallace, still on the job at 82, changed tempo for "The Girl (She's Mine)," a Rat Packesque duet performed with aspiring songwriter and 60 Minutes researcher Pat Harris. And Monica Lewinsky became a roving reporter for Britain's Channel 5 with "Monica's Postcards," seven five-minute features on topics ranging from health spas to soap operas.
What's in a name? We found out at a May press conference by the enigmatic funkster formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince After seven years of representing himself by an unpronounceable glyph—half Egyptian Ankh, half BBQ tong—he announced that his recording contract with Warner Bros., long a bone of contention, had expired and he was going back to his given name (Prince Rogers Nelson) "instead of the symbol I adopted to free myself from all undesirable relationships." Glad we cleared that up.
Drop By Anytime
Celebrities can appear out of nowhere. Matthew Perry made a very big impression when he and his Porsche visited the front porch of a Hollywood Hills home in May. Just a day after her August breakup with Ellen DeGeneres became public, Anne Heche wandered up to a house in rural Fresno County, Calif., where the occupant let her try on slippers before calling police. Garth Brooks's neighborly message was very clear—Get out!—when he burst into a house near Tulsa in October and warned two boys of a fast-approaching grass fire. Further blurring the line between public figure and action figure, in July volunteer rescue squad aviator Harrison Ford (a.k.a. Indiana Jones) swooped in to save Sarah George, a hiker taken ill atop Wyoming's Table Mountain. Said George later: "I can't believe I barfed in Harrison Ford's helicopter!"
Hmm, the chess club's looking less geeky all the time. British rock star and tantric sex enthusiast Sting persuaded four of his hardy band of bandmates to take on world champion chess player Gary Kasparov, who played all five guys simultaneously in a New York City exhibition game in June. Sting, the last opponent standing, "had a perfectly sensible position in the middle game before blundering a pawn and then burying his bishop in the corner," reported Britain's Daily Telegraph Ouch! "I knew it was going to be a public humiliation," admitted the father of six. "All my kids play chess better than me"