No joke: Ben Stiller and his wife, Christine Taylor, expect their first child next spring
Boy or girl? It's too early to tell, but one thing is certain: This kid will be funny. It's in the genes. Zoolander sweethearts Ben Stiller, 35, and his wife, actress Christine Taylor, 30, who celebrated; one year of marriage on May 13, are expecting their first child, their publicists confirmed exclusively to PEOPLE. Stiller's parents, comedians Anne Meara, 72, and Jerry Stiller, 74, are thrilled. "I got a call from Ben," says Stiller, who was on the set of his CBS sitcom King of Queens at the time. " 'Dad, I've got to tell you something.' Ben is like a kid still, when he drops these little pieces of information. He said, 'You're going to be a grandfather.' I said, I'm so glad, so happy, but I still have to learn my lines!' "
Ellen: Short and Not Too Sweet
"Welcome to the 53rd, 54th and 55th Annual Emmy Awards," host Ellen DeGeneres said, opening the twice-rescheduled 53rd Annual Emmy Awards on Nov. 4 in L.A. Striking just the right balance of gravity and levity, say critics, DeGeneres, 43, moved the atypically subdued Emmys along at a smart clip. The gig also served to somewhat redeem the comic in the wake of her badly panned new CBS sitcom, The Ellen Show, which ranked 78th at last count.
The reason for her Emmy success? She reworked the jokes with each postponement. "I just kept chopping away extraneous stuff," DeGeneres says. "I just wanted it to be really clean and tight." She also credits an attentive audience. "If they're not there, it doesn't matter how good your stuff is," she says. (For more on the Emmys, see page 198.)
Jack Stages a Comeback
Forty-seven years after graduating from New Jersey's Manasquan High School, Jack Nicholson is still big man on campus. On Nov. 3 the school renamed the 500-seat auditorium—where a young Nicholson got his first taste of drama—after its most famous alumnus, a three-time Academy Award winner. "To think that I shared that stage with somebody as brilliant as him," says Doug Morgan, 17, one of last year's winners of the school's Jack Nicholson Award for outstanding drama students.
Although Nicholson, 64, was a no-show for the event, Lee Weisert, the school's choral and theater director, says Jack dropped by last year. "He came with [then-girlfriend] Lara Flynn Boyle to show her the high school and where he grew up," says Weisert. "He was very gracious and signed autographs. I told him about renaming the auditorium after him and asked for his permission. He just looked at me and said, 'I'm humbled, I'm honored.' " And if Jack should come back to see a show? "We always keep two seats available for him," says Weisert, "no matter how crowded we get."
"I won't be intimidated by the nudity," says Jason Biggs, who will play the title role in The Graduate, opening on Broadway next April. Biggs, 23, known for his impish parts in crude teen-appeal flicks such as Saving Silverman, will star as college grad Benjamin Braddock opposite Kathleen Turner (Mrs. Robinson), 47, and Alicia Silverstone (Elaine), 25. Dustin Hoffman created the role on film; Biggs says his performance will be less subtle. As for the big seduction scene: "When Kathleen first met me, she asked if I would be okay with her [nude scenes]," says Biggs. "I asked if she had seen American Pie."
Show Business Soldiers On
Marlene Dietrich once spurred American troops on to victory with her smoky, sultry songs. Bob Hope did likewise with his wisecracking humor. Soldiers didn't care what Marilyn Monroe did—as long as they could watch. Today? Well, who's to say that a little "Danke Schoen" won't go a long way in keeping the armed forces entertained? Which is why the USO has chosen Wayne Newton to entertain the troops overseas on one of this year's holiday tours, also featuring Jessica Simpson and Rob Schneider. "I wanted to be a military man," Newton, 59, said at a White House gathering on Nov. 2, revealing that bronchial asthma kept him from serving. "I thought, 'Okay, they can stop me from fighting, but they can't stop me from singing.' "
Seinfeld's High Jinx?
