Scoop

UPDATED 06/25/2001 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 06/25/2001 at 01:00 AM EDT

Basic Instinct
Leaping Lizards! Sharon Stone's hubby, Phil Bronstein, nearly loses a toe to a Komodo dragon

Focus

Star treatment offers plenty of perks, but it can occasionally bite you in the, uh, foot. Which is what Sharon Stone, 43, and her husband, Phil Bronstein, 50, executive editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, learned during a private tour of the Los Angeles Zoo June 9. The grand finale? A visit inside the cage of a 7-ft. Komodo dragon, an endangered Indonesian lizard. While Stone stayed outside the cage (and their 13-month-old son Roan stayed home), Bronstein was instructed to remove his white sneakers for fear the reptile might mistake them for his usual meal of live rats. Bronstein's bare feet must have still looked tasty, because the lizard clamped its serrated teeth around Bronstein's left foot, tearing several tendons and crushing his big toe. After Bronstein pried the lizard's jaws open, the editor crawled out the cage's feeding door. Paramedics arrived 19 minutes later, and Bronstein went to an L.A. hospital, where he remained Tuesday night. He later made light of the incident, telling his paper, "It's L.A. I was just taking a meeting."

Zoo officials say the dragon had never attacked before—but he had never had civilian visitors either. According to reptile expert Frank Slavens of Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, he never should have. "They are large lizards and can be quite dangerous," he says. The couple say they have no plans to sue the zoo, but Stone will soon have a day in court: She recently filed a $100 million breach of contract lawsuit against the producers of a proposed Basic Instinct sequel alleging they killed the film. The producers had no comment.

Putting a Price on a Partnership
Back in 1990, when Rene Elizondo Jr. was ironing out secret wedding details with his bride-to-be, pop diva Janet Jackson, he insisted on having a prenuptial agreement. That way he wouldn't be seen as a gold digger. "I want to write a contract so that you know that I am not after the money," he cooed to her, according to his testimony at a deposition last year. Things have changed. Elizondo, 38, who is in the process of getting a divorce from Jackson, 35, now wants about $25 million, plus the couple's $4.5 million home in Malibu, sources say. Jackson reportedly previously offered her ex about $10 million to go away. Jackson's lawyer Lance Spiegel declined to comment. Elizondo's lawyer Manley Freid said his client is ready to go to trial next month in a Los Angeles court.

Poetmania Strikes Manhattan

There were many questions awaiting Sir Paul McCartney, poet, June 11 at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in New York City's Rockefeller Center. They included:

Will you attend my wedding?

Do you still have the necklace I gave you at the 1976 Wings concert in Madison Square Garden?

Do you know I love you?

Perhaps not the type of queries Shelley or Keats might have faced—well, not that one about Wings, anyway. In town to hawk Blackbird Singing, his book of poems and lyrics, McCartney, 59, had a few questions of his own for the hundreds of gathered fans. They included:

"You like my stuff?" (to a teenage boy in hip-hop gear).

"Was it hard to take off work?" (to a working-age man).

And so it went as the former Beatle signed 200 or so copies of his book. Poet and fans appeared satisfied. But there was one last question asked by the press:

What artistic worlds are left for you to conquer?

"Many, many," said McCartney. "Photography, sailing, nuclear science. I could do it."

The Agony of Her Feet
In 1996 tennis ace Martina Hingis signed a five-year $5.6 million endorsement deal with Italian sportswear firm Sergio Tacchini. In 1999 Tacchini canceled the agreement, saying Hingis had not been wearing their clothes and accessories. Hingis, 20, returned the volley two weeks ago, when she filed a $40 million suit, claiming that the real reason she stopped wearing Tacchini products was because their tennis shoes hurt her feet—so much so that the winner of five Grand Slam singles titles allegedly had to drop out of the Wimbledon doubles tournament in 1999 from the pain. Tacchini's representatives could not be reached for comment.

Eat, Drink and Be Murray
A nun and a priest walk into a bar. A joke? Sort of. Sister Marie Yetter and Father Shamus O'Flynn really were on hand to bless Murray Bros. Caddyshack, a golf-themed restaurant that comedian Bill Murray and his five brothers opened in St. Augustine, Fla., on June 7. Named for the 1980 movie starring Bill, 50, and co-written by brother Brian, 55, the place offers sand-wedges (instead of sandwiches), Murray family photos and golf memorabilia. First party: a benefit for a local Catholic charity. "We figured it would earn us points with Mom and Dad up in Heaven," says brother Ed, 56, a stockbroker.

