Robert Downey Jr. heads to rehab while McBeal tries to save a season
When friend and director James Toback saw Robert Downey Jr. over Easter weekend at Sting's L.A. beach house, "he looked terrific," says Toback, "strong and in good shape." Not for long. Shortly after midnight on April 24, Culver City, Calif., police arrested Downey, 36, whose hyperactive behavior and dilated pupils led them to believe he was under the influence of drugs. "He was cooperative," says Lt. Dave Tankenson, "but somewhat somber and disappointed." The charge was a misdemeanor, but for the star—on parole after serving nearly 12 months for a prior parole violation related to drugs—it was another setback. Immediately following his arrest, Downey entered an L.A. detox facility after which, says a state Department of Corrections spokeswoman, he will be sent to a live-in drug rehab center. How this latest fumble will play into Downey's scheduled April 30 hearing on his Thanksgiving-weekend arrest on drug charges in Palm Springs, Calif., is unclear.
Meanwhile, staffers on the set of Ally McBeal, which has been buoyed by Downey's guest stint this season, are scrambling to salvage three unfinished shows, including one in which Downey's character was expected to propose to Calista Flockhart's Ally.
What started the actor's emotional tailspin? A source said it began when Deborah Falconer, who has filed for divorce from Downey, said she was going to move to New York and take their child Indio with her. As for Downey's current state of mind, "devastated," says an acquaintance, "would be a good way to put it."
From Cutest to Richest for Paul
Bill Gates doesn't have to look over his shoulder just yet, but last week Paul McCartney topped London's Sunday Times list of the richest Brits in showbiz, with an estimated $1 billion fortune. Not that the other honorees have to sing for their suppers: Madonna and director hubby Guy Ritchie slid in at No. 6, with a net worth of $260 million. Mick Jagger and Elton John tied for No.7, with $216 million apiece, and Rolling Stone Keith Richards made his presence felt at No.10, with $187 million. So where was the younger generation? Acts like the Spice Girls are wealthy, says British financial analyst Cliff Dane, but they can't compete in cumulative earnings with people who have been working for 20 or 30 years.
Investing for the Long Run
Onstage The Producers' Max Bialystock raises money for his Broadway flops by courting lots of small investors—primarily little old ladies. Offstage the story is not all that different—even the little old lady part. While entertainment heavyweights like Miramax Films honcho Harvey Weinstein put up the bulk (about $10.5 million combined) of the money behind Mel Brooks's newest hit, small investors plunked down $10,000 each to be a part of the show. Many believed their names were culled from theater subscription lists by investment coordinator Steven Baruch, who held a lottery after 300 potential investors wanted in. The 200 who made the cut were delighted, especially now that, with top tickets going for $100, The Producers clears $1.4 million a week. These small investors expect to get their $10,000 back—and then some. (One anticipates he'll make another $10,000 each year the show runs.) "I'd already gotten a check back for 15 percent [of the investment] by opening night," says Manhattan-based Gloria Clyne-Greenberg, 74, a retired NBC field producer. Clyne-Greenberg was also given the right to purchase four orchestra tickets a month—a good deal considering the show is the hottest ticket in town. Still, some investors remain wary of their good luck.
Says Bob Ellis, a White Plains, N.Y., landlord: "We could go into a recession, the theater could burn down."
Getting the Last Laugh?
Even before CBS dumped Bette from its prime-time lineup in March, Bette Midler was getting mad about the way she—and the show—were treated. Now she's getting even. The Divine Miss M has signed a $1 million-plus book deal with Simon & Schuster to write about the travails of her troubled show. Canceled, due next fall, "will be big," says an S&S rep. "Bette Midler is still very popular." Even if her show wasn't.
Welcome to the Funny Farm
He works in Manhattan, lives in New Canaan, Conn., and receives his Top 10 Lists from the home office in Wahoo, Neb. As for summer getaways, Martha's Vineyard is the playground of choice for David Letterman—especially now that he's about to help save one of the Massachusetts island's last working farms. Herring Creek, a quaint 220-acre expanse with cows, silos and a hay crop, "reflects what everybody wishes the Vineyard still was," says one local. It also includes a few Cape Cod-style houses, one of which Letterman has rented for three years. Letterman and several partners are buying the farm for $37 million in order to prevent the land from becoming a 32-home development.
with Liza Minnelli
On April 21 Liza Minnelli shocked the crowd at a Bal Harbour, Fla., benefit for Center One/Community Healthcare, a nonprofit facility for AIDS patients, by belting out a heart-tugging rendition of "Maybe This Time." It was her first public appearance since a nearly three-week-long hospitalization for encephalitis last October. It was also, she later learned, the day her former husband Jack Haley Jr. died. Still feeling the effects of her third hip-replacement surgery a few weeks earlier, Minnelli, 55, needed escorts to help her off the stage. But otherwise, she told Scoop, she's standing tall.
They loved your performance.
All I can sense is that I'm back. [She laughs.]
You're getting around pretty well.
I was on a walker until Saturday night. Just being with an audience again and being with people who reminded me that they really liked what I did—my walker went straight up in the air. I haven't seen it since.
It sounds like your performance meant something special.
It changed my life. I started out, and I was worried: Every time I'd gone to try to sing loud and hit a big note, in the shower or something, it hadn't come out right. And Saturday night I reached into someplace that I guess I was born with, and said, "We've got to hit this note. People are counting on you here." And it worked!
Going back to work soon?
I don't know! I feel like I want to go back tomorrow. I've had so many offers. What I really want to do is concentrate on my acting. Because I've always known that I'm a good actress. Even when I didn't know if I was too good a singer.
Are you as effervescent in private as you are in public?
Yes, I am. I've always been an optimist, and I have great faith. That gets me through a lot.
You're 55 years old. Do you feel it?
No. Not for a second. I feel like I'm about 12½.
So, is it good to be Liza Minnelli now?
Right this second it's great! I'm just so bloody lucky, you know?
After 11 hit seasons and a succession of hard-edged brunette assistant district attorneys (Jill Hennessy, Carey Lowell and Angie Harmon), Law & Order is going blonde. Next fall flaxenhaired Elisabeth Rohm (Angel), 28 will fill Harmon's sensible pumps. Law creator Dick Wolf has been keeping an eye on Rohm ever since she appeared in his 1998 FOX pilot The Invisible Man.
ON THE BLOCK
"Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys," Waylon Jennings once sang. Maybe that's because other careers—like platinum-selling country singer—better provided the means to own a six-bedroom house like the one Jennings is selling in Brentwood, Tenn., for $1.2 million. Located on 2.4 acres 15 miles south of Nashville, it includes a pool, gazebo and tennis court. Jennings, 63, and his wife, Jessi Colter, 57, have been spending their winters in the Phoenix area. They recently decided to live there permanently, eliminating the hassle of a seasonal commute.