updated 12/09/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/09/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST

HOME Wrecker

Jerry bought Billy's $32 million house—and then leveled it

It may be the most expensive fixer-upper in history. Two years ago Jerry Seinfeld and his wife, Jessica, dropped a healthy $32 million to buy a luxurious 10.5-acre East Hampton, N.Y., estate from singer Billy Joel. Now the comedian and his wife have asked contractors to demolish all but 15 percent of the original two-story house. All that remains of the mansion that Joel and his then-wife Christie Brinkley built in the '80s is the original library and dining room.

So is this just a nasty case of buyer's remorse? Not at all, says the comic's rep Elizabeth Clark. Initially, the Seinfelds had intended to make a couple of small additions. But after construction began, builders discovered that much of the structure's wooden foundation had rotted and needed to be replaced. Since major work had to be done anyway, says Clark, the couple decided to go ahead and redo the estate "to make it more family-friendly."

The escalation of the project was so sudden that there was even a minor dust-up with East Hampton officials over the lack of proper building permits. Seinfeld quickly resolved that and now has clearance to build a residence as large as 10,000 sq. ft. Plans call for seven bedrooms, a nursery, a roof deck, and—over Brinkley's old horse paddock—a 5,800-sq.-ft. building to house his staff and fleet of vintage cars.

Not a Girl, Not Yet a Restaurateur
Proving that marriages aren't the only short-lived showbiz commitments, Britney Spears severed all ties with her Manhattan restaurant Nyla on Nov. 25, a mere five months after its highly publicized opening. Citing "management's failure to keep her fully apprised" of the operations, Spears, 21, a part-owner who said in a statement she "never derived any money or other benefit" from the restaurant, pulled out soon after several vendors were suing the eatery in a payment dispute. Tim Zagat, publisher of the Zagat restaurant surveys, suggests unpaid bills were the least of Nyla's problems. "Stars seem to think they can run a restaurant without having good food," says Zagat. And at Nyla, as one of the kinder reviews noted, the best to be said about its cuisine was that it "isn't exactly awful."

A Late-Night Diagnosis
Is David Letterman suffering from hostility issues? Let's ask advice guru Dr. Phil McGraw. After all, Letterman has made the good doctor the target of regular jabs on recent segments called "Dr. Phil's Words of Wisdom," in which snippets of McGraw's advice are edited to make him seem, well, kinda dumb. What's the diagnosis, Doc? "I think he has a fixation on making people laugh," sidesteps McGraw, 52. So he isn't annoyed? "No," he says. "Some of it's funny, some of it's not. I haven't heard anything that I thought was mean-spirited." And unlike McGraw's mentor Oprah Winfrey, whom Letterman has teased for not inviting him to be a guest, McGraw says he would consider appearing with Dave. Wise words.

The End of a Model Marriage
Looks like Victoria isn't the only one with a secret. On Nov. 25 model Heidi Klum and her husband, celebrity hairdresser Ric Pipino, announced they are separating. Although papers have yet to be filed, they said in a statement that the breakup was "mutual and amicable." Both have been busy lately. Pipino, 43, opened a salon in Miami Beach this summer. (Cuts start at $110, $175 if Pipino does the work himself.) Klum, 29, cohosted the Victoria's Secret TV special on Nov. 20, and according to the statement, she will "continue her modeling, acting and business ventures."

Cause Celeb

On Nov. 15, a year after police confiscated photos, videos and computer data from the L.A. home of Paul Reubens, authorities booked the 50-year-old actor on a misdemeanor child-pornography possession charge. (His lawyer says the allegation is untrue.) Soon after, Courteney Cox Arquette and her husband, David Arquette, took the unusual step of releasing a video statement to the media in support of the man who played Pee-wee Herman. Some highlights from the no-frills, no-nonsense tape:

Courteney: Hi, we are here to speak out on behalf of our friend Paul Reubens, who we have known for many, many years. He was charged with a misdemeanor that is absolutely outrageous and unfair.

David: Paul is an incredible person with a wonderful heart. He has an extensive vintage art collection and photograph collection. I've seen it...It's kitschy. The D.A. looked at this case and investigated it for a year and found nothing worthy of bringing up charges, but then the city attorney decided to charge him with one count of a misdemeanor, which I just think it's unfair.

Courteney: Anybody who knows Paul knows that it's ridiculous. He's someone that does have a lot of art. It's very easy to confuse art with something else. And he just doesn't deserve this.

David: Paul has never been interested in anything improper involving children. It's just outrageous and he doesn't deserve this.

Courteney: He's a wonderful person, and we're all very lucky to know him.

Keys Strikes a True Chord

Invited to Cape Town, South Africa, to headline MTV's Staying Alive concert (airing Dec. 1) to raise HIV and AIDS awareness, Grammy-winning R&B diva Alicia Keys admitted the cause was close to her heart.