Cher's Got Two, Babe!
If Cher, 55, could turn back time, she'd only look a little different—thanks in part to the wonders of plastic surgery (on her breasts and nose, as she has admitted). The same goes for the new Cher doll, which bears a striking resemblance to its 1975 predecessor, albeit with washboard abs. Toy-maker Mattel shipped the current collectible (retail price $39.95) last month after a prototype proved popular on an episode of the NBC sitcom Will & Grace. The older Cher doll, long out of production, can be found on the Internet for $7 and up. Another difference: You could once buy 30 new Bob Mackie-designed outfits for Cher '75. Cher 2001 has just one Mackie evening gown and a feather boa.

Send Away the Clown
It's tough taking a clown seriously, but Larry Harmon, who's donned Bozo's red nose and hair since the 1950s, is in no mood to joke. Each May for the past 25 years, Harmon, 76, says he has applied for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (The honor requires a $15,000 contribution if accepted.) Each June he is denied. Why? Because he didn't actually create Bozo. That credit goes to Alan Livingston, the former Capitol Records executive who sold Bozo's rights to Harmon in 1956. Still, says Harmon, "I created an empire out of Bozo." But Walk of Fame committee member Johnny Grant says, that this Bozo may as well strap on his floppy shoes and walk away again. "He's a good marketer," says Grant. "But you don't get a star for marketing."

From G-strings to G-rated
Vowing he's gonna party like it's 1949, Prince says he has found religion and will rewrite many of his suggestive songs to eliminate the "cuss words." At a press conference June 7 (his 43rd birthday), the suddenly prudish Prince said, "A lot of kids are coming to see me who've never heard this music. We're cleaning it up so the kids can listen to it." But won't classics like "Sexy M.F." lose their edge without his innuendos? "Sexuality isn't edgy," says Prince—who would strip down to his underwear and simulate sex onstage. Today he reads the Bible, he says, partly because "it's very clear about male and female roles."

POP QUIZ

with Billy Joel

The Songwriters Hall of Fame chose to honor Billy Joel for a "history of outstanding creative works" at its annual dinner in New York City June 14. So it seemed appropriate for Scoop to ask the Piano Man about the art of music. Joel, 52, was happy to oblige.

What are the elements of a great song?

Melody. A song is meant to be sung. You can have all these great technical components, but if it can't be sung, you ain't got nothing. You know, it ain't an airplane until it flies.

How about a rapper like Eminem?

Well, to be technically correct, rap is not music. A singer is somebody who sings notes. A rapper is somebody who talks. I'm not denigrating it. In the '50s beatniks were playing the bongos and reciting poetry. They couldn't sing. But neither could Bob Dylan and that never stopped him. He's the best.

Do you have a muse?

If I write a song about a man and a woman, I find it always useful to be in a relationship with a woman. Because there is nothing as good as writing a song for somebody. Or having your heart broken and writing one of those heartbreak songs.

Which of your songs would you put in the Hall of Fame?

They were all my babies, so I couldn't pick one. I never listen to my own music at home. But if I'm in the car, and it comes on the radio, man, that volume knob goes up to 10. I say, "Hey, that's me. That's cool. Check that out."

Does your daughter Alexa share your love of music?

She is a better songwriter at 15 than I was at 15. She has perfect pitch, instant melody retention, very sophisticated chord progressions in the songs she is writing. I had her record some of them in a studio recently.

You've spent the past few years composing classical piano pieces. Will you do more touring?

I don't know yet. I don't want to be an oldies act. Then where do you end up? Las Vegas...the elephants' graveyard of rock stars. I'm actually very interested in putting out these classical pieces. I want people to know I haven't just been sitting around.

ON THE BLOCK

BALLET SUITE
Mikhail Baryshnikov is hoping for a real estate encore on the island of St. Barts. The ballet dancer, 53, just sold one of two Mexican-style villas for more than $1 million; his other two-bedroom house is still on the market. Both residences have hurricane-proof adobe walls and terraced swimming pools that overlook the Caribbean Sea. Baryshnikov decided to take his final curtain call from the tropics because "it is a chapter of my life that is over."

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