In an eerie echo of last year's swift axing of The Michael Richards Show, ABC execs recently canned ex-Seinfelder Jason Alexander's sitcom Bob Patterson after five episodes. The back-to-back flops of the former costars raise the question: Is there a Seinfeld jinx? "There is no jinx," says New York Daily News television critic Eric Mink. "There are just good shows and bad shows. This was a bad show." True, agrees Pam McNeely, an L.A. ad exec who determines which programs to sponsor, but let's not diminish the ghost of George Costanza. "These characters are so firmly etched in our national psyche," says McNeely, "it's hard getting started in a new character." The Seinfeld quartet, she says, should have emulated Frasier's Kelsey Grammer. Dr. Frasier Crane didn't go to a new bar and start all over again. He unveiled his life, which had been only touched upon in Cheers. "It was fresh," says McNeely. That tip may come too late for Seinfeld alum Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a lounge singer in her new NBC sitcom 22 Minutes with Eleanor Riggs, due in March. McNeely's advice to her? Sing a different tune.
Airing Their Underwear
After nearly crashing the Internet with a steamy 1999 Webcast, the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show heads to ABC TV on Nov. 15. It features "hot chicks wearing lingerie," says model Bridget Hall, 23. Isn't that FOX territory? "We're hoping for a younger demographic," says a spokeswoman for ABC, which is expanding the original 20-minute format to an hour and will include a performance by tenor Andrea Bocelli. No word on how he looks in lace.
An Officer And a Tenor
Count Placido Domingo among those impressed by the voice—and heart—of NYPD Officer Daniel Rodriguez, who delivered a soulful rendition of "God Bless America" at a World Trade Center memorial service at Yankee Stadium Sept. 23 and went on to sing patriotic songs at the World Series and the New York City Marathon. Domingo, 60, who also sang at the service, afterward agreed to hear the cop sing privately. The result? The famed tenor offered Rodriguez, 37, a spot in the Vilar Young Artist Program (Domingo is artistic director) at the Washington Opera in D.C. "It's a second chance," says Rodriguez, who will take a leave of absence from the police while he chases his dream of becoming a professional opera singer. "I thought my time had passed." Says program director Michelle Krisel: "You never know where talent can be found."
with Melissa Gilbert
In a vote of 27,730 members, Melissa Gilbert was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild Nov. 2, defeating Valerie Harper with a platform calling for more film projects in the United States—instead of less expensive foreign locations—and seeking to ensure that actors receive all the residual payments to which they are entitled. Scoop caught up with Gilbert, 37, the former star of Little House on the Prairie, as she prepared to begin her two-year term at no salary (she can still accept acting jobs, though).
No wild victory party? What gives?
I'm not a party animal. Those days are long gone, which is why I can be president.
Why do you think the voters went your way?
I guess because my whole platform was about change. I said, "If you want change, if you're not happy, if you want something to be different, I'm your candidate," and clearly they agreed with that.
Did you expect such a decisive victory? (Gilbert got 45.3 percent of the vote; Harper, 39.4 percent.)
I was blown away that I won by such a large margin. There were no polls or debates, and no way of telling how anyone was doing.
Did Valerie Harper call to congratulate you?
Not yet. I've definitely thought about calling her, but every time I sit down to do anything, my phone rings. The last 72 hours have been insane.
What's your presidential agenda?
I'm just hoping to maintain a tone of dignity and to be as inclusive as I can. But I can promise that no one will feel disenfranchised and everyone will have a voice. I'll be listening.
It looks like you lost weight on the campaign trail.
My campaign diet was everything you eat, you burn right off. I have to have [all my business clothes] taken in. I don't know if I'll gain the "Freshman 10" as president, but I could use it.
ON THE BLOCK
Among the benefits of having Friends: a large, lovely house in the Hollywood Hills, which, after you spend a few years on television's hottest sitcom, can be sold as you move into an even bigger one in Hancock Park. Such is the life of David Schwimmer, 35, who is unloading the Hollywood Hills property (left) with an asking price of $1.25 million. The 3,000-sq.-ft. traditional-style house just above Sunset Blvd. was built in the '40s and includes a brick patio and a pool. Schwimmer moved there in 1995. So what's his new place got? A $5.5 million price tag and 11,000-sq.-ft.