HER NEW FORMULA? GREAT PRESENCE, GREAT PRESENTS
Thanksgiving week turned into Christmas for guests of Oprah Winfrey. On her Nov. 22 episode, Winfrey continued her season-long theme of surprise gift-giving or fulfilling viewers' dreams and bestowed roughly $15,000 worth of goods to each of about 300 schoolteachers picked to be audience members. Among the goodies: a $2,000 spa trip and a $2,249 flat-screen TV. Says a stunned Steve Flowers, one of the lucky recipients: "It was amazing."
The same could be said for Winfrey's 19th season. The daytime diva has doled out over $10 million worth of products to her guests, who have been carefully chosen by her staff. (To find recipients for the Nov. 22 episode, Winfrey put out word on her Web site asking teachers to write in about their jobs.) Winfrey set the tone in the season opener when she gave away 276 new Pontiac G6 cars. (The autos, like all of the giveaway products, were donated by the manufacturer.) This year Winfrey has also dished out a fantasy wedding to a couple and thrown "the World's Biggest Baby Shower" for 640 expectant moms at Ft. Campbell, Ky.
And, of course, there's more. On Nov. 30 Winfrey will hit the road by bus and surprise unsuspecting viewers. "Nothing in the world makes me happier than making other people's dreams come true," says Winfrey. "No dream is too wild. It can happen to anybody, anywhere and at anytime."
THE GOODIE BAG
Some of the 21 items each audience member received on Winfrey's Nov. 22 episode:
30" DELL FLAT-SCREEN TV $2,249
MAYTAG WASHER AND DRYER $2,198
THREE-DAY TRIP FOR TWO TO MIRAVAL SPA around $2,000
BURBERRY QUILTED JACKET AND CASHMERE SCARF $560
DELL MP3 PLAYER $199
MAGELLAN TOUCH-SCREEN CAR NAVIGATION SYSTEM $1,499
MOVADO WATCH AND TWO SILK SCARVES just under $1,000
SONY NOTEBOOK COMPUTER $2,000
GIFT CERTIFICATE TO OFFICE MAX $500
WILLIAMS-SONOMA HOME SHEETS AND BLANKET $940
NICOLE KIDMAN & STEPHEN BING
+ NICOLE'S BILLIONAIRE BEAU?
What is it about Stephen Bing? The billionaire real estate heir and occasional movie producer (The Polar Express) has dated such Hollywood beauties as Elizabeth Hurley, Brooke Burns and Uma Thurman. Now come reports that he and Nicole Kidman are an item. New York's Daily News says the couple have been spotted together several times recently, including at the Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills, where, says an observer, "they were kissing. It wasn't a little peck. It was an open-mouthed lip-lock." A rep for Kidman insists that she and Bing are just friends.
+ RICKS'S SOUR SPLIT
In 1994, after Ricki Lake married illustrator Rob Sussman, the talk show host told PEOPLE, "Money's a real discrepancy in our relationship. I make a lot of it; he doesn't. But what's mine is his." Now that divorce proceedings are under way, though, Sussman, 38, learned last week that, due to a firm prenup, he won't get alimony. The dissolution is getting nasty: According to court papers, Sussman claims Lake was "ranting" as a result of her weight-control drugs. Lake, 36, in turn says Sussman was "constantly lurking" around their L.A. home. Reps for both Lake and Sussman declined to comment.
+ Desperate Switch?
Eyebrows were raised after Desperate Housewives' Eva Longoria, who normally dates 'N Syncer JC Chasez (left), was seen holding hands with director Stephen Kay. But a source close to Longoria and Chasez insists, "They haven't broken up." Kay was the director of Longoria's TV movie The Dead Will Tell.
+ A JOLLY GOOD FELLA
After seven years of marriage, Robert De Niro had an itch to renew his vows with his wife, Grace Hightower, 51, on Nov. 20 at their house in Ulster County, N.Y. Guests including Ben Stiller and Tom Brokaw chuckled as De Niro, 61, jokingly referred to previous problems in the marriage—the couple came close to divorcing in 1999—saying he wanted to "make sure this one sticks."