"When I was 10 years old, my mom's friend passed away from the virus," says Keys. "From the time he told her he was HIV positive and the time he didn't come over anymore, there was that whole transition physically as you watch a person going through this sickness. That was something that made a huge impact on me. It was hard to watch someone die. It's a wake-up call." One that Keys, 22, hopes to share with her peers. "I feel if I show I'm not shy [about discussing AIDS prevention], then other people won't be shy," says the singer. "It's like, 'Hey, take out the condom and use it!' " Delicate, she's not.

Give Me a Go
All well-traveled stars know that the proper accoutrements to bring to a posh eatery are a posse, a few models and no reservation. To that list you can add personal chef. To wit: During a recent visit to Garduño's restaurant at Las Vegas's Palms Casino Resort, Tobey Maguire brought along his own cook, Eric LaChasseur, who went into the kitchen to oversee the preparation of the actor's lunch—a tofu sandwich made to taste like turkey, with creamy vegan sesame dressing on whole grain bread. (Luckily, the staff at the celeb-friendly establishment didn't mind the intrusion.) In addition to restaurants, Maguire, 27, has taken LaChasseur—a former personal chef to Madonna—everywhere from movie sets to buddy Leo DiCaprio's L.A. pad so that meals can be prepared to his liking. At least it's easy to give compliments to the chef.

Making It Legal
How fast they grow up. First Daughters Jenna and Barbara Bush turned 21—legal drinking age, for those keeping count—on Nov. 25, celebrating with some 200 friends at a party in Austin, Texas. The site of the bash, Cheers Shot Bar, was the same place Jenna was caught drinking underage in April 2001. This time there were no signs of impropriety. Guests, including Jenna's Kappa Alpha Theta sorority sisters from the University of Texas, respected the sisters' calls for privacy and refused to discuss the event. As did the White House. Says First Lady Laura Bush's press aide: "They are private citizens."

Banding Together
All for one and one for all? On Nov. 25, in a $75 million suit filed in Manhattan Federal Court, the Backstreet Boys said their band of merry young men has been deeply wounded by a record company more interested in promoting the solo career of one member—Nick Carter—than the group as a whole. Carter apparently agrees; he's lent his support to the suit. "The boys are in it together," says a spokesman for the five singers. According to court papers, Zomba Recording Corporation failed to deliver a fourth Backstreet Boys album last April, as called for in the band's contract, because Zomba was busy working on Carter's recently released solo CD Now or Never, Zomba did not comment. The Boys' rep says, "Nick is just as upset as the rest of the group about the delay of the album."

Have Dog, Will Travel
Never separate a pooch from its star. Thanks in part to yapping from such globe-trotting celebs as Elizabeth Taylor, Elton John and Elizabeth Hurley, the British government is finally lifting its draconian six-month quarantine requirement—a precaution against rabies—for dogs and cats traveling from the U.S. and Canada to Britain, if the pets are vaccinated. Brit-born Taylor, 70, who plans to visit the U.K. with her Maltese Sugar, says the change gives North American critters equal access. "Dogs from Europe can get into England willy-nilly," says Taylor. "All rats have to do is hail a taxi."


with Steven Van Zandt

On television he plays mobster Silvio Dante, Tony Soprano's trusted aide on HBO's The Sopranos. Onstage he's one of Bruce Springsteen's top lieutenants, a guitarist for the E Street Band. On Nov. 22, at the Cafe Martorano in Fort Lauderdale, he was simply Steven Van Zandt, celebrating his 52nd birthday with such friends as former Sopranos cast member Vincent Pastore and E Street bandmate Clarence demons. Scoop was there too, to discuss rockers and wiseguys.

Who dresses better, mobsters or musicians?

That's a tough one. It's a very different look. And I must admit, I am the master of both looks.

That's pretty vague.

We have the best [dressed] people on The Sopranos. As far as rock and roll goes, the important thing is to dress in a way that's appropriate for the role you are playing.

Who eats better?

That's easy. Rock and rollers don't eat. They have to be lean and mean. That's the tradition.

You seem to be putting away the pasta tonight.

This is my favorite restaurant in the world. It's the only place that makes meatballs the way my grandmother used to. She was from Naples; my grandfather was from Calabria.

Why does New Jersey produce so many mobsters and musicians?
We have the best nicknames, essential for both groups.

Who gets more groupies?

Probably mobsters. But they've gotta pay for them.

Do you have a nickname for Silvio's 4-in. pompadour toupee?
What toupee? That's not a toupee!

What is your favorite golden oldie?

Little Richard's "Good Golly Miss Molly."

How does 52 feel?

Don't put that in! I'm forever 39. I'm ageless.


One of Eminem's boyhood homes is causing a stir on eBay. A three-bedroom, two-bath house in Warren, Mich., where the rapper lived on and off for years, was put up for auction two weeks ago, getting bids as high as $15 million. Not that the sellers, local residents who bought the home from Eminem's uncle for $45,000 last month, believe they'll see that kind of money. Still, the house, located not far from Detroit's 8 Mile Road, will remain on sale online through Dec. 14, even though one of the sellers notes "this bidding is driving us crazy."

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