updated 04/14/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/14/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Russell Crowe is no dummy—he knows the key to a woman's heart is to win over her family. That's why he made sure to make nice with Danielle Spencer's relatives during a recent visit to Yorkshire in the north of England, where her parents grew up. The actor met Spencer's maternal grandparents, Peter and Nell Horsfall, her uncle Peter Horsfall Jr. and his wife, Anne, plus several cousins on the trip to the village of Nether Poppleton. Crowe will pay for the whole clan to fly first class to Australia for the couple's April 7 wedding, with the exception of the elder Horsfalls, who won't be making the long journey for health reasons. Spencer's family was duly impressed. "He was completely charming, nothing like the bad press he has received," said Anne. "And he's so much better looking—much taller—than he appears in photographs."

It was Elton John's 56th-birthday party, but 6-year-olds would have fit right in. The fete was held on March 25 at one of the singer's favorite haunts, the Hamburger Hamlet in West Hollywood, and the atmosphere was strictly Chuck E. Cheese's: burgers and hot dogs, balloons and confetti, paper tablecloths and crayons. Among the 90 guests were Mike Myers, Sheryl Crow, Ed Norton, Salma Hayek, Melissa Etheridge, Eric McCormack and Sean Hayes. The only sophisticated touches: real flowers on the 3'-by-4' chocolate cake and pink champagne. Says a source: "Except for the champagne, it was just like a kid's party." Then again, there was nothing childlike about the birthday loot: At the end of the night, an SUV pulled up to the restaurant so that security guards could load up Elton's gifts.

In A View from the Top, Kelly Preston plays a flight attendant for a major airline. In real life, however, the actress travels exclusively by private jet. To prepare for her role, she played stewardess on a family trip from New York City to L.A. With husband John Travolta at the controls of their private plane, Preston served drinks and the meal en route, to Travolta's delight. Says Preston: "He loves the whole flight attendant thing."

Fast takes...

Queen Latifah might have lost the Best Supporting Actress award to her Chicago costar Catherine Zeta-Jones, but she got an Oscar nonetheless. Her friends presented her with a mocha cake shaped like everyone's favorite gold figurine at her 33rd-birthday celebration at the Mondrian hotel on March 22. The rapper-actress even made an Oscaresque acceptance speech....

Spotted at the one-time-only Actor's Fund benefit performance of All About Eve held March 30 in L.A.: Harrison Ford, patiently waiting in line during the intermission to buy soft drinks for his mom and Calista Flockhart's parents. The whole gang was there to see Flockhart, who starred in the production....

He might not have made a lot of friends at the Academy Awards with his antiwar diatribe, but documentary filmmaker Michael Moore was a big hit on his flight home to Detroit. He brought the Oscar he won for Bowling for Columbine as his carry-on item and then passed it around to everyone seated with him in the Northwest Airlines first-class cabin.

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