Who's the kid mixing smoothies at JJ Chill in Venice, Calif.? It could be Jamie Lynn Spears, who'll help out the snack shop's new co-owner, dad Jamie, 52. Big sis Britney, says Dad, "loves the chili."
Julia: Just Rest
Nearly eight months pregnant, Julia Roberts, 37, who is expecting twins in January, recently skipped public appearances for her December movies Ocean's Twelve and Closer, missing the latter film's red-carpet premiere on Nov. 22. "She has to stay in bed," says Closer producer John Calley. "It would be nice to have her here, [but] all of us who care about her would hate to see her put herself at risk. And I know she is very anxious to have children."
Need a light? Frank Sinatra gave out these brass lighters to the cast and crew of 1955's Guys and Dolls. Also on the block: loaded dice used as props.
ON SALE, FOR A SONG
FROM A COBAIN LETTER TO JOPLIN'S MUG SHOT, MORE THAN 400 PIECES OF ROCK AND ENTERTAINMENT FLOTSAM WILL BE AUCTIONED AT CHRISTIE'S ON DEC. 17
REPORT BY BRITNEY
Britney Spears did not receive a grade on this book report she wrote in elementary school, but her teacher did comment: "Proofread. Messy."
Just in case anyone attempted to pose as the Rocket Man, Elton John had his photo included on this signed credit card he obtained in 1998.
For 28 years George Harrison's Gibson SG guitar, which he played from 1966 to '69, sat under a bed. Now it's back onstage—and expected to fetch about $500,000.
STEVIE'S GODDESS GOWN
This sequined, two-piece costume was worn by Stevie Nicks during a performance of "Rhiannon" in the 1970s. The hit song is about a mythological Welsh goddess.
Michael Richards, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jerry Seinfeld
Seinfeld is back! Six years after the end of the show about nothing, the first three seasons of the sitcom are on DVD. Scoop caught up with 75 percent of the show's Fab Four—Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Michael Richards—at a DVD release party in New York City. (Jason Alexander was in L.A. working on his new show Listen Up.)
What is your favorite Seinfeld episode?
Seinfeld (to Louis-Dreyfus): Do you ever answer this question with an episode? Louis-Dreyfus: That's an impossible question. There are 180 episodes, and there are so many little moments here and there that are favorites. Ask another question. Richards: I don't have a favorite, really. Each show challenged me to work on Kramer.
Do you recall the first time you were noticed on the street as a Seinfeld character?
Louis-Dreyfus: For me it was four years into the show. It took a long time before our show was a real mainstream hit. It was in Manhattan, and they called me Elaine as I was walking down the street. Not very interesting, but that's the truth.
How about you, did they call out to you, Jerry?
Seinfeld: I remember going on at the Improv [comedy club] all the time, and I used to open my set by saying, "Good evening and yes, I'm a huge television star." I'd say it sarcastically, and it would always get a laugh because I wasn't. And at some point it wasn't getting a laugh. That's how I knew something was happening. It was like four years [after the show started].
Why did you donate the "puffy shirt" to the Smithsonian?
Seinfeld: That's what they wanted.
Louis-Dreyfus: Did they run out of Faberge eggs or something over there?
Seinfeld: They're throwing out the Lincoln assassination shirt and putting us in.
Pardon us for interrupting your snack, but do you find that people are still discovering Seinfeld?
Richards (while munching on a serving of Peking duck): I recently visited Australia. The population is just being turned on to Seinfeld, and they are crazy about it.
ON THE BLOCK
ANOTHER TRUMP PLAZA
PRICE: $41 million
PLACE: Palm Beach, Fla.
Donald Trump just can't get enough of Palm Beach. The billionaire developer, who already owns the famed Mar-a-Lago estate, recently purchased at auction this sprawling oceanfront property, which features a 29.000-sq.-ft. main residence, several other buildings, a pool and tennis courts.