Shooting from the inside, Hollywood enjoys a league of its own
The closest they'll ever come to Kobe and Shaq is a VIP courtside seat. But that hasn't stopped Leo DiCaprio and Tobey McGuire from donning the regulation purple and gold and indulging their inner Laker as part of the NBA Entertainment League, a considerably more earth-bound facsimile of the real thing. Blow director (and fellow league player) Ted Demme does concede that DiCaprio's celeb Laker team bears one more resemblance to the NBA Champs: "They're the only team that's got one guy that gets paid over $20 million."
In fact, the 12-team, 135-member NBAEL—which has recruited such showbiz hoopsters as Woody Harrelson, Don Cheadle, Third Watch's Eddie Cibrian, Orlando Jones, Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath, Jaleel White (Family Matters' Urkel), Murder One's Jason Gedrick, 'N Sync's Justin Timberlake and several Survivor cast members—does its best to mirror its pro sibling, outfitting players in NBA-color uniforms, using pro refs for their three-month season and holding the championships at the Staples Center. One difference: The weekly games, held in a Santa Monica gym, are closed to the public. Each player can invite six guests per week. Among the A-list fans: player David Arquette's wife, Courteney Cox Arquette Arquette.
The celebs love the action. Last year, singer Brian McKnight, the NBAEL's leading scorer, nearly skipped the American Music Awards so he could make his semifinal play-off game for the Portland Trailblazers. He wound up going to the gala and winning the favorite male soul artist award. Wasting no time, he hightailed it back in time to play in the game's second half to help his team win. "It's just great to come out and play, talk trash and make believe this is the real thing," says McKnight. And besides, says NBAEL rep Zane Stoddard, "where else can you see Coolio covering Leo?"
Big Man (and Hair) on Campus
Oxford University's probing minds did not let Jon Bon Jovi—known for such important works as Slippery When Wet and New Jersey—off easy when he arrived, in suit and tie, for a lecture June 15. "You've had some big hairstyles in the past....Do you think you can grow it back?" asked one of the nearly 500 young scholars in attendance. "I'm not follicle-ly challenged," he replied, "but no, I'm not going to grow it back." "What's something crazy you did with the band?" another queried. "We drove a golf cart into the ocean." There were serious moments too, as Bon Jovi, 39, thanked his parents for allowing him to pursue music ("They saw the dream and never discouraged it") and his family for letting him live a relatively normal life ("I don't make my kids applaud when I come down the stairs"). The rocker also said he became politically active campaigning for Al Gore last year, and he shared a little insight about the Presidency. "Just think about how cool Clinton had it. He had this great White House, he didn't have to pay any of the bills, [and] everywhere he goes, he gets a great movie and a bigger plane than I've got."
This One's on the Two Stiffs at the Bar
Eight years after suing over talking robots that bear their likenesses, Cheers alumni George Wendt (Norm Peterson) and John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin) are closing their tab. The two, who appeared in the NBC show from 1982 to 1993, argued that Paramount, which sold rights to a Cheers-brand chain of airport bars featuring chatting Norm and Cliff androids, violated a California law giving individuals control over the use of their likenesses for profit. On June 18 a settlement was announced. Both sides are mum about the details—including whether it's last call for the robots.
This off-season has meant roster changes for some of prime time's veteran teams. Consider: NYPD Blue's Rick Schroder is gone, replaced by Mark-Paul Gosselaar; Charmed star Shannen Doherty's broom has passed on to Monkeybone's Rose McGowan; Law & Order's assistant DA Angie Harmon departs, and Elisabeth Rohm arrives. And on ER, Sherry Stringfield, who left in 1996, is set to return to County General. How will the replacements fare? Most likely just fine, says Pittsburgh Post-Gazette TV critic Rob Owen: While ex-Saved by the Bell star Gosselaar might be a bit green, "it's not like they have Screech coming in to stir up the precinct." Meanwhile, audiences are more forgiving of ensemble shows such as Law & Order and ER, where "the story is the main attraction." And some switches can't hurt. "Given that McGowan dated Marilyn Manson," says Owen, "she seems like a natural for a show about the occult."
Move Over, Real World
This just in from the Life-Is-Like-High-School Department: Despite insistent reports in gossip columns to the contrary, Carson Daly and fiancée Tara Reid are still an item. In April, actress Reid, 25, and Daly, 28, host of MTV's Total Request Live, postponed their scheduled May wedding, and Reid has recently been seen without her engagement ring. But on June 16 the duo held hands at a concert in L.A.'s Dodger Stadium, where I they also signed autographs for fans with backstage passes. Reid's rep confirms: They're still on.
Dancing Queen of Mean
She can put down—but can she get down? Seems The Weakest Link's stun-gun-tongued host, Anne Robinson, has become a dance-floor inspiration in England. A new single by the British group Ratpack samples Robinson's icy catchphrase, "You are the weakest link—goodbye!" And like the TV show, explains one of the track's producers, "The Weakest Link" is "cool and cheesy." Says Robinson: "I'm delighted to become a disco queen at the age of 56."
with Genie Francis
An estimated 30 million viewers—the largest audience ever for a daytime drama—watched the November 1981 wedding of General Hospital's Luke and Laura. Since then, Luke (Anthony Geary) and Laura (Genie Francis) have weathered affairs, an avalanche, a kidnapping and other dilemmas—until June 18, when they signed divorce papers. Francis, 39, shared her thoughts on the end of a great American duo.
Your views on the divorce?
I think it's a sad thing. But [the producers] want to keep the story current. Who knows? They may even get another wedding out of it.
Was it emotional?
What led to the split?
Eight years ago, the writers used my character to get Luke and Laura to settle down. I think that began the trouble for the couple. Luke hated domesticity. And she needed it.
What happens now?
Laura is getting involved with her first husband, Scotty [Kin Shriner]. Our romance is a return to her youth in a very, very sweet way. I am happy about this change.
Does your real life compare with your television life?
She does everything before I do. Although I'm not getting a divorce! [Francis, married to actor-director Jonathan Frakes, has two children.]
Any memories of your TV wedding?
I remember wearing these really high spiky-heeled shoes that got stuck in the dirt. I remember wearing a silk dress that wrinkled so much I could not sit down in it. I remember my headdress poking into my head.
And how have you and Anthony Geary gotten along all these years?
He and I have a partnership that I haven't found anywhere else. I could act with him forever.
ON THE BLOCK
LENNON'S LIVERPOOL LAIR
"Not much has changed since John lived here," admits Rod Buckey, 51, whose family has owned the modest Liverpool home of John Lennon's Aunt Mimi for three decades. The future Beatle spent a large part of his youth practicing guitar here. Built in 1928, the three-bedroom semidetached house—appraised at roughly $183,000 (not counting the Lennon factor)—should go on sale in August. Although he was tempted to convert the property into a museum since "more than 80 fans a day come to look at the house," notes Buckey, "I didn't want to turn it into a Yellow Submarine fun fair."