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updated 04/07/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/07/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Madonna has always courted controversy, but with the nation's troops in harm's way, she's softening a little. The video to "American Life," the first single off her new album of the same name, is set to air on VH1 the first week of April. But the military-themed video had some violent images that Madonna didn't feel comfortable with, I'm told, in light of the conflict with Iraq. So she made cuts to make it more politically acceptable. What specific changes she made aren't clear, but her rep Liz Rosenberg says, "She's sensitive to what's going on in the world." A politically correct Madonna? What's this world coming to?

What did Matthew Perry do on his spring break? He worked. The Friends star is a huge fan of another NBC show, The West Wing (he hasn't missed a single episode, I'm told). Recently he approached executives at Warner Bros., the studio that produces both shows, and asked if he could guest-star on the drama. So creator and executive producer Aaron Sorkin cast him in a two-episode part: a GOP lawyer looking for a job among the Democrats in Martin Sheen's White House. Perry just finished shooting the episodes, which will air in late April, but he only had to pull double duty the second week (Friends was on hiatus the first). He didn't have to commute far between gigs: The soundstages are only a few hundred yards apart.

David Spade and his girlfriend, Ed's Julie Bowen, work 3,000 miles apart (Ed shoots in New Jersey, while Just Shoot Me is done in L.A.), but they still have a special relationship. How special? Well, Bowen's favorite song is Stevie Nicks's Fleetwood Mac tune "Landslide," which these days is a hit for the Dixie Chicks. So for Bowen's 34th birthday March 3, Spade called Nicks, whom he's gotten to know from hanging out at her concerts, and asked her if she wouldn't mind calling Bowen to sing the tune to her. Nicks happily obliged and left an a cappella version of the 1975 song, which, not so incidentally, is about getting older, on her cell phone voice mail.

Critics accuse American Idol judge Simon Cowell of having a heart of stone. Not true—it's wax. At least it is at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London. Cowell tells us he sat for three different sessions so artists could get the scowl on his replica just right. The mannequin will even wear some of Cowell's clothes. His friend Jackie St. Clair, a former model, tried to change his monochromatic look with a shopping trip to London's Savile Row. He bought some pinstriped pants for $1,000 but wore them only twice before giving them to the museum to dress his likeness. The exhibit, which will let visitors hear his trademark put-downs at the push of a button, opens this summer.

Diane Lane didn't win the Oscar for Best Actress, but at least she got to sit with her date, Josh Brolin, for the entire night this time. Lane was 16 when she attended her only other Academy Awards, in 1981. Her date was Timothy Hutton, who nabbed the first Oscar given out that night, Best Supporting Actor. Hutton, who won for Ordinary People, spent most of the show backstage doing interviews. Says Lane: "The rest of the evening I sat next to a seat filler."

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